Insomnia is nothing new to me. I’ve tried everything to help me sleep including acupuncture, exercise, warm milk, relaxing baths, white sound machines, sleeping pills and natural remedies like valerian root. What I find difficult to turn off at night is the loop that plays in my mind of the day just ended.

I’ve written about insomnia before, in my book, Never Give Up: Vignettes from sub-Saharan Africa in the Age of AIDS. What has kept me up in the past while visiting South Africa is the same thing that is disturbing my sleep again on this visit – the rape of children.

While catching up with an old friend recently in Cape Town, I asked about his family.

“No man, things are fine,” was the initial response.

That was followed by, “There is one thing. My six-year-old sister was raped a few days ago.”

“My mum called me and we took my sister to the hospital and she got care. My little sister seems okay. My mum and granny and me; well we’re struggling. We know the boy who did this. He is 13. He is a child, too. If he goes to one of those ‘schools’ for boys who do things like this, we think he will just get worse. It’s bad, but it happened. What can you do?”

And just like that, my friend asked, “So how are you, man?”

“I’m fine,” I say, and we talk about other things.

I leave my friend and continue with the day. At night, in bed, the conversation comes back to me.

“My six-year-old sister was raped.”

“It’s bad, but it happened.”

 “What can you do?”

 It’s not the first time a story like this has kept me up at night.

 – written by Kevin Winge

(Postscript: The photo is not of the young girl who was raped.)