It was a rainy Sunday as I wept and reflected on the compilation of things that had finally summed up my life.
Growing up, I didn’t have an easy life but then again, I guess nobody does so I’ve learnt to whine less.
Lately, I’ve been watching people treat sexual abuse like it’s something to skip over. It isn’t. For us the abused, it’s something that sticks with us forever. It lingers to you like the smell of a dead rat and every now and again, you wonder if others can smell It too.
I was serially abused by my step-father who my mother had married 6 years after my father’s death. Thinking about it now, I never quite liked him from the word, go. He just seemed funny. Even though I was 10 at the time they got married, my spirit was rather strong back then especially because I was a devout christian girl who had grown up in the church and spent all her time in prayer and being active at our local church.
I remember the first time it happened. My mother was a nurse so she had a night shift covering for someone this particular day. She begged her husband to watch over me as I had lessons after school and the school bus would be dropping me off rather late due to peak time traffic. I got in at roughly 6pm, showered and sat down to watch TV. He walked in, asking what I was doing, I told him, ‘watching tv’ stating the obvious. He sat too close to me for comfort but I had been told that he was to be my new daddy so sure, why not? At first it was a thigh, then it was my inner thigh. I fought battles in my head. I was old enough to know what sex was… I was ‘churchy’ not ‘stupid’ yet, I didn’t protest. I allowed him and it has taken so long for me to forgive myself…
I mean, I said no. But maybe I should have fought harder and yelled for the neighbours to hear but I didn’t. I just kept saying “no, this is wrong sir. This is wrong”. I remember the exact day and time it happened; he took my virginity and it kept happening for over 6 years until I left for university. When I left for University, I stayed away even on holidays at the homes of our cousins in the guise that It was easier for me to head to school should the strike be called off… etc. Obviously, I couldn’t keep this up forever.
In my 2nd year, my mother insisted that I come home. She was crying and speaking in muffled breath and I knew then, that she knew.
I got home to my shaking mother… she had found my diary; missing me, she decided to go through it and was devastated when she saw my description of the things that had been going on in her own home.
She slapped me and told me I was a home wrecker. The abuse was bad but, THIS! Hearing her say this was so much worse and I never recovered; not for a very long time. She insinuated that I had started loving it and to be honest, I started to think that maybe I had. After all, I had quit church and religion altogether, I no longer prayed and I was incessantly sexually active with the guys in my life. I felt dirty, used, all the time… never loved but, I found that I was unable to stop.
She told me she would keep paying for my fees but she thought it was best if I continued to stay at my cousins’ during the holidays. From that day, we only spoke when it came to my allowance but that was it. She had a brand new life; new husband, 2 children… I was a nonentity to her really and I accepted it.
Fast forward some more years, I graduated with a first class degree(funny right?) and no one could really understand how, considering I always had a man in between my legs but I guess the only two things I seemed to be addicted to were acquiring knowledge and sex. Quickly, I got a job working for a multi-national; rented a one-bedroom on the island and lived comfortably enough and men always seemed ready to want to splurge on me. Eventually, I met the love of my life. A gentle, well-spoken man who truly wanted to make me happy; we dated for roughly 7 months and then he popped the question. We got married in a small wedding because quite frankly, I was too scared my past would catch up with me. We started living together and then, the issues started.
First of all, I was quite dissatisified in bed. He loved to make love and I just wanted sex. I became bitter about that.
Second, I had trust issues. I checked his t-shirt for lipstick stains, I constantly went through his phone while he slept and I became paranoid if he mentioned he was coming home late. In fact, one time, he told me he had a late meeting at a restaurant and I went there fully disguised to ensure the meeting was really taking place, it was. I felt stupid but that didn’t deter me from doing it again and again.
Third, I was struggling to conceive and I was partly relieved by this. I secretly didn’t want kids and it’s not something you ever openly admit as an African woman especially when you’re not sure why.
Our home became a battle ground; my husband and I were barely speaking to each other and he truly started having an affair. What broke me though was the way it had started. On reading his conversations with this woman, he had said that he felt like a prisoner in his own home. He felt like I was just cohabiting with him and if given the choice, I would walkout of the marriage because I had grown to hate him. I felt really sad because I knew this wasn’t the case but could I even be upset? I felt like I was losing my mind and even I didn’t understand what was going on.
The call that changed my life…
I had accepted his cheating. Quite frankly, I was glad he had someone to talk to outside of me because I for the most part, just wanted to left alone. I grew from loving sex to absolutely despising it. I didn’t want to be touched or even cuddled so I moved into the guest bedroom because ‘I needed my space’.
I was at work one morning when I received a phone call from an unknown number; It was my step brother and he needed me to come home. I had not been home since my introduction which was practically rushed through, my mother mostly glad that someone was taking me away for good. On arrival, I had a panic attack, gasping for air and drinking lots of water. This ‘oyinbo’ behaviour was new to me. I had seen PTSD in movies but I mean, I’m stronger than this. I walked in to see my mother weeping in the lounge. My step-brother consoling her and my step-sister no where in sight. She then told me:
“He was raping Augusta. Augusta. Our house help. She told Iyabo who then confronted me about it. Iyabo called a meeting and it turns out, he’s been raping Christy. My Christy. MY CHRISTY!!!”
Christy was my step-sister.
She knelt and started to beg. She begged and wept and begged and wept. I walked out of the house numb and speechless. I knew I needed fixing and it wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t avail myself for it.
That night, I cooked dinner (something I hadn’t done in maybe 7 months) and waited for my husband to come home. He walked in smelling like Giorgio Armani’s Si (to this day, I hate that perfume because of this) and we talked. For the first time in over a year, we truly talked and I told him everything. He held my face and wept while I stared back in numbness. I checked us in to couple’s therapy and we started going to church on Sundays. We both rededicated our lives to God and became more conscious of our prayer lives. About two months after, I found out I was pregnant. I told him and the excitement on his face was beautiful but I still secretly prayed for a miscarriage. Lo and behold, I miscarried at 3 weeks and I was so relieved. I got on the pill not too long after.
The day my husband found out about my contraceptive, he was so angry. I had never seen him this angry. He asked me several times why I didn’t want his child. Was it him? he kept asking. Unwittingly, the answer came out:
“I had lost so much and I just didn’t have any more love to give”.
For the first time in 4 years, I wept, I sprawled on the floor and wept. He held me close and I stayed on the pill while I continued attending church. He promised that he would be patient with me and love me through it. I also noticed that message exchanges between he and aunty had stopped.
My therapist called my mother in and we had a heart-to-heart. I yelled at her in a way that I didn’t think my lungs could carry because I’m quite soft spoken and very strangely, composed. I yelled so much and just wept. She knelt through out the session asking for ‘permission to love me’. Yes, that’s what she called it. We’ve had several sessions after and we’re not perfect. Some days are better than others but, I have forgiven her.
My step-sister. I want to help her. I have reached out to her a couple of times but she’s still processing the abuse and is very angry at the world right now. I understand that all she needs right now is my love and support and I try to give it while respecting her space. She’s seeing my counsellor so that’s a step forward.
My abuser. I could never ever refer to him as my step dad. It just seems eerie. He’s been arrested and we have a good lawyer; he’ll go to jail for a while but I’m not sure that’s enough so I just don’t think about him.
As for me, I am pregnant! Yes, it’s my first baby and yes, I am so excited. It’s a boy so that makes me feel a bit more comfortable. I’ll train him to become a man just like his father. Giving, selfless, respectful of women and their bodies. He’ll be a man after God’s heart. I tell him what happened to me every day in bits and pieces so he can hopefully understand my triggers and we can love each other through our journeys. I won’t be my mother, nothing will ever take my love away or make me turn him out. With me, he will find a safe space, always. Absolutely nothing will ever take my love away. I know better. I’ll be an amazing mother. I know this because that’s God’s promise over my life.
Sexual abuse is not something to glance over. No one ever really gets over it and we need to ensure that less and less women need to.
Side note: Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the persons involved.
If you or someone you love has been raped or is being sexually assaulted, please contact Stand to end rape via phone on 2348095967000 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org