“Oh no!” Dr. Iwolomo exclaimed when Omonigho narrated to him what Phony Angel did to her some minutes ago. “I was glad when you told me that someone was with you,” he continued, “But I sensed that she was ignorant about the complications amounting from a rape, when she said you hadn’t exhibited mood swings.”
He was aghast, when Erobot told him what Phony Angel had uttered a few minutes ago. Although he didn’t have to, he apologised for the result of the wrong choice Erobot had made; the choice of who had what it took, to support her.
“We are going to breathe in and out, six times,” he was telling Erobot over the phone, when she had to open the door to stem Phony Angel’s persistent knocking. That was when Phony Angel saw her, so messed up. messed up. The following morning, Erobot felt compelled to thank her. So, she went to Phony Angel’s room and ended up sharing more of her struggles; exposing herself. But at the time, she hadn’t thought of it that way. How could she? Phony Angel prayed with her and helped Erobot with her breathing exercises, which had helped put her to sleep the previous night.
Here and now, at 5:50am, Erobot has lost count of the number of flashbacks, she has had of the yesterday’s incident. But she knows that the memory will remain as vivid as the one of November 2013. She remembered returning from a bathroom break, to the classroom, where a debate on rape was raging. That heated discourse was making the rounds in her head now, after having successfully robbed her of sleep. To be honest, it was also the implication of what she had walked in on, that was making her head pound. Just as it had made her heart pound, the day before.
At the workshop, Phony Angel’s piece had been read and critiqued in Erobot’s absence. So, she still doesn’t know what it was about. But Jon Bone had called for creative pieces, in which rapists were held accountable for their actions. He had also asked that men – not just women – write about rape. Chichungfu mentioned that he had written a book about rape before chipping in, “Men also do get raped.”
“Nigerians are highly insensitive people, so won’t understand when you talk about words that have been designed to shame,” Dr. Iwolomo had surmised when Erobot told him that her contribution to the workshop – of asking the participants towrite and positively recreate narratives of insensitivity to rape survivors out there – had caused her to be treated like a criminal. She had only requested they be sensitive with choices of words ‘because a rape victim could be in their midst’. That comment had opened the floodgates; suddenly everybody had an opinion.
Phony Angel had made a rather lengthy speech, in which she had said, “People can’t be walking on egg shells around you.” She had concluded by yelling “Erobot, you have to pull yourself together and move on!” before storming out of class. Erobot wasn’t even sure whether Phony Angel heard her ask, “Have you been raped? Do you even know what it really means?”
“How dare you ask such a question?!” Google, another woman yelled back at Erobot, before exiting the class in pursuit of Phony Angel.
“I know I committed a crime … being gang-raped was my crime. And I will be sentenced when members of the jury are ready. But I have died again. This time, to fellow women who just make noise about rape yet aid rapists; abuse-advocates who get their fix from being in the spotlight talking about rape but shame … just to re-traumatise survivors over and over again. This time, also to you reading this” Erobot scribbles in her jotter, before leaving it on her bed and heading for the bathroom …
EROBOT ON TRIAL is a serialised, true story.