Blessing: Raped, infected with HIV, rescued by church
Sixteen-year-old Blessing Dennis left her village in Oruk Anam Council of Akwa Ibom State for Port Harcourt in search of greener pastures. She had big dreams and was hopeful life would be better. She must have thought that money grew on trees and a decent accommodation must be easy to come by even in a big city like Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Unfortunately, things were not as she had anticipated and her hope was shattered like a pack of cards when confronted with the realities, as she was forced to seek shelter under the bridge, where she was mercilessly gang-raped.
The incident not only got her pregnant, but she also was infected with HIV, a status she must live with for the rest of her life.
For months, Blessing roamed the streets of Port Harcourt with her protruding belly, begging for food and doing odd jobs.
Finally, she located Omega Power Ministry, and the General Overseer of the church, Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere, upon hearing her pitiful story, directed the Free OPM Specialist Hospital to register her for antenatal and subsequently, took her to his house, where she lived before she was recently delivered of a baby girl through Caesarian Section (CS), because of her HIV status, and till date.
She recounted her experience and ordeal before help came her way: “I was living in my village with my grandmother, who had been taking care of me from infant after the death of my mother.
“At a point, she told me she didn’t have money to train me in school, so I did not have opportunity to go to school at all. I decided to find my way and seek for who could help me, so I left the village to try my luck in a big city.
“I had small money that could take me from my village to Port Harcourt. When I got to Port Harcourt, I had nowhere to stay, so I thought I could manage sleeping under the flyover bridge and early morning when I wake up, I will go and sell sachets water so I could feed.
“One day, I returned from my business to rest. I had carried the rubber mat I used in sleeping hiding at one corner for night to come and as I went into the corner to lay my head, I met two boys there who asked me what I was doing there. I told them that that was where I normally slept, as I did not have where to stay. They told me that they wanted to sleep with me, but I didn’t agree and they showed me a gun.”
She continued: “I became very frightened and began to pray to God to help me. They said if I didn’t agree with them, my dead body would be dumped by the roadside for passersby to see tomorrow morning.
“I was asked to lay down and at that point, I complied and both of them took turns to sleep with me. Subsequently, when it was time for me to see my period, it didn’t come.
“Everywhere was closed down because of lockdown, nobody moved on the road, not to talk of selling sachet water, and I was hiding there with no water or food to take. I was praying to God for help. Eventually, when the lockdown was eased, I came out and begged for food. My body had become weak and shaking. One woman that normally gave me sachets water to sell gave me food to eat.
“People were asking me how I was going to handle the pregnancy, who was going to train the baby and I did not go to hospital for anti-natal. There was no medicine, no money for a scan and my pregnacy was protruding.
“Some people advised me to sell the baby after delivery, but I was scared that the Police might catch me if I wanted to do such. They were giving me confidence that I would not be caught, but I refused to take such advice.
“As I was roaming around and explaining my predicament to people, I met one woman who told me about OPM. She said the church operated a free hospital and that I might be lucky to be admitted. She directed me and gave me little money that transported me to Aluu, where the church is located.
“When I got to the church, I narrated my story to the ushers and they took me to the general overseer and when he heard my story, he pitied me and took me to his house. The following day, he took me to the hospital, where I was registered and ran some tests on me after which I was told I have HIV.”
There and then, she was informed that she would be delivered through CS, so that her baby would not contract the disease.
“I delivered of a baby girl and Papa bought all the baby needed and took us back to his house, where we are being taken care of,” she said enthusiastically.
For Blessing, this is a temporary relief she prays to be permanent, in view of her health status and upkeep of the baby.
Her experience, indeed, typifies how vulnerable female destitute taking refuge under the bridges across the country are and how some of them have been exploited, harassed and intimidated into acts that have led to irreparable damages to their lives.