Hello everyone! How have you been? How did the weekend go? Mine was a bit slow, as I came down with mild malaria. Today, I’m grateful for good health.
I introduced this category (Beauty For Ashes) as a platform for victims of abuse to share their story. I wasn’t expecting so much response, so you can imagine my surprise when my mailbox started getting flooded with mails. I thank everyone who has responded. You make this cause worthwhile. Special thanks to Mrs Funso Adegbola, who encouraged me to do this. God bless you all.
We start off with Labake. Her entry came first. Her story…her story…Just read first…
I’m the youngest of four children and I was always ‘Daddy’s special girl’. There’s a six-year gap between me and my brother, who is number three, so I really was the baby. My late father was a police. He was a drinker who didn’t contribute to the housekeeping, a very angry man who beat me for misdemeanours and he regularly hit my mum. But I loved him in spite of everything. He was the only one who ever bought me sweets. My father could be very caring and loving, but he was unpredictable.
I felt isolated and lonely as a child. My eldest sister was meant to look after me when mum was working, but she often went out and left me alone. One morning, I went for a walk and got lost. My sisters found me and brought me home and, knowing Dad would beat me, they dressed me up in lots of thick knickers and trousers so I wouldn’t feel the blows. I was only five. Sometimes I had to stay off school because of the bruises.
I was six when it happened for the first time. I’d gone out on my own. As I walked around strange streets, I heard the sound of an Indian movie coming from one of the houses. I stopped in the hope that I’d catch a glimpse of it (our television was out of order and I missed watching Indian movies on Saturdays), and as I went over to the window that faced the street, a man appeared and asked me if I’d like to watch. I said yes. I’d never seen him before but he asked me where my dad was. His message was clear: ‘I know you.’ He said I couldn’t tell anyone I’d been inside his house, and then he started tickling and touching me. Eventually he took me upstairs and lay on top of me.
I was so frightened because I couldn’t breathe. Afterwards he kept saying, ‘Don’t tell anyone – it’s only fun.’ Then he cuddled me and said, ‘We’re friends now,’ and I promised to return to watch the movies. I didn’t understand what had happened. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t tell anyone because I’d have been beaten for straying from my boundary again.
My parents separated after a few years. My mum left and as time went by, I became naughty at school because it was the only place I could express the burning anger inside me. I didn’t do any of my schoolwork, which I now regret because I was bright and a quick learner. I made a friend called Bola who was a year older than me and was also from a broken home.
A close friend of my father who worked around the school started walking home with us, and he used to put his arm round my waist. I was ten, skinny and not confident. He was about 40 and smelled of beer and cigarettes. Over the weeks, his hands gradually moved to my bottom, but it was so subtle, such a slow process, that by the time I realised what was happening, I felt awkward and couldn’t complain, even though I knew it wasn’t right. I remember he came to the places in the neighbourhood where we played, calling us his ‘favourite girls’. He touched our bottoms and Bola laughed. Bola kept saying, ‘Come on now, it’s funny,’ but I didn’t think it was funny. Things progressed from there. He encouraged us to sit on his lap when he came to visit, one girl on each knee, and his touching became more and more intimate. As my father’s close friend he was well protected and I think he knew we’d never tell. He had such power and I was very scared of him. There were usually others in the room, and whenever I got up to move away from him my knickers twanged where he’d had his hand inside them, and it sounded so loud I remember thinking, ‘Everyone heard that,’ but no one ever said anything. My father was too busy drinking or arguing with his new wife to notice where I was. This man asked me to wears skirts, and I begged my mother to buy me jeans to protect myself, but I couldn’t explain why I needed them so I never got any. I hated it, but I didn’t know how to make it stop.
A few weeks after the abuse began, I decided to broach the subject of men touching girls inappropriately with my stepmother to gauge her reaction. I told her that a man my father knew had touched my vagina when I was younger. She told me not to tell lies about my father’s friends, and then
told my dad. He got very angry, so I never told anyone again. The abuse by my father’s friend got worse. I was never raped, but I was seriously sexually assaulted, and he kept saying, ‘One day you’ll be mine.’ On one odd occasion, I said ‘no’ to this man and he stopped, but he’d got away with it for three years. I was so traumatised, I wet the bed until I was 18.
The awful thing about sexual abuse is that victims feel it is their fault. You ask, ‘Why me? I must have done something to encourage it, because it’s not happening to other girls.’
I know, rationally, that none of it was my fault, but another voice inside me still says, ‘You should never have gone to that house to watch the movies,’ and, ‘You shouldn’t have sat on his lap,’ and, ‘How did you allow that to happen?’ There is a lot of shame and stigma attached to sexual abuse,
so I’ve never told anyone, apart from my mum a few years ago. She cried and said forcing me to live with my father after the separation was the biggest regret of her life. I haven’t told my two children. I don’t want anyone’s pity. I’ve been married twice, but I find it very hard to trust men. I am very needy and my self-esteem is low. I’m not good at opening up and confiding in people, and I know I try far too hard to please, not just men but at work and with friends.
I wish I could be stronger, different. I still feel dirty after all these years. I’ve tried to block the abuse out of my head, but with your book on abuse, it has come flooding back. I keep thinking about the thousands of young girls who are still being abused and who never speak out. And the ones who tried to tell people in authority what was happening but weren’t believed. I feel sick now that I allowed my abusers to get away with what they did. A large part of why I didn’t tell a teacher or someone else in authority was that I was from such a chaotic background and always wanted everyone to think I was from a normal, loving family.
I received little love as a child, and that’s a hard thing to acknowledge. It made it very easy for my abusers to move in on me. If someone says something vaguely critical, I take it to heart. I have never, ever felt safe or secure, and never felt needed by anyone apart from my children.
The sad and unfortunate truth, which I hate with all my heart to acknowledge, is that I felt needed by my second abuser. He gave me the attention I craved. His motives were abhorrent, but I didn’t know that at first and by the time I did, I was trapped. This is how sexual abuse happens.
By the way, I enjoyed your book, Dumebi.