It is impossible to wrap one’s mind around the horrors Celine Njoki has experienced throughout her life. Though her life has been filled with valley experiences and abuse, she has found the strength and courage to keep pushing forward. For her, pain began very early on.
Celine’s parents separated when she was about four years old.
“My mom just left with my youngest brother,” Celine told The Weight She Carries. “She left me and the brother who comes right after me with my dad. I have never seen her since. I don’t even know what she looks like. People who know her say I am a spitting image of her. But I don’t know. I’ve also never seen my youngest brother.”
Celine was never told the reason why her mother left. No one talked about it. Life went on and life with her father was good. But when she was seven years old, her father was involved in an accident and passed away.
“When my father died, again, no one explained what happened. I just saw people crying and someone told me that my dad had died, but no one explained what happened,” Celine said. “I think they thought I was too young to understand.”
Soon after that, some of her father’s cousins came to live in the family home while they furthered their education. One of the cousins began molesting Celine.
“I was about eight years old. He was about 25 or 26,” Celine said. “I had no one to tell. I couldn’t even go to my grandmother to tell her. I became rebellious and every time I did something, I would get beaten by my dad’s brothers. I still have scars on my body from the beatings I got from a cane.”
“I was an introvert and I learned to keep things to myself. The rest of my childhood just bypassed me. I was bed-wetting and only stopped when I was 14. I was so afraid of people, afraid of things. I never had any friends and the beatings made me stubborn. I didn’t know how to explain to them that I was being molested under their very noses. To this day, they do not know.” – Celine Njoki
The sexual abuse by her father’s cousin ceased when she was 14, but shortly after, Celine found herself involved with a young man and was pregnant at 15.
She left the relationship when she was 7 months pregnant after she saw him holding her best friend’s hand. The betrayal cut deep, and she returned to her family’s home and gave birth to her first child at 16.
“It was difficult because everyone had deserted me. Only one aunt stood by me,” Celine said. “Everyone thought I was a bad child, and I also believed that I was a bad child. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to forgive myself and realized that I was not a bad child.”
By this time, Celine’s grandmother had passed away. So no one was there to give her any advice.
“Here I was, a baby having a baby. I was traumatized and I pretended to be strong, I knew I would not leave my child the way my mom left me. I was determined to raise my child, but I didn’t know how. I was just a teenager. I had no experience.” – Celine Njoki
When her son was a year and three months old, Celine decided to reconcile with her son’s father. She became pregnant again at 17.
“By 18, I have my second child. Nobody in my family wants to see me. My uncles were done with me and everyone had deserted me,” she said.
When the time came to have the baby, Celine stayed shut up in the house and was in labor for three days. She had separated from her husband.
“I had no friends left, and I remember crying out to God and saying, ‘Please let me die, this is too painful for me.’ With the little strength I had left, I held onto my bed and screamed. I pushed out my son and then I collapsed,” Celine said.
The scream she let out must have alarmed a neighbor, because when Celine came to, the neighbor had cut the cord.
“I didn’t go to the hospital because I didn’t have any money on me and I guess I was depressed. I had not gone for any prenatal care, and in Kenya, you cannot just go to the hospital to give birth if you have not had any prenatal care. I remember when I woke up, I had nothing to eat. Somebody just brought me some black tea. Two weeks after delivering the baby, I was doing some odd jobs. Life had to go on. I had to take care of my two children.” – Celine Njeki
After some time, the father of Celine’s children got an opportunity to travel to the U.S to work. So he left and would send some money to Celine to take care of the family. Two years later, he returned and the couple decided to have a third baby. That’s when things became bad.
“He began bringing his girlfriends to our home and would ask me to sleep on the couch while they slept in our bed,” Celine said. “Sometimes he would bring two women at a time. By that time, I was pregnant. I had nowhere to go so I dealt with it. I would hide my pain with a smile. I have a very beautiful smile. None of my friends knew what was happening to me.”
“I remember one day, I was 5 months pregnant and he came in the morning with two women. I was sleeping on the couch. My boys were home from school because it was a holiday. My husband and the women came in and went to the bedroom. They were having sex and moaning. I banged on the door so that they could at least cut down on the noise because of the children. He came out and slapped me, and then dragged me down the stairs. He threw some money at me and told me to go and have an abortion. That was the day I left for good. I was bleeding heavily. I took my children and we left.” – Celine Njoki
Celine counted the money. It was 20,000 Kenyan Shillings ($200 USD). Knowing she had no other means to provide for her family, Celine chose not to seek medical attention.
“I thought if I went to the hospital I’d be left with nothing. And I knew I needed to look for a place to stay,” she said. “So I just used 1,000 Shillings, went to church and I cried out to God. I said, ‘God, I need you to heal me, I cannot have a miscarriage,’ and the bleeding stopped.”
Celine found a small house where she could pay 500 Shillings ($5 USD) for rent. She bought some bedding, a cooking stove and a few other essentials and started life there. She never reached out to or heard from the father of her kids. Her daughter was born a few months later.
Three months after her daughter was born, Celine started a business selling clothes to South Sudan. She would take the clothes there and be there for a week and then come back to Kenya.
One day, she bought a second-hand phone she said she didn’t know was a stolen phone.
“I was tracked down and taken to court. My bail was 150 Kenyan Shillings, but since I had that money in my account, I wasn’t worried,” Celine said. “I called my best friend and gave her my ATM card and asked her to withdraw the money and pay bail for me. To date, I have never seen her again.”
Her “friend” disappeared with her money and Celine remained locked up for 1 year and 8 months, waiting for her case to be heard. The case was eventually tossed out due to lack of evidence.
“That was the most difficult thing to deal with because I didn’t know what was happening. She never came back so I didn’t know what had happened to her. Every day I was hoping she would come back. Little did I know that she had withdrawn all my money and just disappeared.” – Celine Njoki
Her children were passed around from friend to friend, and sometimes would stay with Celine’s aunt. They had no idea where their mother was.
Upon release, Celine faced a lot of stigma.
“Nobody wanted to stay with me after that. I remember going to the church I used to attend prior to being in jail and I asked the pastor to let us stay in that church,” Celine said. “He said we could not sleep there and that he would give us 100 Shillings. That is $1 USD. He told me to go buy something for my children to eat and to go and find a place to stay.”
Unable to find accommodation, Celine and her children began sleeping on the street. If she found casual work for a time they would find a cheap place to stay, but most nights they slept in the street.
“That is how I was gang-raped for the first time…by 15 man. I don’t know where they were coming from, but they raped me and left me there. This happened around 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning,” Celine said. “I was so badly injured that I needed two surgeries. My rectum was badly damaged because I was sodomized. I went to intense therapy and was going back and forth to the hospital for an entire year.”
Due to her medical condition, Celine could not work. A lady whom she had been behind bars with had an organization that connected Celine to a church that embraced her.
“They held my hand and started to pay my rent. My kids went back to school, and they helped me with everything until I healed,” she said.
When she had healed, Celine started working for the organization. Things were starting to look up, and she thought she was finally in a better place. But there was more trauma ahead.
“In December 2017, on my way home, I was gang-raped again by 6 men,” Celine said. “It was dark outside but it wasn’t late. I used to get home around 9 p.m. They didn’t steal anything from me, they just left me there when they were done. I called somebody and I remember being taken to the hospital and I ended up spending Christmas in the hospital.”
Celine had another operation on her rectum. She went back to work again following the operation, but four months later, in April 2018, the same thing happened again.
“They broke into my home and sodomized me again. They wore masks but I think they were the same individuals from before because I could recognize their voices and their cologne. I was traumatized and I shut down completely. Even now, I don’t think I have brought myself to accept it because every time I tell my story, I tell it as though it happened to someone else.” – Celine Njoki
Despite intense therapy, Celine has struggled physically and emotionally. She lost her job after the last assault and it has been difficult to provide for her children.
“I can’t go to the bathroom like a normal person. I have to insert some medication for me to be able to go to the bathroom. It has been a mental torture. We have had to sleep in incomplete buildings,” Celine said. “I have thought of taking my life, but I think about all the things I have had to go through without a mother, and I tell myself that no matter what happens, I must be there for my children. That is what has kept me going.”
Celine reported all of the incidents to the police who said they were investigating them but none of the cases have gone anywhere.
“I felt so many times that I was cursed because I’ve never had a moment of rest. I came to the point where I thought there was no God because how could a God allow all these things to happen to me?” – Celine Njoki
Celine’s story is filled with tragedy, but despite all she has been through, she has managed to prevent resentment from creeping into her heart.
“I’m not bitter at all. I keep telling myself that even if I meet those men who did this to me, I will forgive them. I’ve also forgiven myself and I’m taking it a day at a time,” she said. “Little by little, I’m learning how to forgive my mother.”
Celine has lost many friends along the way. Many people who know what has happened to her claim she is cursed. “How could so many things happen to one person?” they wonder.
But what Celine has learned is that God is her hiding place.
“Each time I feel angry, I talk to God and I tell him all my feelings. And I asked him questions. I’ve learned to talk to him because I’ve talked to friends who have rejected me and said bad things about me. Some said that I looked for the men to do this to me. I said to someone, ‘I wish you could see how my rectum is stitched up. You wouldn’t open your mouth to say what you’re saying.’ So I’ve learned to take my emotions to God. Each day is a new feeling. Each day is a new battle; each day is a new victory. I’ve learned to trust in God. He has always been my true north.” – Celine Njoki
Vimbai E. is a content marketer, ghostwriter, and the founder of The Weight She Carries. With hundreds of articles and stories publishing online, in print and for broadcast, her love of language and storytelling shines through every piece of writing that bears her name.