I have forgiven my attackers. It wasn’t easy but I realised I was getting a raw deal by being upset with people who probably don’t care
When Terry Gobanga was preparing for her wedding day back in 2005, she could have never imagined what tragedy was about to occur. But the pastor, who lives in Nairobi, never made it to the ceremony. Many thought she had a change of heart and ran away, others suspected she must have fallen ill. But Gobanga had been kidnapped, raped, stabbed and abandoned at the side of the road, miles away from home.
“As I was making my way back home, I walked past a guy sitting on the bonnet of a car – suddenly he grabbed me from behind and dumped me in the back seat. There were two more men inside, and they drove off. It all happened in a fraction of a second,” she said in an article published at the BBC.
“A piece of cloth was stuffed in my mouth. I was kicking and hitting out and trying to scream. When I managed to push the gag out, I screamed: “It’s my wedding day!” That was when I got the first blow. One of the men told me to “co-operate or you will die”.”
Eventually, Terry managed to escape, but not before she was stabbed in the stomach. Those who discovered her thought she was dead and arranged to send her to the morgue. “Thinking I was dead, they wrapped me in a blanket and started to take me to the mortuary. But on the way there, I choked on the blanket and coughed. The policeman said: “She’s alive?” And he turned the car around and drove me to the biggest government hospital in Kenya,” Terry recalls.
Rushed to the hospital, Gobanga was given more devastating news. She had been stabbed deep in the womb, and would not be able to carry children. “I was given the morning-after pill, as well as antiretroviral drugs to protect me from HIV and Aids. My mind shut down, it refused to accept what had happened,” she recalls.
After being released from the hospital, Terry and her fiance Harry began to rebuild their lives, and re-plan their wedding. They eventually got married and went on honeymoon. But yet another tragedy was lurking around the corner. “We were at home on a very cold night,” she recalls. “Harry lit a charcoal burner and took it to the bedroom. After dinner, he removed it because the room was really warm. I got under the covers as he locked up the house. When he came to bed he said he was feeling dizzy, but we thought nothing of it.”
Then, they both passed out. Terry managed to call for help and crawl to the door to let people in to help. But Harry was unresponsive. They had both suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning.
“I woke up in hospital and asked where my husband was. “They said they were working on him in the next room. I said: “I’m a pastor, I’ve seen quite a lot in my life, I need you to be very straight with me.” The doctor looked at me and said: “I’m sorry, your husband did not make it.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
Terry sprialled into depression. “I had a terrible breakdown. I felt let down by God, I felt let down by everybody,” she says. “One day I was sitting on the balcony looking at the birds chirping away and I said: “God, how can you take care of the birds and not me?” In that instant I remembered there are 24 hours a day – sitting in depression with your curtains closed, no-one’s going to give you back those 24 hours. Before you know, it’s a week, a month, a year wasted away. That was a tough reality.”
Terry vowed to never get married again. But one man, Tony, just kept on visiting her, helping her through her grief. They developed a relationship, and he eventually proposed. But Terry was apprehensive. She asked Tony to read her story, and then come back to her. Tony was unfazed by the revelations, and still wanted to be with her. Terry was still concerned, as she hadn’t told him that she was unable to have children as a result of the attack. She knew she had to be completely honest with him.
“Listen, there’s another thing – I can’t have children, so I cannot get married to you,” Terry told him.
“Children are a gift from God,” Tony responded. “If we get them, Amen. If not, I will have more time to love you.”
“I thought: “Wow, what a line!” So I said Yes.”
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Her father-in-law believed she was bad news. “You can’t marry her – she is cursed,” he would say.
“When we were exchanging vows, I thought: “Here I am again Father, please don’t let him die.” As the congregation prayed for us I cried uncontrollably,” she says.
Then, incredibly, just a year after they were married, Terry got pregnant!
“A year into our marriage, I felt unwell and went to the doctor – and to my great surprise he told me that I was pregnant,” she says.
“As the months progressed I was put on total bed rest, because of the stab wound to my womb. But all went well, and we had a baby girl who we called Tehille. Four years later, we had another baby girl named Towdah.”
“Today, I am the best of friends with my father-in-law,” Terry declares.
“I wrote a book, Crawling out of Darkness, about my ordeal, to give people hope of rising again. I also started an organisation called Kara Olmurani. We work with rape survivors, as I call them – not rape victims. We offer counselling and support.”
Not only that, but she says she has managed to move on from the brutal attack, and even forgive those who raped her.
“I have forgiven my attackers. It wasn’t easy but I realised I was getting a raw deal by being upset with people who probably don’t care,” she says
“My faith also encourages me to forgive and not repay evil with evil but with good.”