Clinic helps Zimbabwe’s rape survivors rebuild lives

“The man proposed love to me, but I turned him down but he forced himself on me. The people I had gone with to the party disappeared."

kholwani Nyathi
18 August 2022

Tendai Shoko*, a 15 year-old rape survivor from one of Harare’s poorest neighbourhoods, feels helpless and abandoned after she was sexually abused by an HIV positive man.

Shoko had recently arrived in Epworth, a sprawling settlement on the outskirts of Harare, from rural Bikita when she was lured by a friend to attend a party in the neighbourhood when the first sexual attack by the man started.

“I was new in the area as I had recently arrived from Bikita to stay with my mother in Epworth and a girl that I considered to be a friend invited me to a party in the area,” she narrated in between sobs.

“Unbeknown to me she had already arranged a ‘boyfriend’ for me and they tried to convince me to take alcohol, but I refused.

“The man proposed love to me, but I turned him down but he forced himself on me.

“The people I had gone with to the party disappeared and I struggled to walk back home alone and I was scared to tell my mother what had happened.

“I was in extreme pain.”

Shoko opened up about the abuse after attending a community dialogue organised by the Adult Rape Clinic (ARC) held at the Epworth Polyclinic to raise awareness about sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR), sexual gender based violence and protection from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation (PSEA) among in-school and out of school adolescents as well as youths.

ARC through support from UNICEF Zimbabwe with funding from USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance COVID 19 Emergency (USAID BHA COVID 19) has been organising the awareness activities around Harare and Chitungwiza  to enhance its objectives that include providing timely and quality services to children, adolescent girls and women survivors at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

Shoko, who was accompanied by her grandmother and mother to the dialogue, visited ARC’s facility at Parirenyatwa Hospital after her stomach started swelling and the rape was exposed,  she but did not return for follow-up tests and treatment because of challenges at home.


The ARC made arrangements for her to attend counselling sessions and continue with her treatment after hearing her heart wrenching story.

“We took her to the clinic after we suspected that she was pregnant and after learning that the rapist was HIV positive,” Shoko’s grandmother said.

“At the clinic they did a pregnancy test, which came out negative and we were told that the bulging stomach was a result of a sexually transmitted infection.

“She was given drugs and her condition has improved significantly. “She was also tested for HIV and the results were negative.

“She was supposed to return for further HIV tests after three months, but I fell seriously ill and I have not been able to take her back to the clinic and her mother is always at work.”

After the abuse, Shoko is said to have returned to her abuser on more than five occasions where they had transactional sex and the grandmother said the man only gave them US$16 for transport fares to hospital.

The Form Three pupil has also been skipping lessons and running away from home to stay with the abuser, the grandmother said.

“We slept together five times and each time he will give me US$5,” Shoko added.

“At home I have a problem because my grandmother does not want to listen to me and she took away my phone because they say I will be communicating with boyfriends yet I need it for my school work.

“This would not be happening to me if I had remained in the rural areas. I am treated differently from other children at home.

“I got a lot of help after visiting the ARC and I want to return there for further treatment and counselling.”

Shoko, her mother and grandmother will receive counselling, psychotherapy support and follow-up care at the ARC after the conversation exposed deeper problems at their home.

Tinotenda Shava* (31), a former maid who was raped by her employer, spoke glowing about the services provided by the ARC in an interview after the dialogue.

“I was a maid and I was raped by my employer,” said Shava, a mother of one from Epworth.

 “In February this year I went to the ARC where I was given medication and I also received counselling.

“I still go for counselling and we are also taught life skills at the ARC.

“I am now a beauty therapist, which means that I am able to fend for my child without resorting to jobs that put me at risk of abuse such as being a maid.

“I encourage other women and girls, who were abused and are suffering in silence to reach out to the ARC.”

Sarah Mawere* (25), another beneficiary of the ARC services from Epworth, said she has been able to rebuild her life after she was almost destroyed by an attempted rape incident.

Mawere was left traumatised and with physical bruises after a male friend lured her to his lodgings before trying to rape her.

“He was someone I considered to be a brother as he was known to my mother,” she said.

“He proposed love to me out of the blue, but I turned him down because of our relationship.

“He tricked me into visiting his lodgings after telling me that he was seriously ill.

“After work I went to his house where I cooked for him and cleaned his room before he suddenly became aggressive, saying I cannot turn down his proposals.

“He dragged me to his bedroom where he removed my clothes and assaulted me as I was resisting.

“I eventually managed to grab a knife and threatened to stab him until he let me go.”

Mawere did not inform her mother about the incident as she had previously ignored her warnings against associating with the man.

She also did not make a police report fearing stigmatisation, but eventually reached out to the ARC as she was struggling to deal with the trauma.

“It will take time, but I am healing after receiving counselling from the ARC,” Mawere said.

“I encourage fellow women and girls, especially from Epworth, who are in my situation to access their services as they are very professional and compassionate.

“Sexual abuse and gender based violence is rife in Epworth because of the poverty and the overcrowding.”

ARC provides clinical SGBV services that include HIV counselling and testing, post exposure prophylaxis for HIV, sexually transmitted infections screening and treatment, pregnancy testing and emergency contraception for girls and women as well  SRHR services.

The SGBV survivors are also linked to justice and social support services and those that test HIV positive are referred for opportunistic infections care at their nearest health care facilities.

To enable better access to services, UNICEF has also been supporting the ARC to provide transport allowances for both SGBV survivors and police officers attached to the Victim Friendly Unit to access services.

SGBV cases, including rape, escalated in Zimbabwe during national lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID 19 as people stopped going to work and schools were closed for prolonged periods.

*Names changed to protect victims