“I felt hurt, disappointed but it confirmed an inner fear I had for many years,” she said simply, describing how she felt when she found out that her husband of many years and father of her children, had sexually molested their only daughter.
This was one of the hardest interviews I have done for Women’s Chronicles and it has haunted me for days; it is one I may never forget. It was a seven-year-old who was violated several times by the man she called ‘Daddy’. Refreshingly, however, is the fact that her mother ensured she received justice and works day and night to provide a stable and secure environment for her children.
In the end, he was sentenced to years in prison and once the sentence stands the child has no fear of seeing him until long after she would have become an adult. I have not spoken to the child, who has had counselling; her mother willingly agreed to speak to me after a mutual friend told her about this column.
She was forced to have the uncomfortable conversation with her daughter after allegations were made that her husband had molested another relative a little older than her daughter.
“I asked her if her father ever molested her and she said she did not understand the word molest and then I [asked specific questions] and she started to cry and shook her head and said ‘yes mommy’,” she said.
“Well that is when I broke down and I started to cry uncontrollably.”
We remained quiet for quite some time and I had to ask her what she did, before she started speaking again.
“I immediately went to the police station and reported the matter. They arrested him hours after but initially he did not know what he was arrested for. But when he found out I was the one who made the report he called from the station and say to me ‘so you make a report that I molest [name of the child]’ and I said yes and hung the phone up,” she said.
“You see after that time I must be lose ten pounds. I did not sleep for days. I even had to ask the boys if he had interfered with them and they said no but I did not take their word I checked myself.”
After he was charged, her husband was released on bail.
“… He would torment me. He even come at my workplace and I had to take out a restraining order. He would be sending messages and saying ‘a sorry you is me wife and me life’ and that I was listening to people and how my mother never wanted this marriage.”
His mother also approached her and informed her that her son needed help and jail would do nothing for him. When she did not get through other relatives approached her.
“But I told all of them no,” she said.
“Surprisingly my daughter took all of it well, better than I expected but she had counselling and I ensured I loved her and let her know she did nothing wrong. My daughter was surprised when I told her that her grandmother and relatives did not want me to go through with the case. She said, ‘What? I can’t believe these people.’”
‘This man put me through a lot’
She was married to her husband for over ten years when she made the dreaded discovery.
“This man put me through a lot, I tell you, he put me through some things,” she said with a sad smile.
“At one time I say that anything that coulda breathe he would have slept with.
“And you know one day I had told him, ‘how you behaving you would want to sleep with me daughter.’ And he said, ‘How could you say that? I would never forgive you for saying that,” she said, shaking her head from side to side.
She paused again and we sat in silence for a while.
“You know the marriage had its good times and it had its bad times, but I made a lot of sacrifices. Many days I did not eat. Sometimes I asked myself why did I get married,” she continued.
I asked if she did not eat because they could not afford food.
“No, no, I didn’t eat because I was so unhappy,” she continued. At that time, I wondered about the good times she referred to but I asked her to reveal some of the bad times.
“Look, during my pregnancies I did not want to have sex. And this man would force himself on me and although I am crying, he wouldn’t stop. When he finished, I would like rub my belly and I would talk to my kids and say ‘just stay still’.
“He was heartless, imagine he knew his wife was crying and he would still have sex with me, he wouldn’t stop… that was how cruel he was.
“He was not really that physically violent. But there were times when he took my own hand and slapped me. Or at times, he would choke me until I passed out.
“… I had a fear that he would kill me one day and then he also had multiple extra-marital affairs. It was a lot and I knew about them. But after a while it became nothing because I realised that’s who he is and he said he can’t change; he even had children outside of the marriage,” she shared.
Why did you stay? I asked her.
“Because I had nowhere to go,” she answered.
I pointed out to her that she worked.
“Yes, I worked. But I had nowhere to go. My mother use to always say whatever problem in you house solve it, you married. I remember one time moving and going by my mother and two days after she ask me if I ain’t going back. ‘You all is young people you need to work things out,’ [her mother said.”
She also shared that because she grew up in a single parent home, she never wanted that for her children so that was another reason why she held on so long.
But when she learnt of her daughter’s molestation she did not think twice to leave.
“When he came out the lock ups I moved out. I went by mommy and she had to take me in then. My mother don’t really show any emotions or love but she came that morning and she packed everything in a bus and we went. She told me she would help me out with school stuff for the kids and not worry I will get through. ‘You is a woman and you all must look at how much things I went through and I still standing up’,” were her mother’s words
“But although she did all of that I did not get the emotional support from her that I needed at that time or throughout of my life.”
Do you love your mother? I asked.
“Yes, I love her. I know she made a lot of sacrifices for us and I know many of days she would be pressured and she would tell you hurtful things but I understand the
reason why… ,” she added
She then returned to talking about her daughter.
“I always had this nagging fear that he would interfere with our daughter. The thought would come across but then I would say ‘nah, don’t think that way’. There were times when she would cry when he had to keep her and looking back at that now I feel sick and sad,” she said.
And she had her own experience.
“I remember my mom’s partner trying to touch me inappropriately and when I told her, she told me she did not want to believe and she started to buse and curse and say we didn’t want to see her happy. I just stop going around him and eventually the relationship finish.
“I promised myself not to say anything else to her but I promised that when I get children I would always believe my children,” she added.
Seeking justice was not all smooth sailing
“Going through all of this I have learnt that our system is really messed up because after filing the restraining order against him, he still would call and I don’t know if he use to give the police money or what but when I report it they use to call him to the station and just give him a warning. And after a time, I got tired and stop reporting and just pray and ask God that he does not come around me.
“When the matter was transferred to the High Court it was difficult to follow up that part of it. I asked a couple of people to find out from the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] because it was taking so long and I just wanted to get over with it. All I could have done honestly, was pray to keep sane. It was not until it was published in the newspapers for it to be in the next session that is when I knew and it was my mother saw it and told me,” she said.
“I immediately made contact. But you know when it went to court other than his lawyer being uncaring towards my daughter, the prosecutor was very nice to me and her. I didn’t sit in on every court session because I had to work. I took leave but it was longer than my leave. I use to take my lunch break and try to sit in.
“On the day he was convicted, I went the half day and I sit in. The jury came out back just over an hour later after they were sent in. I was there when they said guilty and I felt relief that they actually did something right, something good and justice was served.
“I looked at him but he wasn’t looking at me. My daughter had wanted to read her impact statement but she couldn’t because she was at lessons. The support officer read the statement and the judge said based on this child’s statement it would have affected her and knowing that she remembered the first time it happened that scarred the child for life. And she said because of that ‘I am going to make you an example to all of the perpetrators out there.’ And I didn’t even understand how she sentenced him is only when it was in the newspaper that I realised how many years he got and I felt satisfied.
“And when my daughter saw it, she started counting her age to see how old she would be when he come out. She said she was happy that it was over and that she was waiting for the day to come for it to end so she could move on with her life and her studies. She is doing very well in school and I am proud of her. She would say, ‘mommy I am going to make you proud’.
“… I could beat myself that I didn’t do it earlier and leave him,” she said with a laugh, the first and only time she laughed during the almost two hours of our conversation.
“Me and my children are doing great. I am able to support us and they are all in school and the future looks bright. I want nothing to do with him.
“My children are well mannered and show no disrespect to anyone, even to their father’s relatives who have commented on how respectful they are,” she said proudly.
While this mother has had difficult years, she is still optimistic about the future and she is happy for her children. I believe this sister is on the right path.