Sandi Giver is the author of One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice. Resilience, Love, Hope. Giver has over ten years of experience working in youth development, anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) and women's health issues directly with survivors of sexual assault as well as community organizing and policy reform around sexual violence. Her experience is mostly with non-profit organizations in the United States, South East Asia, and East Africa. As a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2009-2011, Giver worked with formerly abducted child soldiers, sex slaves, child mothers, orphans, and vulnerable children where she facilitated classes dealing with the psycho social effects of PTSD in a post-conflict area. In 2012, Giver joined the Office of Safety and Security at Peace Corps in DC taking on a communications specialist role supporting and coordinating efforts related to crimes against Volunteers. As a Fellow, Giver worked with the National Peace Corps Association to improve support for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who experienced crisis during their service overseas. Giver is currently at Catholic Relief Services in their Protection Unit supporting efforts related to Trafficking in Persons. Giver has a degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences and a minor in Communication from Indiana University, Kokomo. Giver is in her final year as a Community Action & Social Policy student at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
Online articles about Sandi Giver and One of Us:
Talking with Sandi Giver (Uganda), author of ONE OF US - Peace Corps Writers, September 28, 2017
Lessons in Bravery, Creative Community, and Recounting the Past: An Author Interview with Sandi Giver - Krystal Mercer McLellen, April 25, 2017
Meet Sandi Giver - National Peace Corps Association, October 25, 2016
IU Kokomo alumna rebuilds lives, empowers victims of war in Africa, Indiana University - February 19, 2014
IUK graduate empowers victims of war in Africa - Kokomo Perspective, February 15, 2014
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Get 5 copies- keep 1 copy and share the other 4 with friends! Not only will you be added to the acknowledgements section but I’ll also thank you directly over a 30 minute video chat. We can sip our wine and converse about the topic of your choice. I love talking with others who are supportive of survivors!
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$2500 Societal Change Maker
So excited for this one!!! You’ll receive 100 copies of “One of Us” and I will come to you (within the lower 48) for a speaking engagement. It’s on all of us to create an environment where we will not tolerate sexual violence. We need more change makers in the world and your contribution will help “One of Us” have a greater impact on the lives of others! You will also be added to the acknowledgment section.
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Sex, Violence, Injustice. Resilience, Love, Hope
"One of Us" demolishes societal assumptions about rape, sex, virtue, honor, and even friendship. Tragic, yet beautiful, and vital for todays conversations about sexual assault.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/QOQXJ 379 views
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“This isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong… Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ This has got to stop now.”
First Lady Michelle Obama,
Thursday, October 13, 2016.
There are points in life when people with whom we interact want to silence us, when they excuse or minimize an abuser’s actions, when they use their power or authority to intimidate us. We will be resilient and we will persist.
This sentiment is definitely true for those of us who have directly or indirectly been impacted by sexual violence. Since the writing of One of Us, the nightly news still highlights individuals who have chosen to be sexual predators — beloved TV actors, star college athletes, high-level politicians. We were once told that an allegation of sexual assault would ruin a man’s career. Reality has shown us is that in some cases, there are few, if any, consequences for the alleged perpetrators.
I sat in awe and dismay when I heard the conversations inside the Access Hollywood bus. “Locker room talk” they called vulgar speech of then-reality TV star, now President of the United States. The man who chose to rape me had a similar mentality of these men who believed they could do anything they wanted — including violating the bodily integrity of others for their own sexual gratification. This is morally wrong and, more importantly, illegal.
I was not prepared to watch people defend the actions of a sexual predator. My soul cried for all of us who are living data points in a dataset of others who have been impacted by sexual violence.
As the conversation about sexual assault during the 2016 election cycle was lifted to a national level, I struggled to focus on grad school as my anxiety increased due to the constant reminders of my own assault.
In 2012, I fought back tears reading the comments following an Associated Press article released in over 220 news sources covering my case. I sought legal justice in hopes that my attacker would be held accountable for his actions—so that his hands would no longer be able to traumatize other women. The press pitted the Peace Corps against the U.S. military since I was a volunteer serving in-country and he was an American Navy sailor supporting Navy SEALs in Uganda. I was not prepared for the malicious comments made by strangers drawing their own conclusions after reading a one-page article that could never depict that night or the year and a half that it took to get to trial.
One of the commenters said the newspaper articles from the first day of trial did not provide enough information to make a conclusion. Another said that because the newspapers revealed the alleged perpetrator’s name the alleged victim’s name should also have to be published.
As the victim, I intimately knew the details of that night. As the victim, I am not ashamed of my behavior so I will gladly provide my name:
My name is Sandi Giver, author of One of Us. I started writing after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) took my statement. I started because I knew I would have to recount every detail in my testimony, and continued writing as a way to release my tormented thoughts and my internal challenges. After having several conversations trying to understand sexual assault and learning about the multitude of misconceptions, I felt the need to share my story— not only to help others find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in their struggles but to also bring about awareness and positive change.
Most of One of Us was written within days of the actual events. Dialogue is quoted as it was spoken, and as it stood out in my mind days after the events. This story is as accurate as possible. I struggled typing the words, but by doing so fortified my resilience for standing for truth and justice. And I found accepting individuals who supported me along the way in the Peace Corps, the military, with fellow survivors, and in the few friends and family members with whom I shared that portion of my treacherous journey.
As a society, we are on a journey. We have a long way to go, yet we are at an exciting point in time where we are collectively using our voice to stand up against sexual violence.
We are becoming stronger, bolder, and more vulnerable with each other. I am amazed at our strength and resilience as survivors and I am thankful for our supportive friends. The journey is rarely without difficulty but nevertheless, together, we persist.
We all have a role in respecting the bodily integrity of others. This issue is too pertinent to ignore and we must do what we can to support and to hold each other accountable.
At the end of the day, we are resilient. We are good. We choose to love. We have hope for a better today and tomorrow because together, we’ve got this.
Enough is enough and we will not be silenced. We will stand for truth and justice for we stand together knowing we are not alone. We stand for all of us.
One of Us is a data driven narrative that survivors and supporters must read... and then share with a friend.
Even before finishing the One of Us manuscript, I engaged with professionals and the public, challenging our thoughts and conversations about sexual violence. One of Us is a mission driven book that has literally changed the lives of readers. Non-profits, colleges, the military have invited me to speak with leaders and with audiences up to 400 attendees.
Survivors find an odd comfort in relating to betrayal, guilt, disappointment, confusion, and the chaos after an a sexual assault. Lawyers have shared how they had an “aha” moment as the realized they had never thought of trial from the victim's point of view. Fathers have cried as they read the words knowing their child will have to navigate this world. International workers have identified with the challenges of forced communities and the beauty of relationships with the individuals they serve.
The communities I am most connected to include fellow individuals working towards a world without sexual assault, social workers, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. My social media presence has slowed down for the time being due to my final year of grad school. I hope to travel next summer to speak with different groups around the country using One of Us as the base to compelling dialogue. After 4 years of organizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month for an international federal agency, I am excited about expanding awareness and working others for societal change.
One of Us is relevant and timely. With the right publisher, I hope we can make a positive impact in society. The time is now for One of Us to reach the widest audience possible
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If We Don’t Go Now, We Are Never Going To Leave!
6:30 p.m., Friday, November 5, 2010
I live in an African village called Pader. I used to live in a thatch-roof hut where I bathed under the stars and peed in a latrine—a cement slab with an oval opening over a deep hole in the ground. Now I live in a compound with a living room/cooking area, bedroom and a bathroom. No running water, but I heat up water before taking a bucket bath, stand in a basin like a giant Tupperware and pour water over my head, then dump the grey wastewater into the toilet to flush. Compared to a pit latrine, this is pretty spectacular.
I have been in Uganda since August 2009 as a Youth Development/Health Specialist as a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV). I love it. My partner organization is a girls’ school for formerly abducted child soldiers and sex slaves, child mothers, orphans and vulnerable children due to the 21-plus years of insurgency caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Thankfully, the official language at the school is English although there are 60-plus languages in Uganda. The cultural differences can be tough, but I like to think I am strong enough to take on a good old-fashioned challenge.
But enough of the challenge. This weekend, I am out of the village of Pader and headed to the Big City to relax. The mid-service training at the one-year point of being in-country as a volunteer is here. Time to join the other PCVs in solidarity.
I travel to Kampala a couple of days before the training to see people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I hugged my fellow PCV Bridgette when I saw her for the first time in two months. This is the first time we have to spend quality time together in seven months. We decide on Indian for dinner at the restaurant with outside seating on the roof. The greenery and Ugandan sunset soften the fact that my friend is not ecstatic about being back after a month spent with her family in the United States.
“Sandi, do not go to the States. You are surrounded by friends and family who love you and do not judge you. Coming back to country is hard,” she says.
Bridgette and I were first roommates at staging in the States. Staging is a day or two of orientation before being sent to your country of service. Since then, we’ve traveled this volunteer journey together. During training, we supported each other every day as we learned to survive in a new country without electricity or running water. Once we were sworn in as official volunteers, and had moved to our different sites, we had to learn to cope with isolation while trying to figure out what values we would bring to our new communities.
Personally, I love being a volunteer in a remote village. I enjoy learning and experiencing a culture unlike my own. Having to figure out the complexities of working in Africa is frustrating at times, yet rewarding and fulfilling at others. I have been extremely busy with a few projects in the works that help students deal with the psychosocial effects of living in a post-conflict area, as well as an income-generating activity utilizing international partners and the local economy for financial sustainability. I am well immersed in my community and I like being here.
Over a glass of wine, we chat about Bridgette’s sister’s wedding, village life and Peace Corps drama. At this point in service, I want to be around others and I need to converse easily about things only a fellow American would understand. I was glad fellow PCVs were in Kampala since I did not feel like spending the night in the hostel alone.
Bridgette and I have had our ups and downs, like many friendships. Living far apart rather than being able to quickly go to brunch to talk things out made friendships a little more difficult. Large group gatherings help us reconnect with the others in our small, forced Peace Corps community. Bridgette and I continue our conversation as we leave dinner. The sky is dark but clear as we walk 20 minutes back to our hostel.
Our hostel is a favorite of volunteers. Occasionally volunteers would come into Kampala to take care of medical needs or business. Out of the 150 volunteers in-country, a small handful are typically around trying to take advantage of the night life and entertainment.
Bridgette and I are tired after long journeys over rough roads. I’d taken an overnight bus and gotten four hours of sleep the night before. Neither of us has energy to be overly social so we agree that watching a movie in the room sounds better than going out. That is, until we stop at Gwen and Crystal’s room to say hello.
Gwen and Crystal are two more volunteers in our training group of 43. During training, I was not close to either one of them, but we were friendly in social situations. I liked Gwen’s carefree attitude and she always knew how to have fun. Crystal and I both grew up in Alaska but that’s all I really knew about her.
At first, Bridgette and I lethargically sit on one of the beds helping Crystal choose which outfit to wear. Somehow, between Bridgette’s embassy friends calling and the other two individuals in the room, we decide to push through the fatigue and take on the night. Flat irons are heated and makeup is applied.
When living in a village where a bucket is used for bathing, looking cute is the least of your concerns. Kampala, land of hot running water and feeling clean, reminds us of life before the Peace Corps. After washing up and looking halfway like we did on a ladies' night in the States, we are confident women.
We take a few photos as we finish putting on lip gloss. Since I know we will be dancing, I choose to not wear my glasses for the night. They have grown loose and fall off if I turn my head too quickly. I can see perfectly fine up close and won’t be wandering around without the others, so I think nothing of it.
I don’t want my phone stolen (again) and the other three are bringing theirs so I leave mine in the room. I place my glasses and phone next to the bed where I know they will be safe when I return. I stick some cash in the side of my bra and leave everything else at the hostel.
We finally leave just before 11 p.m., after Gwen keeps saying, “If we don’t go now, we are never going to leave.” While riding in a taxi to a nightclub, we sing “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers at the top of our lungs. I sing as loud and off-key as I can to make the ride as ridiculous as possible.
Although Africa has the stereotypical village life, with thatch-roof huts and toddlers running around naked, the continent is full of cultural and economic diversity. There is money in Africa, but just a few people control these financial resources. People own mansions with swimming pools on hills with a staff to clean and secure the grounds. Uganda has a lot to offer tourists, including gorilla trek excursions, rafting the Nile and safaris. The country is so beautiful and easy to live in that I have met Europeans who retired next to resorts in Jinja near the source of the Nile. $15 cocktail drinks at fancy clubs in America are maybe five bucks and at far more impressive locations. In Uganda, the average American can live like royalty.
Tonight, we are enjoying the nightlife that Uganda has to offer. Our first stop is Iguana, known as the young hip place to dance in Kampala, which is owned and run by Germans. There are quite a few German 18- to 20-year-olds doing their one year of service here, either volunteering at orphanages or helping with small-business plans. As the night continues, the place gets packed with expats and locals.
Our group of four chats with Bridgette’s embassy friends. One of the guys buys us a round of drinks. I have not planned on drinking since tomorrow night we are celebrating Laura’s birthday, another PCV. I tend to get horrible hangovers so I don’t drink too often. I accept the beer the embassy guy buys but resolve to not drink any more. After a couple of hours, I am happy to leave Iguana. The drunken crowd is growing and men’s hands are wandering.
We walk 10 minutes down the hill, rushing past the security guards and down the stairs to the expat land of the Irish pub of Bubbles O’Leary. The usual types of people are present: the 60-year-old man with the beautiful 20-year-old Ugandan woman wrapped in his arms, random businessmen and women and a few regulars watching rugby. While scoping out the place, the other three order drinks and I get a Fanta pop.
We dance and dance. Crystal goes crazy when certain songs are played, stomping her foot and pumping her fist. She is hilarious.
I glance to my right, toward the bar, and see a guy resembling an ex: Tall, blonde and handsome. My desire for international work made it impossible to commit to a man who was unable to live overseas due to a health issue.
Handsome, who is named Nate, and Friend walk onto the dancefloor behind us. Friend, with his muscular physique, has a chest tattoo peeking out of his button-up shirt. I find the stories behind tattoo placement and design intriguing. We talk but the loud music makes it difficult.
“I like my tattoos because they look good on me,” Dominik says egotistically. Conversation is lost as the song changes and the four ladies regroup to dance.
Bridgette is flustered and irritated after an unpleasant conversation with an acquaintance. I suggest we leave and find a new place to hang out.
Just as we are heading out, Nate and Dominik come over to talk. Nate is from Alabama, I can hear the South in his voice. He is a “picture taker” for children’s social studies textbooks. Dominik is from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, now working in construction a couple hours north of Kampala. They do not know each other well: They met at the hotel they are staying at in Kampala. They say they will only be around for the weekend.
Bridgette comes over and amazingly Nate gets her to talk to him. At first, Bridgette does her usual brush-off—one-word answers to his questions. But, Nate gets her to smile and before long they exchange phone numbers. I let Dominik in on the breakthrough while watching their facial expressions.
Dominik seems like a decent guy. I lived in Indiana for 11 years and he was from Ohio; it’s as if we have been long-time neighbors who found each other halfway across the world. Somehow, there is a sense of familiarity and comfort talking to someone relatable. I miss home and he can relate to the Midwest. We make small talk, chat about life in this crazy country, what work brought us here, joke about life overseas. Having a normal conversation away from the village and laughing feels good.
We are about to leave when Gwen and Crystal invite the men to join us. Nate declines but Dominik excitedly agrees to continue the night with four women. His demeanor becomes more of a ladies’ man as we leave. Meeting new people and enjoying the nightlife in Kampala is the social norm in the expat community.
In the taxi, I take the front seat, the other ladies sit in the middle, and Dominik is in the very back, also known as the trunk of a hatchback car. The conversations are comical in an American way, yet rather vulgar and embarrassing as the Ugandan driver is listening in.
The topic of how female Peace Corps volunteers are sexually frustrated is blurted out.
“I heard that there are ‘unmet needs with the ladies’ in Peace Corps! I don’t understand since I would totally take care of all of your bedroom needs. Aren’t there guys who could take care of you?”
“The quality guys are taken by girls back home and the single ones are not doable!” my three friends say in unison. It is interesting to hear them say that since Gwen has an expat boyfriend from Egypt, Crystal has previously dated another volunteer during training and Bridgette has made out with the male volunteer conveniently located near her village.
“I could satisfy each one of your needs tonight!” Dominik responds.
“Driver, I am so sorry about this conversation they are having!” I say. “It is not good for them to be talking like this!” I chat with the driver as the four of them continue to make sexual innuendos, egging Dominik on.
“I love Uganda!” he says, smiling ear to ear as he got out of the taxi.
Dominik offers to pay but he is fidgeting with his money and the driver tries charging him more than we had agreed on. I have exact change and hand over the proposed 15,000 Ugandan shillings, equivalent to about $7.50.
”Why did you pay?” Dominik asks.
“Because you were taking too long and he was going to overcharge you,” I say matter-of-factly.
He hadn’t been in country long enough to know how to work the taxi system. I also wanted him to see that I can take care of myself and didn’t want to feel indebted to him in any way.
Although I make a very small amount by Western standards (around $250 a month), I live well in Uganda and within my means.
We are now inside a more traditional African club when Dominik offers to buy us all drinks. Since I had just paid for the taxi, requesting a bottle of water does not seem like a big deal. Once we reach the back of the club, loud music makes conversations hard to hear once again.
As we stand in a circle, I am next to Dominik and Bridgette. I can’t really dance but find it humorous to play around. Africans can dance and move their hips as if they learned in the womb. One of the more traditional African songs comes on and I jokingly danced with Dominik for the first line of a chorus. After a moment I return to watching the crowd.
A guy comes over and starts talking nonsense. I sometimes play the role of protector and caretaker. I feel responsible for Dominik because I initially approached him about his tattoos. The others invited him to come along with us but they are drinking and I feel a little responsible for their well-being too. I am the sober “mom” of the group. Between keeping an eye on the crowd and not being able to hear over the music, I am not paying attention to the conversations.
“Sandi, are you a squirter?”
“A squirter,” they say again with giggles. Two of them confidently say they are. I turn back to watching the Ugandans dance. I look back at the group a few minutes later and see Dominik’s shirt is pulled up around his chest and the other three rubbing his six-pack abs.
A few moments later when I turn back to the group, Dominik’s penis is out of his pants and Crystal has unzipped the fly of her jeans. I stand there, mouth agape, wondering what the heck was going on. Apparently, the sexual conversations kept going and Dominik said he would do any of us right then, right there.
I look around quickly hoping no one else is seeing this ridiculous display. Before this, the night seemed mostly harmless, with a slight edge to it. Now, Crystal is toying with the open zipper of her jeans giving this badass expression and shifting her weight from hip to hip as if saying she is game to counter his own.
“I’m serious,” he says as he pushes Crystal against the wooden support beam as if about to make good on his promise. Thankfully they stop. Crystal zips her pants and Dominik puts away his dick.
I’m overwhelmed with anxiety and leave to find the restroom. When I find it, it’s repulsive and women are squatting in their short dresses and peeing on some sort of platform. I go back to the group.
As I approach Bridgette, Gwen and Crystal, they are discussing who should go home with Dominik.
“Sandi, how long has it been since you got off?” one of them asks me point blank. Before traveling and living in India with a different organization and then the Peace Corps in Uganda, I had purposefully chosen not to get involved with anyone I would be leaving behind. The others are amazed at how long it has been.
“Oh, honey, you need this the most,” Bridgette exclaims with pity in her voice, hand on my shoulder.
I am in a dancing mood, not a hook-up mood. Because they saw me dance with Dominik for 10 seconds, and now they know how long it has been, they agree I should go home with him.
I personally wasn’t looking for a one-night stand—they aren’t my thing. We’ve been hanging out with Dominik so he is not a complete stranger. He’s definitely willing and available, but that doesn’t make me want to sleep with him.
I can see the pity in Bridgette’s face as she puts her hand on my shoulder and gives me the look. The dear-you-have-contracted-the-problem-of-being-the-least-sexually-active-of-this-group-of-females-and-we-are-here-to-help-cure-your-dry-spell look with one eyebrow angled.
Anxiety starts to bubble up inside me as I stand there utterly bewildered. My gut is saying I should get out of this situation and I want to. The others think it’s funny as they keep badgering me to go home with him. Gwen senses how uncomfortable I feel. She comes over to whisper in my ear.
“You don’t have to go all the way. Go, make out. See what happens. Relax and have a good night and then we’ll see you in the morning.”
Maybe I am overreacting and taking this all too seriously. Gwen’s comment has me second guessing my own judgment. So, sure, why not? The ladies head to the front of the club leaving Dominik and me behind. I talk about how ridiculous the night has been and how random Uganda can be.
Dominik inches closer.
He kisses me.
He puts his arms around me.
He slides one hand down over my jeans. To my crotch.
“No, no, no. That is not OK. In Uganda, white women get bad reputations from things like that,” I remind him and gently push him away.
I am tired of random men groping me. As a traveler in countries where women are seen as sex objects with inferior status, being a tall American blonde with blue eyes has not been easy. I was once wearing a top where the bottom was very loose and covered my jean pockets and an Indian guy decided to go under the shirt from behind me and grab my crotch while I was walking away. When I turned around and pulled my hand back to slap him, his friends apologized and I settled for only giving him a dirty look. I should have slapped him.
I’m not generally violent. In previous jobs, I’d been trained to stay calm in intense situations with violent, mentally handicapped individuals. I am trained to keep my cool and show no emotion, never lashing out at a client.
An eye for an eye is not usually how I play, but I wonder how many other times that same Indian guy had gotten away with violating other women. Dominik sliding his hand down instantly reminds me of this and I do not want the men in the club to think this is any way to treat any woman.
I am not so sure about Dominik.
Decent enough but a little intense.
Maybe the others are still around and I can leave with them. He hesitantly follows as I walked to the front to check. I am relieved to see the ladies sitting at a picnic table 10 feet from the exit.
Rather than taking separate taxis, we all leave together. First stop, Dominik’s hotel. “Have fuuuun!!” cheer the other ladies as my foot meets the pavement.
“Are you OK, Sandi?” Gwen attempts.
I only nod in response.
I’ve been on my own since I was 19 and I’ve been able to manage.
Dominik takes my hand as he led the way into his hotel, which caters to foreigners. The main gate is closed so we walk around the wall, passing a security guard. We go through glass doors entering the large lobby.
I do not quite know what to expect from the night, but you never do in Uganda. You roll with the punches and take on the challenges as they come. With Dominik, his joining the ladies night was definitely not planned but that was OK. My last time even kissing a guy had been over a year ago. I would prefer to be with someone where we had a deep connection and we passionately kiss the night away. At 25 years old and single, I’ll have to do with hopefully a good make-out session and nothing complicated. I’ve done this before and things didn’t get out of control so I don’t see why this time would be any different.
We make it to the elevator and he starts to kiss me and then grabs my long hair and pulls. It is not a gentle hair grab, but rather uninhibited.
Once out of the elevator, Dominik says how he has a roommate named Todd who should still be out. I hope Todd isn’t there.
I keep thinking about how awkward walking into the room is going to be. The second-floor hallway never seems to end as we silently pass by doors on the right and large windows and seating on the left.
The door to room 123 opens and I see Todd lying on the larger bed, closer to the window straight ahead. Dominik’s bed is the twin closer to the hallway. There is a closet to the sharp left, a flat-screen TV on a stand across from the beds, a large bathroom to the back left of the room and a chair next to the windows.
“Go to the bathroom,” he commands without hesitating.
I look behind me as he closes the hotel room door.
The time is 3:15 a.m.
• • •
At 10:34 a.m., the door finally opens and I am able to leave. He gives me a halfhearted hug, a “good riddance” hug for me. I was taught to be a polite young lady so I muster enough energy to play nice while leaving.
I am numb inside.
Something very, very wrong just happened.
Whatever that was, it’s now over. I made it. I don’t like this feeling inside and I never want to relive those hours in that room.
I turn and walk down the halls of his hotel without feeling a thing. Empty. As empty as I can be after leaving that stale room. There are mirrors in the stairwell and I glance at my face as I bounce down the stairs. Sure, the reflections show my hair messy and pulled back but there are no physical bruises or marks. I am physically sore and feel like collapsing, but I am still breathing and the soreness will pass.
No one will ever be able to tell what I lived through. I can’t think straight enough to verbalize it cohesively.
No one will ever know by looking at my glazed-over eyes what has just happened to me.
I am still Sandi.
I am still alive.
A piece of me is dead.
I walked out of the hotel and took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the polluted air of Kampala. The air that surrounded me in Dominik’s hotel room was gone. I was free. I could take a real shower soon. I wanted to scrub with soap and hot water to try to rid myself of the feel of his body against mine. Exhausted, I turned left down the sidewalk and started the trek back to my hostel. I didn’t want to see anyone. I couldn’t stop the images running through my mind.
Every year, Peace Corps/Uganda gets two new training classes—so at any given moment there are several PCVs in the capital city. As I numbly put one foot in front of the other, I looked up to see another volunteer. I was in the training class of August 2009 and she was in the training class the next August. Holly was on her way to the post office with gifts she had bought to send home to her family back in the States. I had no desire to talk to anyone about anything, but I stopped on the sidewalk anyways and talked to her about her family. It felt odd to talk to her about something so normal when I was coming back from Dominik’s hotel room, but then again, I would never tell her about him or anything that happened.
As we were talking, Bridgette, Gwen, and Crystal walked toward us on the hill. They were wearing outfits over swimsuits. Their eyes lit up as they recognized me from a distance and all began to chant and clap their hands.
“Walk of shame, walk of shame, walk of shame!” they screamed.
I felt humiliated and wanted to disappear. With Holly present, I did not want to go into details. My head lowered and shoulders bent forward. Here I was, with a new volunteer and the ladies in front dripping with anticipation to hear about the “passionate” night with Dominik. This was not how I wanted this morning to be.
“So, how did it go?” they said simultaneously with grins that stretched from ear to ear.
“Wait, are you just now walking back from being with a guy?” Holly asked.
Perfect. I did not want this in the Peace Corps rumor mill and now they were bringing this up in front of someone I hardly know, much less trust.
“It was…OK...,” I said as vaguely as possible. This was neither the time nor place. Maybe if I gave them pseudo answers they would drop the topic.
“Was he good? Was it a night of passion? Did you get off?”
“No, not really. It was not a great night,” I said hurriedly. Maybe if I said it quickly enough this would be over soon. I told them how uncomfortable it was having Todd in listening distance. Then I mentioned how Dominik was rough and started to choke me.
“That’s kinky,” replied Crystal, looking down at her toes.
My chest tightened at this haunting comment. I looked up to see Crystal standing there with a look that said she wished she had gone, that she would have been into aggression and choking. Rather than friends who were concerned about my well-being or health, I got “That’s kinky.”
I was confused and slightly upset. I shut down. I did not feel like being belittled by the same women who pushed me on Dominik to begin with.
I wanted to be alone.
Holly left to mail her package. The others were on their way to brunch and told me I would feel better after eating something.
I thought about that.
Maybe the void I felt in the middle of my body was not the hollowness of my soul but the physical emptiness of my stomach.
I reluctantly followed them to brunch and sat quietly eating a bagel. Afterward they decided to go swimming at the pool. Dominik’s hotel pool. They planned to use his name if anyone asked.
This was not right. They asked if I wanted to go use the pool at Dominik’s hotel. There was absolutely no way I was going back there. I could feel the irritation swelling from the fact that my initial attempt to tell them what happened was dismissed so easily. I quietly began to divulge more.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘Suck my dick.’”
“Really? There wasn’t any foreplay? I told him to go down on you first,” Bridgette said, confused.
“No, and then he didn’t want to wear a condom. He reluctantly put one on but then later purposefully had it come off inside me twice. He started to choke me after I told him to stop.”
“He didn’t wear a condom!?”
I continued to mumble about what happened and I could feel my blood getting hotter and my eyes begin to well. I could not cry in front of them.
Gwen pulled me aside to say she was there for me, but what did that even mean?
“Are you still going to his hotel to use the pool?” I asked.
I didn’t like this. I didn’t like that they were going but there was nothing I could do. Why were they going to his hotel after what I just said? There was a public pool closer to our hostel but it charged $5 to swim. I thought to myself, if they were going, at least maybe they could get my earrings if they ran into Dominik.
“I left my earrings on the nightstand beside his bed. If you happen to see Dominik, can you ask him for them?”
Once we reached the street, I turned left toward our hostel and the others turned right to Dominik’s hotel.
I walked alone back to our hostel. Upon entering the room with two beds, I saw my site mate Katherine. I changed into shorts and a tank top before crawling under the covers. I didn’t have enough energy to shower at this point. I needed sleep and to forget the last 12 hours.
“Are you OK?” Katherine asked as she sat down on the edge of my bed.
“Yeah, I am fine. I am just really tired.”
I could not go into details at this point. I was on the verge of bawling and I didn’t want anyone around to see. Katherine’s boyfriend was waiting for her anyways. She left and I fell into a dreamless sleep. When I finally woke up, I showered. Shortly afterward, the ladies came back to the room sunburned and smiling. I sat on the bed as they prepared the cake for Laura’s birthday.
They told me they hung out with Dominik at the pool and how fun he was. Gwen left early and the other two women went up to his room and watched TV. All I could think was how they sat on the same bed where he had pinned my neck to the mattress no less than 12 hours earlier. Bridgette, with her degrading demeanor, mentioned how Dominik said I had been wet the whole time. Did he mention he spat in his hand to use as lubricant? Did she think I enjoyed his hand around my throat after I told him to stop? Why was she talking about how fun he was? Was she siding with this guy she had just met?
They must have mentioned how I said he choked me.
“I thought girls were into that!”
He never asked me if I was into that.
I told him to stop.
I tried to get up.
How did he perceive that as an invitation to place his hand around my throat? Even when I did get away, he waited until I turned around, my back to him, to put my neck in the crook of his arm and force me under the running water of the shower as I gagged and choked.
 The names of volunteers, the accused and his associates and some staff have been changed.
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