The title of this blog is meant to drive home the sad fact that a woman in Uganda in the year 2016, while going hiking, should now carry with her a change of clothes for when she is being dropped off after in a public place.
Last week I wrote about how on 23rd April, a mob of men were shouting at me for wearing shorts and the traffic officer I approached (Ainomujuni) to ask them to stop instead told me I ‘wanted it’ and later grabbed me by my upper left arm, slapped it six times ordering me to leave, and tugged at my wrist forcefully when I wouldn’t leave.
He walked away, leaving me in a worse situation than before, with my potential molesters having witnessed an officer of the law attack me and order me off the petrol station. Thus emboldened, a man selling watermelons ordered me to go away and as I saw he was gathering support, I run to a security guard who sheltered me.
What I did not say was that afterwards, one of the men shouting followed me and grabbed my right arm, forcefully pulling me back. Luckily, my boyfriend was in front of me and I cried out his name. He chased the man for a few minutes and gave up. I believe this attack on me was encouraged by Ainomujuni’s public contempt towards me. Shaking with humiliation, rage and in tears, my boyfriend drove me home.
The next evening, he and I went to the Katwe Police Station together and Ainomujuni was the first man we saw. I told him I’d come to file a complaint against him and he smiled arrogantly. I called my boyfriend out of the car and Ainomujuni greeted him smiling still, but with a hint of unease now. My boyfriend told him to appreciate the uniform he was wearing and the power it gave him to put his hands on me.
I was surprisingly denied a chance to file a complaint. The officer we spoke to told me I first had to speak to the Officer in Charge (O.C) of Traffic, a Mr. Naikuma.
And that is where the unrealistic horror and second phase of trauma of this story begins.
I went alone yesterday on the 27th of April to the police station to Naikuma’s office and said I wanted to file a complaint. After telling him my story, he asked Ainomujuni by phone to come the office. Naikuma then started to tell me how this was our society, and he was not ‘defending the men’ but when I am alone in some areas, I should be careful to-
“No”, I interjected firmly. “The time has come for you to start telling men to be careful and not women. Don’t tell me to feel safe or afraid by dressing right for strange men before I leave the house. You go out there and tell the men to start being afraid. They continue to have power because when we come to you, you tell us how to avoid it being our fault. I’ve been hearing that story since I grew breasts. I don’t want to hear it in here!”
Ainomujuni came in and sat down opposite me, and Naikuma asked him if my story was true.
“No”, Ainomujuni smirked. “She’s a liar. I don’t know this woman”.
“What do you mean you don’t know me?”, I asked. “We’ve met twice. This is the third time. Do you remember speaking to my boyfriend the other day? Have you forgotten that?”
After a little back and forth, Ainomujuni said, “You know, I think there was a woman who came to me. It may have been this one. She seemed worried and she said something about shorts and men shouting. I told her to just do what she wanted to do and be normal. She said I was not helping her and would call the Commandant at the Professional Standards Unit. And that’s all I remember”.
Ah. A bit of his deceitful memory was coming back, with lies issuing from it.
“You don’t remember meeting me the second time with my boyfriend?”, I demanded. “You don’t remember refusing to take a phone I gave you with an officer on the line from the Professional Standards Unit? You don’t remember grabbing my arm before that? You don’t remember slapping it? You don’t remember – you know what? Let me illustrate how you tugged my wrist!”.
I stood up, walked toward him and tugged his wrist like he had mine.
“Don’t touch me!” he snapped.
“Oh yes!”, I said. “Do you remember me telling you not to touch me?”
“Sit down!”, he ordered twice, pointing at my chair threateningly.
A man I was accusing of physical assault was ordering and intimidating me in front of his boss, who was allowing it. Worse, his boss helped him.
“Excuse me!” he said to me. “If that is how you are going to behave, I’m going to tell both of you to leave and you can sort it out between yourselves”.
And this is when Naikuma neatly entered my complaint list. He was telling the victim of a crime that if she did not stop being upset, he was going to leave her alone with her attacker.
“Fine”, I said after that threat, but I was not cowed. “Ainomujuni can hit me and put me in danger of being stripped for shorts and I can’t even get upset? You know what? I’m done talking with this liar. Kindly let me file my complaint, give me a case number and I get out of here and allow the law to start taking its course”.
“This is even a minor issue-”, Naikuma started.
“This is not a minor issue!”, I almost shouted. “Let me file a complaint!”.
For the second time, I was denied a chance to do that. My frustration was now reaching magnificent levels. Naikuma said I first had to speak to the O.C of the station. I can’t be certain but I think his name was Mulooba. We went to his office and for the third time I repeated my story. Mulooba asked Ainomujuni if the story was true. He maintained again that I was lying.
“I remember some woman coming to me”, he said. “I think it was this one here. Now, that woman-”
“Stop saying that woman”, I interjected. “You know it was me”.
“Anyway, she was talking a lot and I just thought she was a comedian”, he said, motioning the ‘crazy’ sign with his finger around his ear. He was calling me crazy. I was boiling with rage like a volcano. These police men were treating me like a stupid infant, not taking me seriously and they did not care about my case at all.
“I remember this lady”, Ainomujuni now said. “I remember I told her to just be there and keep on with what she was doing”.
“Now you remember that?”, said I. At least the lie was consistent.
“You know”, the station O.C Mulooba said. “I wasn’t there and neither was Naikuma so we can’t say anything. But it perturbs me…you know…why Ainomujuni would leave his traffic to just go and hit an innocent woman. That is what perturbs me”.
I didn’t even want to think about what he was implying with that statement.
“Okay”, I said. “Why are you not perturbed by the fact that he would tell a woman being screamed at by a mob of men to go back to it? Why are you not perturbed by the fact that he didn’t tell me I was smack dab in the middle of THREE police posts that I could have reported the men to or gone to for safety? Why are you not perturbed by the fact that he left me there unsafe? Why are you all handling this case so carelessly?!”
And here, O.C Mulooba developed balls the size of giant coconuts.
“Excuse me?” he said to me in an intimidating manner. “You now have the guts to abuse me? You dare to call me careless?”
“Abuse you?”, I exclaimed. “How am I abusing you?”
“It’s clear you are high-”, “Mulooba started.
“High?!” I don’t know how I wasn’t screaming yet. “I’m sitting in a room with a man who caused me physical and emotional trauma and you think I’m abusing you because I’m not happy with how things are going?”
Mulooba continued his intimidation. “I am now going to put you higher up in the hierarchy because I cannot help you. I can assure you that in any office I’m sitting in, I would not help you and right now I will not help you!”
He was going to put me higher up. He wanted me to repeat my story a fourth time. I just wanted to file a complaint and the O.C of a station was refusing to help me do that. Because as befits a victim being tossed around like cabbage, I was upset and therefore I was ‘high’ and undeserving of his assistance.
I had to leave. I knew that if I stayed for even 15 more seconds I was going to mentally snap, hurl myself at him, break at least three of his teeth and get arrested for assaulting an officer.
This is a truly horrific experience for me. Since the initial incident, I could barely sleep or focus on work. The little time seeking justice is spent with police men intimidating me and treating me like a little girl who needs discipline. This type of behaviour towards victims of assault has to be something normal for them or I wouldn’t be experiencing it. We women deserve better than for the clothes on our bodies to become a matter of national security.