RAPE RAGE! - Assaulted by stepdad at 11, raped by friend at 15, child victim struggles to release anger
Her innocence was stolen when she was only 11 years old. Her childhood ended at 15 years old, when her virginity was stolen and replaced with the burden of motherhood.
That is the story of Raquel*, who is now 18 years old and trying to move on with her life after being the victim of sexual abuse for longer than she cares to remember.
Raquel's nightmare started after her mother migrated in search of greener pastures, leaving her and her two sisters in the care of their stepfather.
According to Raquel, her stepfather came into her and her sisters' lives unannounced, before fathering one other child - another girl - with her mother.
"She didn't even sit us down to say, 'Kids, your biological daddy is not here and I am going to have this partner in the house'," said Raquel.
"We just saw this big, old, ugly man come in come take bed and say, 'Me a unno stepfather'. And from he hitched, he just sticked," added Raquel.
In March 2009, the mother migrated to the United States, leaving all four girls - Raquel then aged 11, and her sisters who were 13, eight and four years old - in the hands of her partner. It did not take long for him to begin his sexual grooming of the children.
"He frequently went out at nights and came in whenever he felt like, even though he was the only adult at the house with us."
According to Raquel, four months after her mother migrated, her stepfather came home and told her and her 13-year-old sister that he had a movie for them to watch.
"When we finished eating and went inside he had on blues (pornographic movie) on the TV. I asked him, 'What kind of movie is that?' And he said, 'Just watch it'."
But Raquel said they could not stand to watch, "as it just never felt right", so within five minutes, they went to their respective rooms, but she would soon have unwelcome company.
"I woke up with him underneath me. I thought I was dreaming at first, but in reality, it was actually him," shared Raquel.
"We started a struggle, (but) I was tiny and he is tall and muscular. So he held my arms and covered my mouth, but I kept wrestling, wrestling, so he tried to penetrate me, but it never actually happened until he just gave up."
MOTHER IN DENIAL
Two days later, she told one of her aunts-in-law, who did not believe at first, but eventually realised she was serious and took her to the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse.
But while her aunt-in-law did not take too long to come to her senses and act, it is the failure of her mother to believe her that hurt her the most.
"Like every typical mother when they hear that their daughter is sexually abused by fi dem man, the response is strictly denial. So she denied everything and she blamed me," said Raquel.
The stepfather was arrested and the matter went before the courts, but he would walk free four years later due to a lack of evidence.
"The aunt-in-law didn't show up for court, and according to the judge, they couldn't charge him based on dry evidence. At 11 years old, the law failed me because there was no substantial witness," a still upset Raquel said while pointing out that her mother, too, was a no-show during the trial.
"She (mother) never came to attend any of the court (sessions) or give any emotional or physical support," said Raquel.
"I tried talking to her, but she shuts out that part and goes to something else. Now whether she refuses to answer, I just tell it to her as it is, and she reads the message or she hears what I am saying and she has to accept it and I just move on."
After the case was finished, the girls had to move out of the house. They went to live with her uncle. But, she said, that uncle would beat them without any reason and argued constantly that their mother was not sending sufficient money, until one evening, he told them to leave.
"It was continuous cussing, so my sisters couldn't take it and they ran off," Raquel said. "But I decided that I was not going to run off, because there was nowhere else for me to go."
But when her uncle got so irate that he destroyed her phone, she decided to go in search of her sisters, though it was late. She soon met 21-year-old John*, who she said was one of the few persons she knew in the area, having recently moved there.
She told him she was looking for her sisters and he decided to accompany her.
"So he walked with me down the road and I asked him for a call and called my sisters and asked them where they were," Raquel said. "They said they were on their way to one of our aunts but she was not there, so they are coming back up. So on our way to meet them, he held me down in the bushes and raped me."
Raquel said this was the first time she was having sex. It was a painful and scary experience and, to compound matters, the ordeal left her pregnant.
She had to drop out of school, and to date, she has no subjects to her name.
"Because I was 15, I couldn't decide if my rapist was to be arrested or set free, so my father decided that it was okay not to press charges on him because somebody had to take care of my son," said Raquel, whose son is now three years old.
That decision still haunts Raquel and she is angry at the choice made by her dad, who had not been a part of her life before then.
Though John has apologised, Raquel says she still does not trust him or feel comfortable talking to him. She has had to take him to court for child support.
"I just don't like him," Raquel said. "My son is in the picture now, so, therefore, I know I have to put my feelings aside for a little while to allow him to know his real father."
According to Raquel, she intends to one day tell her son the circumstances under which he was conceived, as she expects him to question why he does not have the same last name as her one-year-old son that she now has for her fiancÈ.
Though now engaged to the father of her second child, it took a while for Raquel to allow herself to get close to another man.
"After being raped, I distinctively told myself that I no longer wanted to be with a man. I just despised men - even my own father. I would see him and just started arguing with him for no reason," said Raquel, who is still bitter that none of the perpetrators were punished.
But as she gets past the hurt, Raquel is giving thanks for Eve For Life, a non-governmental organisation which supports women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, which has been her greatest support.
She now does voluntary work for the group speaking to girls who have suffered similar experiences.
* Names changed to protect identities.