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The Masquerade



Tinuade’s Story is touching and heart wrenching…but she is a survivor. Enjoy Reading…

When I was young, my grandmother told me stories of the Masquerade. He would come out at night and punish naughty children. She said he lived in our attic. She was wrong. He lived in the bedroom next to me. The first time happened when I was seven and he was thirteen. My brother came into my bedroom and sexually abused me. No matter how much I fought him, he was stronger. No matter how much I said no, he wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t until I threatened to tell on him that he stopped. It kept him at bay, but not for long.
I thought by covering myself up as much as possible, I was less likely to ‘provoke’ him again to touch me. I would dress in layers, even in thirty degree weather. The adults would always ask why and I would always lie. “I’m cold,” I would say. I was scared to tell anyone. What if they didn’t believe me? What if then it angered my brother and made him do even worse things as punishment? I hoped keeping my mouth shut would show him I was willing to be silent forever and keep this as just an ‘incident’ and he would stop in return. But he didn’t.
And it did happen again. I was living at my grandmother’s house which was around the corner from parents and I was home alone. He came over and tried to sexually abuse me again. By this time he was seventeen and I was eleven. I told him to stop, but he didn’t. When I sat up and began screaming, I realised I had made a big mistake. He immediately slapped his hand over my mouth and pushed me back down. I saw how much bigger and stronger he was. I’ve never been more scared in my life then that moment. No matter how much I squirmed, I couldn’t free myself from his hold. With my last ounce of courage, I threatened to tell on him if he didn’t stop. And to my relief he let go of me and left. I couldn’t believe I had escaped. But all my energy and confidence in my plan to speak up was drained. I couldn’t run to my parents and tell them what he’d been doing under the same roof he lived in. I thought it would keep him away for a while. I wondered if I didn’t say anything, he would reward me by not doing it again. But how many times had I gone through this before. I had given him so many chances to not abuse me if I kept it secret, but he always came back. I couldn’t take anymore. Then I remembered a friend who told me about scars to stars. She told me I could write to Aunty Ezar anonymously and express my fears. I did. And she sent me a mail with a number to call her or text me my number. It was fine by me. I figured that if the person on the other end of the line didn’t believe me it wouldn’t matter because nobody in my family would know I ever made the call With every ring, my heart beat faster. I felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins. My confidence came back and I was ready to speak up. Finally, somebody answered, “Hello,” to which I immediately blurted out, “My brother touched me.”

She asked me to tell her everything. Who did it, what did he do, when did it start. I broke down. Fumbling and jumbling my words. I couldn’t breathe properly because I was trying to say it all in one breath. Her voice was soothing and she easily calmed me down. She was extremely patient and kind. After I had finished explaining everything I was out of breath. Here came the moment of truth: can my sexual abuse stop? When she told me she was sending someone I broke down in tears. They weren’t tears of sadness, but tears of joy. She believed me. I was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was saved.
So I thought. I thought my brother was going to be the biggest hurdle I had to jump. I wasn’t prepared for the even bigger hurdle that was my family. They were constantly asking me if I had made it all up. I knew why. They didn’t believe me. A stranger I told believed me. Why didn’t my family? I was awfully sympathetic for what they were all going through that I forgot about myself. While they were all struggling to get their heads around it all, I was left in the dark. But I forgave them all for it, including my brother for what he did even though he never apologised. My brother wasn’t criminally charged and did no time. Only a family meeting was called, with my brother agreeing not to touch me inappropriately again. It was never to be spoken about again. Brushed under the rug.

A few years later my father and grandmother really wanted me to move in with my dad. I was hesitant because my brother was there. He was my greatest fear, my real life Masquerade. My grandmother said it wasn’t fair that I stay with her because my older sister needed the room more. When I confessed my reasons why I wanted to stay, she said, “Get over it.” I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I heard and from her of all people. My once gentle and loving grandmother showed me a side I never knew existed. The blatant disregard for my feelings and well-being was gut wrenching. I had never felt more betrayed in my life. Even though I still love her with all my heart, I saw her in a completely different light. From that day on, I’ve never been able to look at her the same again. Even thinking about it chokes me up. She says I always use to smile when I was younger, but now I hardly do. Maybe I just don’t smile at her as much anymore.
If I could just, “get over it,” I would. I wish everyday that I could. If there was a pill to forget everything — even if that meant the good memories — I would take it in a heartbeat. I’d take two just in case. I don’t like looking at family photos and thinking, “that baby grew up to be a monster.” I don’t like waking up in the middle of the night unable to tell if the nightmare of my brother was just a nightmare or if it happened again. I don’t like being scared by the sound of my own breathing because sometimes I mistake it to be his. I don’t like always being on edge even around the other male members of my family and thinking, “if my brother can, what’s going to stop my father?” And I am absolutely disgusted and ashamed that those thoughts could even cross my mind. I loathe myself for it. I hate upsetting my family because I’m depressed and I’m depressed because I can’t get over it.
And so I moved. Right next to the room of the brother who sexually abused me. I did it to make my family happy. Ever since I called Aunty Ezar, I felt like I was nothing but a burden to my family. They would ask, “Why didn’t you tell us first?” They seemed angry when they asked, but I knew they were just worried. But I felt I had caused nothing but problems to them. Especially when my mum left us, I thought it was all my doing. I figured that she wanted nothing to do with a messed up family as us. Every bad thing that happened from the day I spoke up seemed like a repercussion from that event. That it was all my fault. All because I had opened my big fat mouth. It was rare for me to leave my room. When I did, I was sure to be quick. My door was locked at all times when I was in there, even if my brother wasn’t home. I didn’t even know I was doing it until a friend visiting asked me, “Why do you always lock your door?” By then it just seemed as normal as sneezing. Locking the door became an unconscious reflex…

to be continued…