“I could remember vividly that as a child I would run from him because he would always try to touch my privates. I would not tell anyone, but I just knew it was wrong and it gave me this nasty feeling,” she said, her facial expression mirroring how she must have felt.
“It is funny, some days it is like it never happened but then other days I don’t know what triggers it, but it would come back like it was yesterday. I have not seen him for years, but I remember when I became an adult I would see him often, but I think I blocked it out then because I never really like hated him.”
She is a 43-year-old mother of three and she was abused as a child by two uncles and her mother’s partner. She never got counselling but said talking about it is therapeutic. While she agreed to speak to me about the abuse, before she actually addressed it, she made small talk and then suddenly raised the topic.
“We used to go by our grandmother a lot. All the cousins and it use to be like a communal sleeping because she did not have many rooms and we would make up beds wherever and just sleep. It was then he would come and start to feel your privates or sometimes you would finish bathing and he would do it. I think he did it to my other cousins, but we just never spoke about it.
“I did not tell my mother. Not that I didn’t think she would have done something, I was afraid that it would cause problems and we would not get to go back by our grandmother; that was the best time growing up. It was not something I wanted to talk about, but I always ensured that I was not alone with him. He never said anything but would just touch you inappropriately,” she said, as she looked into the distance.
“He did not have a wife or children. In fact, he still does not have children, but he eventually got a wife and it kinda stopped. And then shortly after I moved away but it is a memory that lives with me, you know, like a bad dream. And sometimes I use to question myself as I grew older. But as I grew and read and learnt more, I knew for a while now it had nothing to me, but it does not make me feel better.
“Because of that experience, I don’t send my children nowhere, no sleepovers and people sometimes would ask why but I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation for wanting to protect my children,” she said passionately.
She stopped speaking for a while, perhaps reflecting. I sat quietly, because I knew how difficult it must be to speak on the matter.
“And you know what, I knew something was wrong because it happened before. I was much younger, very much, maybe about three or four but I remembered, not as vivid but the memory is there. It was a man my mother lived with. I would not even call him my stepfather, he does not deserve that title. He interfered with me… I cannot remember the details for the other times but there is this specific time,” she stopped and seemed to be finding it difficult to continue.
After a while, I realised tears were streaming down her face and I gave her a tissue.
“I remember that day,” she said slowly “He had his hand in my panties was touching my vagina and it was hurting and then my mother came into the room and he pushed me away violently. He pushed me so hard that I hit my head on the bedhead and burst my mouth. Blood came, and my mother started to quarrel with me and told me I was always clumsy…,” she stopped again, this time the tears were too much.
After a while she haltingly continued: “My mother then sent me to the health centre which was about a street away. Imagine a little girl who was just abused and then injured, and a mother sends her alone to the health centre. Granted, she did not know about the abuse, or maybe she suspected. But your child is injured, and you send her alone to get treatment? What kind of mother is that?” It was not a question she expected an answer to and I did not attempt to give one.
“I remember when I went to the health centre the nurses commented why would a mother send such a small child alone for treatment. I can’t remember if they asked me what happened or if I could have articulated what really happen. But maybe if it was today both my mother and he would have been arrested.
“And you know what? That man use to beat my mother so much… looking back I don’t know why she stayed because it was some of our worst times. They finally [split up] but not before he gave her another child. So, she had three daughters now and none of their fathers around, that was the life. But we are not here to talk about my mother because that could take forever, and I am really not prepared for that right now,” she said.
She was no longer crying, and I could see a hint of anger.
“So that was that, a memory I wish could just be erased. But when I was much older, this time a teenager I had another experience. I did not live with my mother then but with other relatives to attend school. I had an uncle who one day decided to teach me to waltz. Mind you, no one was home. I had come home half day from school. So, he put on the sensual music and called me to teach me to waltz.
“We started off good enough, but I felt comfortable because he was holding me so close and I started to feel his [arousal]. I was old enough to know what was happening but could not say anything to stop it. He started to grind against me and rub my back in the process and then after a while he held me tight and his breathing increased, and [then it went] limp. I say limp now because I am older, but I felt as it got soft. And guess what? That was the end of the waltz class.
“This happened about two other times and after that I ensured that I was not alone with him. If I knew he was home I did not go home until I knew someone else was at home.
“These are memories that will be with me forever. And as I said earlier, I am very alert and protective of my children. I don’t want them to have those kinds of experiences, because they live with you forever and they affect your quality of life. People may look at me and say I have a very good life, but they would not understand the struggles I have and some of them is because of those horrible experiences.”
She stopped speaking again for a while.
“And you know I have spoken to quite a few women and many of them have had horrible experiences in their lives; sexual abuse, let me call it by its name. It is good that more and more persons are being charged. People say it is on the increase, but I don’t agree it is just that reports are being made and the police are acting…but this was happening from ever old,” she said.
We sat in silence for a while after she indicated the conversation was over and when she stood up, we parted with a hug.