When Terry Gobanga – then Terry Apudo – didn’t show up to her wedding, nobody could have guessed that she had been abducted, raped and left for dead by the roadside. It was the first of two tragedies to hit the young Nairobi pastor in quick succession. But she is a survivor.
It was going to be a very big wedding. I was a pastor, so all our church members were coming, as well as all our relatives. My fiance, Harry, and I were very excited – we were getting married in All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi and I had rented a beautiful dress.
But the night before the wedding I realised that I had some of Harry’s clothes, including his cravat. He couldn’t show up without a tie, so a friend who had stayed the night offered to take it to him first thing in the morning. We got up at dawn and I walked her to the bus station.
As I was making my way back home, I walked past a guy sitting on the bonnet of a car – suddenly he grabbed me from behind and dumped me in the back seat. There were two more men inside, and they drove off. It all happened in a fraction of a second.
A piece of cloth was stuffed in my mouth. I was kicking and hitting out and trying to scream. When I managed to push the gag out, I screamed: “It’s my wedding day!” That was when I got the first blow. One of the men told me to “co-operate or you will die”.
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The men took turns to rape me. I felt sure I was going to die, but I was still fighting for my life, so when one of the men took the gag out of my mouth I bit his manhood. He screamed in pain and one of them stabbed me in the stomach. Then they opened the door and threw me out of the moving car.
I was miles from home, outside Nairobi. More than six hours had passed since I had been abducted.
A child saw me being thrown out and called her grandmother. People came running. When the police came they tried to get a pulse, but no-one could. Thinking I was dead, they wrapped me in a blanket and started to take me to the mortuary. But on the way there, I choked on the blanket and coughed. The policeman said: “She’s alive?” And he turned the car around and drove me to the biggest government hospital in Kenya.
I arrived in great shock, murmuring incoherently. I was half-naked and covered in blood, and my face was swollen from being punched. But something must have alerted the matron, because she guessed I was a bride. “Let’s go around the churches to see if they’re missing a bride,” she told the nurses.
All Saint’s Cathedral is the national Anglican cathedral
All Saint’s Cathedral is the oldest Anglican cathedral in Nairobi
By coincidence, the first church they called at was All Saints Cathedral. “Are you missing a bride?” the nurse asked.
The minister said: “Yes, there was a wedding at 10 o’clock and she didn’t come.”
When I didn’t show up to the church, my parents were panicking. People were sent out to search for me. Rumours flew. Some wondered: “Did she change her mind?” Others said: “No, it’s so unlike her, what happened?”
After a few hours, they had to take down the decorations to make room for the next ceremony. Harry had been put in the vestry to wait.
When they heard where I was, my parents came to the hospital with the whole entourage. Harry was actually carrying my wedding gown. But the media had also got wind of the story so there were reporters too.
I was moved to another hospital where I’d have more privacy. That was where the doctors stitched me up and gave me some devastating news: “The stab wound went deep into your womb, so you won’t be able to carry any children.”
I was given the morning-after pill, as well as antiretroviral drugs to protect me from HIV and Aids. My mind shut down, it refused to accept what had happened.
Harry kept saying he still wanted to marry me. “I want to take care of her and make sure she comes back to good health in my arms, in our house,” he said. Truth be told, I wasn’t in a position to say Yes or No because my mind was so jammed with the faces of the three men, and with everything that had happened.
A few days later, when I was less sedated, I was able to look him in the eye. I kept saying sorry. I felt like I had let him down. Some people said it was my own fault for leaving the house in the morning. It was really hurtful, but my family and Harry supported me.
The police never caught the rapists. I went to line-up after line-up but I didn’t recognise any of the men, and it hurt me each time I went. It set back my recovery – it was 10 steps forward, 20 back. In the end I went back to the police station and said: “You know what, I’m done. I just want to leave it.”
Three months after the attack I was told I was HIV-negative and got really excited, but they told me I had to wait three more months to be sure. Still, Harry and I began to plan our second wedding.
Although I had been very angry at the press intrusion, somebody read my story and asked to meet me. Her name was Vip Ogolla, and she was also a rape survivor. We spoke, and she told me she and her friends wanted to give me a free wedding. “Go wild, have whatever you want,” she said.
I was ecstatic. I went for a different type of cake, much more expensive. Instead of a rented gown, now I could have one that was totally mine.
In July 2005, seven months after our first planned wedding, Harry and I got married and went on a honeymoon.
Read the rest of this news at :http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39795047