The Zimbabwe National Statistics Office (ZimStat) revealed in their 2016 quarterly digest of statistics that on average, 646 women were sexually abused monthly in 2015 and that at least 21 women were raped daily in Zimbabwe. Further research indicates that 60 percent of sexual abuse cases recorded in the country yearly are children or girls aged below the age of 16. In most of these cases the perpetrators are close relatives and boyfriends to the victims.
While rape is shunned upon in our society, rape survivors both female and male, still face a lot of stigmatisation and suffer in silence, especially if the perpetrator is a well known public figure or if the victim is a well known public figure themselves. It is important to note that while the most immediate person affected by sexual abuse is the victim/survivor, the effects of sexual abuse can go far beyond individual survivors, it impacts their closest relationships as well as our communities and society at large. It takes bravery for most survivors to stand and speak up about their experiences and when they do they give a voice to others who have been silenced by fear.
Vimbaishe Musvaburi, a Zimbabwean model, media personality and TV talk show host on 10 Minutes With Vimbai, spoke up for the first time about the ordeal she went through as a child at the hands of a trusted relative on her Facebook page a week ago and we caught up with her for an exclusive interview where she recounted the ordeal and the events after. We hope her story will encourage and inspire other survivors to go forward and conquer! Check her interview below.
Anoziva: Hi Vimbai, thank you for agreeing to sit with us and share your story with our readers
Vimbai: Am glad to be here.
Anoziva: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, where you grew up and what you do now.
Vimbai: I was born in Mberengwa, lived there till I was 7, then my parents bought a house in Bulawayo where I did my primary and high school. I then went to England at the age of 17 where I studied to be a nurse then Health studies. I embarked into modelling at the age of 18 and theatre production. At the age of 20 I had gone up to be a contestant in the Miss Zim UK and was doing photographic modelling for Black Hair magazine. I lived in England for 11 years and besides working in the health sector I ran a hair salon in Leicester that did astoundingly well until I was ready to make my move to Africa. When I came back I continued as an entrepreneur, ran a high fashion boutique and hair salon named Intombie and a flower design, and delivery service until I was ready to dive into the entertainment industry which I’m currently in.
I have been based in South Africa for 2 years, my landing step was an award ceremony project then I worked for one of the biggest record labels in South Africa, Vth Season, for a year. There after I decided to finally get up and produce my own talk show called 10 minutes with Vimbai which I am currently pushing alongside many film productions which I can’t name at this stage.
I’m slowly going into acting in the mainstream line and I MC At events.
I did not completely move away from entrepreneurship as I started a women’s network which is doing astoundingly well. It is called Intombie Young Women in Business.
Anoziva: An incredible journey you’ve had! So a week ago you went on your Facebook wall and spoke up publicly for the first time about how you were raped as a child. What made you want to share that part of your life’s story and even so on such a huge public forum?
Vimbai: Well for a long time I’ve wanted to share with the world but on that particular day a young girl needed to hear it so I thought many girls and women want to hear it so this is the right time for this.
Anoziva: At what age were you raped? Did you know the person?
Vimbai: I was raped when I was 6 by my dad’s cousin who was living at our house and being taken to school by my parents. He should have been 20 at that time. This happened many times. I was also molested at 7 by my aunt’s boyfriend but fortunately at that stage there was no penetration.
Anoziva: At that age did you tell anyone about what was going on? And were the rapists arrested and convicted?
Vimbai: The rapist managed to scare me from telling anyone but after a while innocently as a child it came out. One day when my mom and I were walking home from the school she was teaching we passed by a river and two boys were bathing by the river bank. So my mom quickly covered my face not wanting me to see that. That’s when I said “but Mama Sekuru vane yakadaro” meaning but Uncle has the same as the ones they have. Mom being a woman quickly said “Vee you don’t look at boys when they are bathing.” Because in her head she thought I meant that I saw him bath. But LATER THAT day her motherly instinct did not let her rest, so she called me and asked nicely and begged me to tell her what has happened, assuring me I would not be in trouble. I remember vividly the look on my mom’s face and as a mother today I know that if death was near, my mom would have grabbed it but she had to be strong. So she quickly took my dad’s car, being in the village, my dad was not so keen on her driving but she insisted, at that stage she had not told him what had transpired. We drove to my aunt’s house, a mupostori and the most powerful woman I have ever known, she was literally running a maternity hospital in her homestead and she still does. My mother told her what had happened and she asked to check if my hymen had been broken and she had the shock of her life. Now here was my mother who had been teaching me to be a girl and she would teach me to wash my bottom on my own. She cried for not checking on me on a daily basis. I remember she would say “geza mushe ne towel” even today I remember the pain when I would wash with the towel.
Cutting the story short, the elders were told and I remember there was a large meeting under a tree in our homestead with loads of men and they were throbbing the young man who had raped me, thereafter I don’t remember ever seeing him at our home or anywhere near. No one spoke to me about it. My parents thought they had dealt with it, bless them. Little did they know that the memory would not leave me for even one second. Even today I remember the pain, the smell and every detail I just choose not to let it interfere with my life that’s all.
I remember him coming to visit our family home when I was on holiday from England and my dad thought I had forgotten but on that day I was grown I literally asked him and his wife to leave.
3 years after that I heard he was taken by the Lord.
Anoziva: Psychologists say the act of rape tears at the victim’s soul and sometimes leads to the victims hurting themselves, spiralling into depression or into risky behaviour as a means to run away from the pain. Can you tell us how the rape affected you?
Vimbai: Honestly I never ever had a mind to deteriorate the quality of my life because of him. He took my innocence but I remained with my soul and life. The only thing I know is that I was never that child that had a boyfriend at school I had no interest in boys at all. My Brothers were very strict and sometimes I thought they were wasting their energy because I didn’t even want men close to me or would not let any man close to me. The first boyfriend I had was in University. He made me realise I was ready because he was a beautiful soul he cared for me and he would not hurt an ant. He is the reason I decided that I would give men a chance. In a nutshell, no, I did not compromise my life for him.
Anoziva: You were a pageant model and you contested in Miss Zimbabwe UK at one point. There is a lot of talk that girls in the modelling industry are coerced, forced and manipulated into sex, during your modelling days did you experience any of that, if yes, coming from a sexually abusive background how did you handle that environment?
Vimbai: Well not quite for me, my head was straight, I knew what I wanted and I couldn’t have been taken advantage of. I was a rock, so strong, no one could break me. Remember I was a model in England where women’s rights are huge, I was never a model in Zim. The catalogue modelling was clean, you go for a photo-shoot and boom you feature in magazines.
Q: At what stage did you say I cannot be a victim anymore, I am going to be a survivor? How long did it take you to be able to do this?
Vimbai: My Brother, Tendai, knew what had happened to me so he became my shield. He started training me to be strong hence the second attempt by my aunt’s boyfriend was never successful because he had taught me to escape. Tendai taught me to fight, he put me in a boxing ring with him daily, literally telling me to pounce on him. He would even promise to hit me more if I did not hit back. He also taught me to win. When I was in grade 3, I competed in a school athletic race and he told me if I lose the race I would be in big trouble. When I would come tell him that someone did not want to be my friend, he would say it is cool find another friend, you should always be the leader. Surviving became a part of me, I was never affected by who liked me and who didn’t, and my focus was me. At a certain point I got into a relationship where there was a little bit of rejection from a family member, up to today I honestly feel sorry for them because they may have thought it affected me but nahhhh not even because the main factor has always been me, and success and the credit goes to Tendai
Anoziva: For someone who went through something as traumatic and life shattering as rape, you are the embodiment of confidence. Your viewers and followers are hooked on how confident and easy going you are. What has helped you come to that place? Any specific steps you have taken to come to that point?
Vimbai: There are 6 things that have been instrumental for me and they are;
- My Relationship with God
- Knowing what I want and making sure I get it
- Being level headed, I’ve never known what peer pressure is, I only do what I think or what I want
- I plan, pray then execute and I’m never limited by anything even money.
- My personality is genuine, I love people, I laugh, I’m welcoming and humility is important too and not forgetting respect, it will get you places.
- Mainly I do not use my woman power to get my way, by that I mean I’m not reckless with my body, I respect it by all means.
Anoziva: You mentioned on your Facebook post that one of your agents had tried to dissuade you from speaking up about the rape, sighting it would be bad for your career. It’s been a week after your Facebook post regarding the rape, what has been the response you’ve gotten from your fans, the industry you work in and family, any backlash? And how are you dealing with the response?
Vimbai: Honestly I would not say there is any major backlash, only one guy who thought I was doing it for publicity and I thought not to entertain him. Otherwise I have received uncountable messages from rape survivors and encouraging messages from both men and women in general.
Anoziva: Because of your experience do you find yourself sometimes fearing that the same could happen to your daughter?
Vimbai: Definitely but I have taught signs and the kind of language to look out for such. She is open with me and tells me anything and everything anyone says or does to her. I believe the most important thing is to teach her to be aware and to know how to identify predatory behaviour from miles away. I have a 6 year old son whom I have also begun teaching and bringing awareness to because young boys are also at risk of being sodomised.
Anoziva: As a survivor of rape, what are your thoughts on the sentences given by our justice system on perpetrators of rape & the treatment of rape survivors who speak up by the society especially on social media platforms like Facebook?
Vimbai: Look Justice is for the court of law, I never studied it but definitely people who do this have to be punished. I’m not bitter hence I will not wish death on anyone. What I wish is that parents and guardians should know that this devil called rape is real and cautiousness and teaching our children to be alert and to report any suspicious behaviour is important. The other key is to listen to our children and pay attention to every detail.
Treatment? Honestly personalities are different I can’t really prescribe one there.
Anoziva: What is the next move for you going forward? Any plans to pursue activism in line with sexual abuse victims? Or it’s going to be back to your normal work?
Vimbai: Activism I cannot run away from, I have been approached by agents who need me to come and help victims, and I will. My story may change someone’s life. Of course there are right channels and programmes like counselling which I think survivors of rape should go to as well, and yes I never left work I love being me, the creative queen, I can’t run away from that it continues.
Anoziva: On a lighter note, it’s a new year what is Vimbai working on? Any new projects we should be expecting to see this year?
Vimbai: Yes 10 minutes with Vimbai is being cooked and it will surprise people. There are more surprises too, all I can say is look out and follow me on Instagram and Facebook and 10 minutes with Vimbai for updates.
Anoziva: It takes great courage for a victim of rape to speak up and we applaud you for deciding to speak up not only for yourself but for others who have gone through the same. And we hope to see you continue to rise and break ceilings!
Vimbai: Thank you.