False accusation of rape

At least 15 women are raped every day in Zimbabwe – frightening statistics – but also alarming are cases of false accusation of rape. Kundai Marunya shares his story.

False rape accusation - image from NYDaily

False accusation – image from NYDaily

A very close relative of mine who happens to be a police officer was recently accused of rape. I hate sexual abuse with so much passion. I have a daughter and I cannot imagine how I would feel if my daughter were to go through such an ordeal, how can she survive both the physical and psychologically damage.

I was infuriated with the basis of the accusations that had to drag him back from Bulawayo (where he works) to Norton (our hometown) where the alleged crime was supposedly committed.

Believe me, I’m not just trying to defend my own. If facts and evidence had pointed him to be a rapist I would had helped with his prosecution without any hint of remorse. The whole fiasco started one morning in December when I bumped into my relative in the hallway of our family home. With him was a female companion. He introduced her as his new wife before explaining how he had been caught pants down by the girl’s sister at his friend’s house not far from our home the previous night.

Eloping

The sister reported her to their mother and stepfather. Fearing to be labelled loose for having pre-marital sex, she cried sexual assault. She was chased from home, without even a change of clothes or any belongings except what she had on. For someone who was eloping she came without the company of her relatives contradicting Shona custom of kutizira.

She spent the day with her new husband locked in their bedroom, enjoying their honeymoon, evident with the sounds that forced me to leave home in shudders. Upon my return that night, the two had successfully negotiated with the girl’s parents to take her back home to allow my scandalous relative to prepare for a proper homecoming of what would had been his second wife.

Extortion

The homecoming however did not happen. My relative had second thoughts and backed out of the agreement after consulting his first wife, who I imagine wouldn’t want to share her husband with another woman. These developments did not sit well with the girl’s family who came to our place twice demanding money for the ‘damages’. The elders of my family told them to deal with the perpetrator as he is grown enough to handle his own affairs. Their parting words were ‘tichaona kuti achatsvaga umwe ndiyani’ (you will come crawling to us) – a threat they fulfilled with a police report.

False accusation of rape

Two days later my relative received a phone call through his superiors who awarded him time to come back home to face the charges, even though the docket had not yet been opened. After taking my relative’s statement, the investigating officer told us that there were many irregularities in the accuser’s story and that there was no evidence supporting her claim. He suggested an out of court settlement to save time even when he believed in my relative’s innocence. ‘You will lose much time and money travelling to and from Bulawayo to attend court, and it may take years before the case is concluded,’ he said.

Price tag on rape

The off record talks saw my relative paying $1, 500 for damages. The affidavit that was signed upon the settlement agreement stated that my relative had promised to marry the girl before sleeping with her, hence the damages.

I still wonder how one can put a price tag on rape. Are people that desperate for money that they would rather get payment for a violation that may affect one’s psychological state haunting them for the rest of their lives? How about the possibility of STIs or HIV infections that may come with rape, is there any money enough to pay for that?

Unjust imprisonments

In the past I’ve heard many women who threaten to cry rape after disagreements with their partners as a way of punishing them, I just never thought anyone would go on to do it. If the girl in my relative’s case had successfully woven a good statement believable to the investigators, maybe he could have gone down for the crime. His family, among them, a two year old boy, were going to be robbed of him for maybe over 15 years.

I can’t begin to think of the emotional turmoil one would suffer through the usually long trial and being wrongfully imprisoned. And there are the rumoured rapes of convicted rapists in prisons where HIV is rampant.

Stigma

When they finally get out after serving their sentence, that is if they get out alive, how do they then manage to deal with stigma and reconnect with their families? I don’t think a child who grows up with the knowledge of their father being a rapist will be keen to have a working relationship with him, especially after growing up with that label haunting them.

Forced marriages

Then there is those who are raped and their families opt to offer them to their assailants as wives. The families are equally guilty of the rape and should be reported and prosecuted; come to think of it, the intercourse in that kind of a marriage will be rape, after all there is no love.

How does one even spend that lobola money without any remorse after forcing their child to commit to a violent criminal for the rest of their lives? What if the perpetrator commits the crime again, this time with other close family members, what then will be done? Rapist should best stay imprisoned, and if any law is to be proposed to castrate them I would wholeheartedly support it.

Given that my relative is a police officer who deals with different reports of crime every day, will he ever believe a rape victim without any physical evidence? False accusations of rape after consensual sex makes it difficult for actual rape victims to receive fair treatment and to be taken with as much seriousness and urgency as they should. Think of this before you cry rape to extort money or save your own skin.

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