When Terry Apudo, a young female pastor from a small church in Nairobi, Kenya didn’t show up to church for her own wedding in 2005, her family and friends immediately knew something was very wrong. But the real reason for Terry’s absence on such a special day was way more terrible than any of her guests could have imagined.
Her wedding with fiancé Harry Olwande had been planned for a while and in accordance with local tradition, the bride and groom spent the night before the wedding apart.
As Terry left her house the following morning, she noticed a man sitting on the hood of his car. She walked past him, but moments later, the man rushed to her and jumped her from behind. She was thrown into the back of the man’s car, where two other male accomplices were sitting and waiting for her.
“A piece of cloth was stuffed in my mouth. I was kicking and hitting out and trying to scream,” Terry told the BBC. “When I managed to push the gag out, I screamed, ‘It’s my wedding day!’ That was when I got the first blow. One of the men told me to ‘co-operate or you will die.'”
The nightmare didn’t end there — the horror continued inside the car. Terry revealed the rest of her terrible story to the BBC:
“The men took turns to rape me. I felt sure I was going to die, but I was still fighting for my life, so when one of the men took the gag out of my mouth I bit his manhood. He screamed in pain and one of them stabbed me in the stomach. Then they opened the door and threw me out of the moving car.
I was miles from home, outside Nairobi. More than six hours had passed since I had been abducted.
A child saw me being thrown out and called her grandmother. People came running. When the police came they tried to get a pulse, but no one could. Thinking I was dead, they wrapped me in a blanket and started to take me to the mortuary. But on the way there, I choked on the blanket and coughed. The policeman said, ‘She’s alive?’ And he turned the car around and drove me to the biggest government hospital in Kenya.
I arrived in great shock, murmuring incoherently. I was half-naked and covered in blood, and my face was swollen from being punched. But something must have alerted the matron because she guessed I was a bride. ‘Let’s go around the churches to see if they’re missing a bride,’ she told the nurses.”
“By coincidence, the first church they called at was All Saints Cathedral,” Terry went on to say. “‘Are you missing a bride?” the nurse asked. The minister said, ‘Yes, there was a wedding at 10 o’clock and she didn’t come.'”
Terry’s family and her fiancé, Harry, rushed to the hospital immediately. Eventually, Terry was moved to another hospital, where the full degree of her physical injuries had become painfully apparent.
“That was where the doctors stitched me up and gave me some devastating news,” Terry says.
The doctors told Terry that the stab wounds were so deep that she wouldn’t be able to have children.
“I was given the morning-after pill, as well as antiretroviral drugs to protect me from HIV and AIDs. My mind shut down. It refused to accept what had happened,” she revealed to the BBC.
“A few days later, when I was less sedated, I was able to look him [Harry] in the eye. I kept saying sorry. I felt like I had let him down. Some people said it was my own fault for leaving the house in the morning. It was really hurtful, but my family and Harry supported me.”
Despite everything, Harry still wanted to marry Terry — the love of his life. The ceremony finally took place in July 2005, seven months after their first planned wedding.
Although everything seemed to be taking a turn for the better, it wasn’t to be as only 29 days after they finally got married, disaster struck again.
During a very cold Nairobi night, Harry decided to warm the house with the couple’s little charcoal stove, which was usually used outdoors for cooking. The couple fell asleep when the heat started spreading in the room. When Terry woke up a short while later, she realized something was not right: feeling dizzy and unable to get out of bed, she gathered the little strength she had left to reach the phone next to her bed and call the neighbors for help before she passed out.
Terry was able to be rescued at the very last moment, but sadly, it was too late for Harry who died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
After the tragedy, Terry was so depressed that she shut herself off from the outside world. The only visitor she would receive was a pastor named Tonny Gobanga who regularly visited Terry at her home, so she could talk to him about her loss and the pain she was feeling.
Tonny’s warmth and compassion gave Terry new life and eventually, over time, the two fell in love.
“Tonny proposed marriage but I told him to buy a magazine, read my story and tell me if he still loved me. He came back and said he still wanted to marry me,” Terry revealed.
“But I said, ‘Listen, there’s another thing — I can’t have children, so I cannot get married to you.’
‘Children are a gift from God,’ he said. ‘If we get them, Amen. If not, I will have more time to love you.'”
Three years after her first marriage, Terry walked down the aisle once again, this time with Tonny – the man who had given her the will to live again.
One year after the wedding, her life once again looked like it was taking another dark turn as Terry felt very sick, but luckily, her luck had started to turn.
“I felt unwell and went to the doctor,” she tells the BBC. “And to my great surprise, he told me that I was pregnant.”
Terry’s pregnancy went smoothly and contrary to the initial prognosis, it turned she was capable of giving birth without any complications.
Four years later, the pair welcomed their second miracle — their other daughter Towdah.
The men who tortured and raped Terry were never arrested and brought to justice. Terry’s full story is documented in her autobiography “Crawling Out of Darkness.”
Today, she travels with her husband Tonny and gives talks, speaking about the horrific experiences she has been through and how she got the strength to pull herself out of the darkness. She also helps other rape victims and hopes her experiences can inspire them to know that they are not alone.