22 January 2013

Uganda: Raped and Molested, She Now Comforts Others

Life was harsh to Aza-Madia, but it did not crush her heart. At only three months, she survived being thrown into a pit latrine. When she was a teenager, she was sexually abused by the people she trusted.

And when she thought she had found true love, she realised later that it was all a lie. She told her story to Steven Odeke

Stella Aza-Madia, a radio presenter in Kampala, has seen many depressing days, right from when she was an infant of three months. Her painful experiences led her to become a born-again Christian, which helped heal her soul. She now has a counselling show on a radio station, where she shares her own experiences and helps abused people get proper counselling.

Surviving the pit latrine

I was born 33 years ago around Kasubi town, a Kampala suburb. My childhood was a troubled one. I would not wish any of her experiences to befall another human being.

My challenges started when my mother tried to throw me in a pit latrine when I was only three months old because she had misunderstandings with my dad.

That led to their separation and it denied me the chance to grow up with both of my parents. My parents' separation divided me and my three siblings. I lived with one of my stepmothers, whose fondness for witchcraft would come back to torment me. My dad was a busy man, who always returned home drunk. His children never had enough time with him, although he provided most of what they needed.

I had two stepmothers. The first one separated with my dad and the second one never cared for us. My father provided us with everything, but I missed his fatherly love.

The absence of my dad exposed me to the dangers of this world, and changed my life forever.

Molested and raped

Between the age of seven and 10 years, my step-uncle constantly molested me, but I did not report to anyone because I did not think they would help me.

I got hurt inside and developed a careless attitude towards life, just to run away from my pain. I got so stubborn while at school, that teachers got fed up of me.

I had no idea of the way to handle my problems. I was a timid and insecure girl who was afraid of reporting my tormentors to anyone because I thought I would not be listened to.

As a teenager, my friends took advantage of me. They knew I was a helpless girl, even though I was not homeless. Because I did not have parents to talk to and protect me, some of my friends exploited me.

One Christmas, when I was 13, I was raped by my friend's uncle. They had invited me to their home in Nakulabye. I went because I trusted them very much, but I was not aware of what was to befall me. I was set up by my friend, who took me to their guesthouse around Nakulabye to meet her uncle.

While at the guesthouse, the friend excused herself and left me alone with the uncle, who raped me. The friend's uncle threatened to punish me if I reported the incident to anyone.

Being a timid girl who had got used to sitting on my troubles, I did not tell anyone about it. Fortunately, I did not get pregnant.

I think it was by the grace of God that I did not conceive, because it is what I feared would happen. The rape experience haunted me so much in the following days that I attempted to commit suicide. I felt there was no reason to live again. I did not care anymore.

That is why when my brother's friend also raped me when I was 14, I did not care. I never knew how to handle such situations.

I thought keeping quiet for fear of being reprimanded by my tormentors would be my only way of surviving.

After the experience I went through, I stopped trusting anyone and decided to run away from home to live on my own. I was no longer in touch with my siblings and dad was not always present to give me an ear.

Home was not home for me. I remember one time while in P4 at Kampala Parents Primary School, I left school and moved around Nansana asking for jobs. I wanted to be a housemaid. So, I met this woman while still dressed in my school uniform and asked to be her housemaid.

She sympathised with me and housed me that night. The next morning, she took me back to school, where we found my dad scolding the school administration, saying they had looked for me the previous night in vain.

I was taken back home and that is when I attempted suicide. My dad realised I had issues hurting me, but did not know how to help me until he passed on in 2000. My mother passed away in 2002.

Her mutilated body was discovered rotten in the bushes of Bombo, Kampala, killed by unknown assailants.

The death of her father shifted her life into another chapter. She dropped out of university and was left with no option, but to face life head-on. In 2003, Aza-Madia fell in love with a man who was a senior pastor in a certain church. The affair was blossoming until he started behaving awkwardly.

"I decided to start my own family after losing my dad. I met this man who was serious, caring and responsible, and I thought he was the man for me. He was a pastor of a growing ministry. We had even agreed on plans to get married. I confided in him as a spiritual friend and husband. But it is revelations from my friend that he was a serial womaniser that broke us apart.

"At first, I refuted the allegations made against him. I thought my friend was just a jealous type until he started behaving awkwardly towards me. I wondered if I would ever find anyone to trust, if even men of God were succumbing to devilish ways," she says.

Aza-Madia then got into another relationship that even led to marriage. But after only two weeks, the relationship started developing cracks.

"He started telling me how our marriage was not going to work. I thought he was joking the first time he told me, but that was not the case.

"He changed and started calling other girls in my presence. Sometimes, he would tell his girls on phone that 'I am done with Stella, can I come and be with you?' He threatened to strangle me if I did not leave him alone," she says.

Aza-Madia was in her early stages of pregnancy when they divorced. She had complications during delivery and the baby was put on Oxygen to save her life.

But after 11 days, Aza-Madia lost her baby. She remained in Mengo Hospital for close to four months because she had not healed well from her labour wounds.

Overcoming the trauma

While still bed-ridden at Mengo Hospital, Aza-Madia says her situation completely changed when her friends and a pastor had overnight prayers for her at the hospital. She grew stronger in faith and decided to tell her story by writing proposals to radio stations for a show.

"I got inspired by preachers like Joyce Meyer and Juanita Bynum who told their life stories as they were. I decided to do the same to help people.

"When I remember how my late mum's body was found, I could not help, but forgive everyone who offended me," she says.

Aza-Madia now holds her own radio talk show, where she counsels abused and molested women and men. She has held conferences and many who listen to her show have come to her for counsel. She adds that she has taken them to people like counsellors, who have helped them.

Apart from the radio show, Aza Madia speaks at conferences and seminars to help others facing similar challenges.

"I urge people never to settle for less.

They should be careful about how they live their lives and parents should mind about their children's friends. I have met people who have told me stories that are perhaps harsher than mine."

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