Ruby’s Story

Light After the Dark

Ruby* is 14-years-old. She was raised by an abusive single mother. Her mother could not pay her school fees, so Ruby had to quit attending school at 8-years-old. At the age of 12, the abuse had become so severe that her mother threatened to kill her. Determined to live a better life, Ruby escaped her mother’s home and began living on the streets of Kampala. She used to walk around asking for food during the daytime and slept on the street at night.

One day she met another young girl who befriended her and promised to have a place for her to stay. Ruby was so relieved to hear this, as she’d developed a chronic illness from sleeping in the cold each night. Her new friend took her to a house that was located in the slums. She didn’t feel safe but knew it was better than sleeping on the streets.

Her friend left her in that house and promised Ruby that she would come back to check on her. After a few hours, a man came claiming to be the owner of the house. He was 47-years-old and promised to care for Ruby as her father if she stayed with him. Fearful and with no other options, Ruby accepted. The one condition was that he didn’t want her to leave the house and threatened that something bad would happen if she disobeyed.

The following night the man sexually assaulted her. He threatened her not to tell anyone, so – out of fear – she kept quiet. The sexual abuse continued every single day. It soon became clear to Ruby that her “friend” had sold her to this man.

She had no clothes so one day she asked a girl through the window if she could get her some clothes. The girl agreed and brought her some new clothes to wear. It was later discovered that the clothes were stolen items. Someone had seen the girl stealing the clothes and followed her to where Ruby was being housed. The authorities were called and, thought to be a criminal, Ruby was taken to be interrogated. Bravely, she was able to share with them what she was going through and where she came from. The man who was abusing Ruby was arrested and the police referred her to Willow International.

At Willow, Ruby was provided comprehensive aftercare services – which included medical support, counseling, case management, basic necessities, and individual and group therapy. When Ruby arrived, she was suicidal and very untrusting. By the time she graduated from Willow, Ruby was able to make informed decisions and freely express herself without fear. Participating in the various therapies at Willow allowed her to process her trauma and ultimately find meaning in life again. She is currently training to become a hairstylist. Ruby’s bravery and determination to follow her dreams inspire us.

*To protect survivor confidentiality, a pseudonym has been used.

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