13 year old Yakima tried to ask for help when male relatives in Uganda sexually abused her, but because she’s profoundly Deaf she found it impossible to make herself understood.
Her pointing and crying and protests were taken as a sign of mental illness. Her suffering continued.
She would cry out in her sleep.
At school she would throw herself on the ground.
She would shout at every man passing by.
abused and misunderstood
Relatives took her on numerous visits to Butabika Mental hospital in the hope of restoring her “sanity”. But her sessions there revealed none of the psychological issues the experts were expecting. There was just a phobia of men, and the psychiatrists were puzzled.
They noticed that Yakima was in severe physical pain and eventually she was given a physical examination too. The doctors discovered she had been raped.
Now Yakima has been referred to a senior psychiatrist at Mulago hospital, who has been working closely with SignHealth Uganda. With the help of an interpreter from SignHealth Uganda, Yakima was able to recount for the first time her frightening abuse at the hands of a 20-year-old male relative.
SignHealth Uganda continues to work with Yakima’s psychiatrist and her guardians to help her recover from her trauma. Support from healthcare professionals who are now aware of her communication needs means Yakima is beginning to regain trust, and a sense of stability.
SignHealth has been working with Deaf people in the UK for 25 years and we’ve seen time and time again the consequences of being Deaf in a hearing world. It can be lonely, frustrating and difficult because of the communication barriers faced every day. In Uganda Deaf people also face extreme poverty, detrimental beliefs held about deafness, and an almost complete lack of sign language communication with healthcare professionals.
With your help we are making a huge difference to young people’s lives.
Read more about SignHealth’s work in Uganda on our SignHealth International page.
Yakima’s story is real, but to protect this vulnerable young girl we have changed her name. Photo by Jocelyn Saurini (jnissa on Flickr)