I want to talk about a major issue a lot of solo female travellers like to brush over.
Though travelling to different places alone can be liberating and a great way to meet new people, you always have to remember that you are alone.
No one is there to protect you or to help you out of likely dangerous situations (especially if you are black).
This is an extremely triggering topic that I’ve deliberated talking about but I feel it’s a necessary conversation to have.
Throughout my travels in Africa, I often encountered many men who felt entitled to tell me about my body and being. They’d tell me how I should change this and that to appease them.
You should; cover your hair, arms, loose a little weight, then you’d be perfect.
This speaks volumes of cultural oppressions and misogyny that women encounter daily, existing in every society. I’d always challenge these type of comments and let it be known, my purpose on this planet is not to be visually appealing to any man.
I am a human being with dreams and aspirations far beyond finding a husband.
But this one experience of misogyny became a crime.
Here’s my story.
My story starts in Gambia, it was my first time in the country and using the room hosting site Airbnb. Seeing what other African countries had to offer, I arrived in Gambia with high expectations.
I was in love with the idea of discovering about more African countries and finding my potential future home.
My Airbnb host, privately messaged me on whatsapp (he’d gotten my number from the site) which I thought nothing of but when he began complimenting me and asking for pictures, I thought this was weird.
As I’d never used the site before I thought maybe he couldn’t see my picture online. I changed both my whatsapp and airbnb picture and told him of this. I wasn’t about to send a stranger pictures of myself.
I ignored all the other flirtatious messages he sent me and thought it’d be better for me to set a professional tone with him in person.
We arranged for him to pick me up at the airport. He charged more than normal taxis but I didn’t mind until I saw the car and honestly, it wasn’t safe to be put in a junk-yard let alone to drive on the road. The side mirrors were broken and the car was all types of battered.
The car kept dying on the highway which really scared me but the host thought it was funny and kept making jokes about it being my weight causing it to stop.
I let it slide as I knew Africans didn’t have the same connotations attached to the word fat but I was honestly fearful of my time in the country from that point forward. Arriving at the compound, I was shown to a bungalow with 4 bedrooms that was to be mine.
As I had told my host about the attractions I wanted to see he agreed to show me around.
He came with me to the museums, markets and landmarks and I noticed whenever he had the chance he’d touch me. If we were in crowded areas, he’d put his hands around my waist, hold my hand, rub my shoulders, all without my consent.
Even though I’d move away, he’d find a way to do it again.
He began asking me inappropriate questions like my relationship status and what I look for in a man. I let it be known that these comments were inappropriate and he didn’t need to know that information.
But he thought it was a joke
He started to call me his girlfriend and wife. Even to his work colleagues and people at the market. Glad to be done with the day, I went inside my bungalow to get my things ready to have a shower.
He followed me inside the house
He sat in the parlour to turn on the TV. I went to tell him that I was going to bed. He then asked me if I’d like to watch a movie and chill with him before bed I said no.
He responds by asking if he could sleep in one of the other rooms in the house
But I felt extremely uncomfortable around him and rejected that idea.
As he gets up to leave, he tells me he’ll join me sightseeing tomorrow as he’d taken days off work to spend time with me. I didn’t want to interact with him any more but felt guilty that he took time off work, though it was without asking me, I agreed.
The next day we set off and took public transportation. He told me to give him money at the beginning of the trip to cover both our transports but I noticed that he had inflated the prices of everything to me which I later brought up to him.
The second day was worse as he still kept calling me him wife and girlfriend the whole day telling me about the future we’d have together. The last place I wanted to see was a beach and on the beach he didn’t hold back anymore. He began to ask me about my sexual history and asked if we’d sleep together. This was the last straw for me, my frustration and anger had built up to an uncontrollable level.
I was shouting at this point
about how my experience has been ruined because of his words and actions but all it did was make him laugh.
He began to gaslight me saying I’m of age, I shouldn’t be shy about these topics
He also stated that if two people fall in love with each other then it doesn’t matter how they met. He made it clear that he’d love to sleep with me making sexual references about my body. I know right, disgusting.
I wanted to escape the situation
But not the beach so decided to go for a swim to cool off.
I didn’t know until after that he followed me into the water. The waves were high and the wind was picking up.
He swam to me and began to drag me further into the sea.
I tried to pull away from him but the waves kept bringing us together and at that point he began to pull my body by my hips onto his groin whilst also groping my breasts and thighs.
After struggling to get away I ran back to shore and he followed, laughing whilst he smacked my bum. In shock I didn’t say anything. I collected all my belonging and walked back to the house.
Luckily the compound was close to the beach, I didn’t say another word to him but he followed behind me any ways. Once in the bungalow I packed my things ready to leave.
I ignored all his calls and texts and planned my escape.
I snuck out of the compound to avoid seeing him and searched hotels I could stay in for my last 2 days. But they were proving to be far and expensive.
I sat at a bar deliberating my next move when the owner approached me. We got to talking and he invited me out with his family and friends.
I agreed as it was a great way to escape my current situation.
We had a great time and I spent the rest of my trip with them, you can read here to know about it.
At the time, I spoke to men I trusted about what had happened to me and though they were outraged, when I suggested reporting it, they convinced me otherwise giving me all the reasons not to report him.
Looking back now this saddens me, black women are not protected by anyone, even by our own black men.
It seemed as though every man I spoke to about it cared more about my attackers freedoms than my pain and trauma.
But if he is not held accountable, who and what will break the cycle?
One of my biggest regrets till this day was not reporting it as soon as it happened. I’m ashamed that it has taken me a year to become my sister’s keeper by reporting him.
But I also understand that healing takes its time to manifest in people differently.
Over a third of women worldwide have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime and the numbers for both men and women are rising.
I pray for healing for anyone going through this and I want you to know, I see you, I hear you.
It’s not and will never be your fault.
I hear you
If you’ve heard my story and would like to contact me privately, please feel free to send me a message below or contact me on my socials. I hear you and I’m here to support you x