Date rape surge among youth in Bulawayo

By Regis Nhumba

Shamiso Ruramai (25) says she was thrilled when her boyfriend invited her to his home for a family party in Matsheumhlope, an affluent suburb in Bulawayo Metropolitan province. However, the occasion will forever remain etched in Shamiso’s mind for all the wrong reasons. Shamiso says her boyfriend violently raped her even when she pleaded that she was not interested in sex.

According to a local organisation, 78% of females reported having experienced violence from partners and mainly sexual violence

Shamiso and her boyfriend had been dating for three years. Their relationship started when the two were at a local university. After their studies, Shamiso continued to pursue her career in medicine and her boyfriend joined his family businesses.

“After such a long period dating, I had come to trust my boyfriend. He had introduced me to some of his relatives and I had become comfortable around him. Our relationship was blooming and I had no doubt that we would get married. ,” says Shamiso.

On the fateful day in August 2020, Shamiso says she and her boyfriend had planned to attend a family gathering at his home.

Shamiso says she was welcomed by his relatives and had a great time. Towards the evening, Shamiso says her boyfriend invited her to his room to discuss some important issues. When they got into the room, Shamiso says his boyfriend started to hug and kiss her. For a while she allowed it to happen but when he proposed to have sex, Shamiso says she calmly informed him that it was not the right time and that she was not ready.

“I trusted him a lot and I expected him to respect what I was telling him. At that moment his face changed and he became someone I have never seen before. It was like an evil spirit had possessed him. He seemed not to listen.

The penetration made me feel like my lower body was being cut into pieces by a scissors. I could not scream for fear of raising his family’s attention. I pleaded with him to stop but my pleas fell on deaf ears. After almost twelve minutes of painful and unbearable sex, he finally let go. He tried to explain his actions but I was disillusioned and confused. I dressed up myself and sneaked away,” says Shamiso.

When she got home, Shamiso says she took some emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). She was so shocked and depressed by her experience and did not talk to anyone about it. She says reporting the case to the police is out of the question because she still loves her boyfriend and does not wish to see him in jail.

Shamiso is one of the many young girls in Bulawayo who have fallen victim to date rape. While Shamiso was raped by her longtime boyfriend, some girls are raped by acquaintances or friends who invite them to parties.

According to a local women’s rights organisation, Katswe Sistahood, date rape “is rape in which there has been some sort of romantic or a potential romantic relationship between the two parties. Date rape often occur when seduction fails and the offender proceeds without consent. Offenders often go unpunished because victims might justify their actions using their relationship status such as boyfriend or lover”.

Mitchel Dlamini (20) a student at a local teachers’ college says some girls at her college have told stories of being raped by their boyfriend at the college hostels.

“I no longer invite my male friends to my room. It is not safe. Some boys feel that once you invite them to your room it is also an invitation to have sex. From my interactions with my peers at college, I have come to know that date rape is rampant and many girls do not report because they will be emotionally attached to the rapist,” says Mitchel.

Mitchel says it is important for parents and communities to raise awareness about date rape so that girls take precautions.

“To protect myself, I avoid going to private places like lodges or visit my boyfriend at home when I know he is alone. I also make sure that I tell my mother whenever I am going out to meet my boyfriend. My mother always reminds me to be careful,” says Mitchel.

Nobukhosi Ngwenya (21) lives in Parklands in Bulawayo. She is also a student at a university in Midlands province. Nobukhosi says date rape is prevalent at institutions of higher learning in the country.

“Some men use drugs to facilitate rape. Most of these drugs are mixed with alcohol or drinks. Girls should be careful about what they drink at parties. I have heard several cases of my peers who have been raped at parties after being drugged,” says Nobukhosi.

Epworth Hungwe (71) is a proponent of traditional culture. Epworth lives in Romney Park in Bulawayo. He believes that young people are victims of cultural erosion.

“Date rape has increased compared to the days when we were growing up. This is because young people no longer consult their families on issues of courtship. Young people get separated from their families at an early age to pursue education. They start to indulge in multiple sexual relationships because there is no one to guide them. Some of the young people are lazy to work and they go about looking for rich boyfriends,” says Epworth.

Epworth adds that traditionally, girls would only visit their boyfriends in the company of an elderly member of the family or after marriage. He says cultural changes are fuelling date rape.

“Nowadays girls sneak from their homes to go and spend nights with their boyfriends without their parents knowing. Communication technologies are facilitating such behavior. When a girl gets raped after such escapades, they fear reporting because they would not have told anyone about their adventures,” says Epworth.

Katswe Sistahood reveals that 31% of young people between the ages of 18 to 24 encountered their first sexual intercourse through date rape. 78% of females reported having experienced violence from partners and mainly sexual violence. Of those, only 7% got help and medical services.

This article was written as part of the Creative Centre for Communication and Development (CCCD) project that seeks to strengthen the voices of women and girls, especially under the grim impact of the Coronavirus (COVID 19). CCCD has used the WhatsApp mobile application to train women and girls so that they express their voices on what is happening in their communities.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe