Terry Gobanga left everyone speechless when she did not show up to her wedding. Not even one person could have guessed that she was actually abducted, gang-raped and left dead by the roadside. That was one of the first two tragedies that hit Terry, a young pastor from Nairobi, Kenya. Many tragedies soon followed, but she is a warrior herself.
Terry’s wedding was going to be a big one. It was held in All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi and there were plenty of her church members including her relatives ready to witness the solemnization. Everything was complete- including her beautiful wedding dress. Terry together with her fiancé, Harry could not have been more excited.
But the night before the wedding, Terry realised she kept some of Harry’s clothes that he would need for their big day including his cravat. She knew the cravat was important so her friend who had stayed the night offered to take the cravat to him in the morning. They later got up at dawn and she walked her to the bus station.
On her way home, she walked past a guy sitting on the bonnet of a car. The guy suddenly grabbed her from behind and dumped her in the back seat of the car with another two men inside and they sped off. It all happened in a blink of an eye.
Terry’s mouth was stuffed with a piece of cloth. She started kicking and trying to scream for help. When she managed to push the cloth, she screamed: “Today is my wedding day!” but got beaten by the man in return. One of them even warned her to ‘cooperate or you will die.’
The men took turns to rape her.
“I felt sure I was going to die”, Terry said.
But deep inside, she knew she has to keep holding on.
When one of them took the gag out from her mouth, she bit him and he screamed in pain having result in Terry being stabbed in the stomach. The men then opened the door and threw her out of the moving car.
She was thrown miles away from home, outside Nairobi and it has been six hours since she has been abducted.
A child who happened to see the incident called her grandmother out of curiosity. Many people came running and called the police. When the police arrived, they tried to get a pulse but it was not successful. Thinking that she must have died, they wrapped her in a blanket ready to take her to the mortuary. But on their way there, she accidentally chocked on the blanket and coughed.
The policeman said, “She’s alive?”
Surprised, the police turned the car and rushed her to the biggest government hospital in Kenya.
She arrived at the hospital shaking in shock and murmuring incoherently.
“I was half-naked and covered in blood, and my face was swollen from being punched”, said Terry.
But something made one of the nurses believe that Terry was a bride. They decided to call around the nearby churches and asked if they were missing a bride. To their surprise, the first church that they called was All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, the church that was supposed to witness their union sharp at 10 a.m.
When Terry did not show up to her wedding, her parents were panicked. There were also rumours saying that Terry was having a second thought or something might have happened to her.
Hours later, they took down the decorations in the wedding church to make room for other occasion. But Harry was there- waiting patiently believing that Terry would come.
Once her family was contacted, they rushed to the hospital with the whole entourage. Harry was even there, holding her wedding dress wanting to meet her missing bride.
However, the media has also heard of the story and many reporters were there. She was then being moved to another hospital due to wanting some privacy. Doctors who treated Terry’s wound which was the one that went so deep into her womb said that it would be impossible for her to have a child on her own.
She was given the morning-after pill and antiretroviral drugs to protect her from having HIV and Aids. Terry’s mind was still blank and she has not fully recovered physically and mentally.
Harry on the other hand was loyal to Terry, saying how much he wanted to marry her. “I want to take care of her and make sure she comes back to good health in my arms, in our house,” he said.
However, Terry was still not in a stable condition as the images of the three men kept on coming to her mind including everything that has happened.
A few days later, when she was less sedated, she was able to face Harry eye-to-eye. Feeling that she has let him down, she kept on apologising. Some people said it was her own fault for leaving the house at dawn and it was really hurtful for Terry but her family and Harry did not leave her all alone.
The police were working hard to catch the rapists but they did not succeed. Terry went to line-up after line-up to trace the rapists but she did not recognise any of the men. In the end, she went back to the police station saying: “You know what, I’m done. I just want to leave it.”
Three months after the tragedy, she was relieved when told she was HIV-negative. They told her she had to wait for three months to be sure but Harry and her has started planning for their second wedding.
Having to deal with press intrusion was definitely tough especially when she was not fully recovered yet. But a woman named Vip Ogolla read her story and asked to meet her. She shared a same path of fate with Terry as she was also a rape survivor. They met and Ogolla told Terry that she wanted to give her a free wedding.
The wedding was grand. Terry chose a different type of cake which was much more expensive and instead of renting a gown, she own the gown herself.
In July 2005, seven months after the incident, Harry and Terry tied the knot and went on a honeymoon.
29 days later, at one night, they were both at home but it was strangely cold. Harry lit a charcoal burner and brought it into the bedroom. After having dinner, he removed it after noticing that the room had warmed up. But just before climbing into bed, he was feeling dizzy and both of them were having trouble from sleeping because it was so cold.
Terry then suggested to add another duvet. But Harry said he could not get it because he had no strength to even get up. Strangely, Terry felt the same way.
Something felt weird but they were too tired to even think about it. In the end, both of them passed out.
Terry later on called him a few times but he did not respond. She pushed herself out of the bed and threw up. With no strength, she crawled to the phone and called her neighbour saying: “Something is wrong, Harry is not responding.”
Her neighbour came just in time but it took Terry ages to crawl to the front of the door to let her in. She saw a few people coming in and then she passed out again.
She woke up in a hospital and asked immediately regarding her husband. They said they were working on him in the other room.
Terry 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 her and said: “I’m sorry, your husband did not make it.”
It was devastating and Terry could not believe it.
Going back to church for the funeral was a terrible experience for Terry. Just a month earlier she was there in her white dress, with Harry standing at the front looking good in his suit but now she was in black and was being wheeled in, in a casket.
People thought that Terry has been cursed and they event intend to held back their children from her. They said that Terry had a bad omen hanging over her. At one point, she actually believed that.
People also accused her for killing her husband and it came up to a point where she was grieving.
The post-mortem however finally showed what really happened: as the carbon monoxide filled Harry’s system, he started choking and suffocated.
Terry had a terrible breakdown. She felt let down by God and everyone around her. She could not believe that some people could actually be laughing, going out and just going about life whilst she was devastated.
“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”, she mentioned.
She even told everybody that she would never ever get married again.
But there was one man – Tonny Gobanga – who kept visiting. He would encourage her to talk about her late husband and the good times they have shared together. One time he did not call her for three days and that was when she realised she had fallen for him.
Tonny proposed to her but he was told by Terry about her past stories. Tonny realised that but insisted on marrying her.
But then she said: “Listen, there’s another thing – I can’t have children, so I cannot get married to you.”
“Children are a gift from God,” he said. “If we get them, Amen. If not, I will have more time to love you.”
Tonny’s words were managed to convince Terry and she accepted him to become her husband.
Tonny went home to tell his parents, who were very excited, until they heard her story. You can’t marry her – she is cursed,” they said. Her father-in-law even refused to attend the wedding, but they went ahead anyway. They had 800 guests but many came out of curiosity.
When they got married, Terry prayed to God that He would not take his husband away from her this time like how she encountered with her late husband.
A year after their marriage, Terry received a happy news when a doctor told her that she was pregnant.
She was taken care very well and was put on total bed rest, because of the stab wound to her womb. But all went well, and they had a baby girl named Tehille. Four years later, they had another baby girl named Towdah.
Today, Terry’s best friend is her father-in-law.
She even wrote a book, ‘Crawling out of Darkness’, about her ordeal, to give people hope of rising again. She also started an organisation called Kara Olmurani. In this organisation, she work with rape survivors. She does not call them as rape victims, instead she used the word survivors. There, they offer counselling and support. They are looking to start a halfway house for them where they can come and find their footing before going back to face the world.
Terry has long ago forgive her attackers. It wasn’t easy but she soon realised that it was a waste of time if she continues being upset with people who probably do not care. Her faith also encourages her to forgive and do not repay evil with evil but with good.
The most important thing is to mourn. Go through every step of it. Get upset until you are willing to do something about your situation. You have to keep moving forward and crawl even if you have to. But make sure to move towards your destiny because it’s waiting, and you have to get up and get it.