Looking for Greener Pastures

Content warning: The stories throughout this issue may be especially activating for some readers. Many of these pieces involve descriptions of traumatic experiences including sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, queer/transphobic violence, in addition to the violence of states and false borders.

Africa is a beautiful land full of resources, tourist attractions and diverse culture, but still many of us leave it to visit the U.S. and look for greener pastures. Either legally or illegally, we find a way in without the intention of leaving. America is great, but my advice is to always choose the legal way. Coming illegally doesn’t always end well, and you might struggle with the police, life and the streets themselves. One of these will catch up with you faster than you might think. I wish we would have someone warn us before setting foot on that plane. I hope to share what goes on beyond borders and serves as a lesson for anyone wanting to come to this side of the world — and how my life ended after landing in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.

Back home, I would say I had a good life. It was not very comfortable, but I was well-sheltered, well-clothed and had enough on the table. But I still dreamt of how life was better for my friends living abroad. That was all I wanted for myself. I left a few phone messages and soon I was able to find a distant cousin of mine, James (not his real name), to host me. I planned to stay with him for a short period of time since he was a guy, and I did not want any situation. I gathered my resources and applied for a temporary tourist visa. That was the first difficult task I had to complete. Luckily, I passed the test. Next I asked people to raise more funds for a plane ticket and to keep me going until I got my first job, and they didn’t disappoint. I was able to raise quite a good amount to sustain me for a while since I did not have to pay rent.

The day came, and I boarded a flight. Hours later, I landed in San Francisco and James was kind enough to pick me at the airport. When we got to his house I rested, and I thought I had found the perfect host. Three months later, an opening came up at his workplace and, being a manager, he was able to hook me up even without proper documentation. When my tourist visa expired, I did not see any need to worry with James right by my side. We maintained a good friendship and respect at the workplace. 

But men—you can never trust men. James started asking me out on dates and making passes at me but I brushed it off. At first, I thought it was just an infatuation since we both know, though we’re distant relatives, we are still family. The situation became serious and he attempted to rape me one night as I was sleeping. Raised in a Christian family, I did not believe in sex before marriage, and I wasn’t ready for marriage, especially not to my distant cousin.

The advances went on but I stuck to my word. That is when I saw James’ true colors. He became violent and attempted to rape me a couple of times again, but I kept fighting it until one night the worst happened. James raped me, beat me and chased me out of the house with nothing but the clothes I had on and some money that I had managed to save up. No phone, no passport and no visa. I could not call anyone nor report him to the police, since that would have meant more trouble for me. The following morning, I went to work and James falsely accused me of theft and told me to leave, that I was fired. He threatened to call the authorities. I could not hang around and wait for this, so I fled.

With no phone, I have no contact with anyone around here nor back home. They have no idea what happened to me. I was and still am really affected mentally, and I am struggling with my mental health every day. Starting over has not been easy. Sometimes I think of going back to James but he is an animal. Being a woman in the streets, I feel vulnerable every day. I just wish I could get my passport back and face the authorities, but the consequences would be so severe. I need help going back home!