Ask any woman and they’ll tell you. About that one time they were groped inappropriately, how once they were trying to walk home and were being cat- called so uncomfortably that they pulled down their skirt, how they know of the one cousin in the family who is a sexual predator, but they can’t dare say a word lest the family be broken up, so all the young women are sacrifices on the altar of his perversion, too afraid to cry out, knowing no one will help them, knowing that the family is more afraid of the neighbors seeing them in a bad light, if they ever found out, then they are afraid that the girls he’s preyed on might spend their whole lives looking for an escape from the trauma, no matter how destructive. They’ll tell you how many times they’d have to sleep with men willingly to try and forget about how once, they were silenced and were ravaged by a monster who didn’t care to ask for their consent.
I have very few memories of my early childhood but there is one that has haunted me for as long as I can remember. It’s interesting to me that at the age of 5 I was first exposed to the evil of the world, before I even knew how to define it.
I was visiting family and one of my older cousins called us into his room, he took off our underwear and fondled us. I remember watching him touch the others, I remember how in that moment I knew what was happening was wrong but I didn’t know why, I wanted to tell my father but I wasn’t sure how I could express myself to him without somehow being partly to blame for standing there in silence, as if somehow he won’t believe me. When he was done he told us to go play outside, said that this was our new game, said the adults weren’t allowed to know about it, that it would be our secret, that they were not special enough to play.
I have dreamt about this one day for years, I have tried so hard to convince myself that it was a dream, that if I could try hard enough I would forget, forget how those foreign hands reached inside the small intimate parts of me and made me cry out internally for years to come. Forget how on the day my father died the one man I knew would protect me, how I felt as if I failed him, that my lack of bravery was a reminder that I was deserving of what was done to me at an age when my little mind couldn’t not even fully grasp what had happened.
The older I got, the more I learnt about sexual assaults, I started to realise that it wasn’t a dream, that it really did happen. I convinced myself that since this wasn’t classified as a rape according to me, as there was no penetration,surely this means that it’s not a big deal, that others had it worse. I spent years convincing myself that I was fine. I heard others tell their stories and mine seemed ridiculous in comparison. It wasn’t until one day as an adult I saw his name flash through my screen Phone screen, that the pain hit me, it felt as though my whole body went cold, I saw the scene all over again. I saw my face, my little red dress, my small feet, I felt the pain. The sharp stab of his finger and I knew, I knew that no amount of trying to make it go away would work, that I had to deal with it. I had to be brave and take the first step and accept that this was not a dream.
I wish I could go back, I wish with everything in me that I could tell the little girl me to run, to take whatever strength she had in her little legs and carry herself and run, run to her father who was a police- man, tell him to get his gun, tell him to call his friends tell them to bring their guns, cry out so loud and so long that the neighbors will hear it too, I wish I could have clawed out his eyes, ripped him into shreds with those little hands. I suppose it doesn’t matter what I would do, what haunts me most is that I stood still and watched.
You know what the worst realization as an adult has been? The fact that even if they knew, the family would have protected him somehow, that’s really what happens even to this day, families are too afraid of how badly their image will be tainted in the community that they would have given him a warning that if he ever did it again he would regret it. That he needed to change, we were going to get some measly apology and that would have been the end of it.
What an injustice, what have we become as people? It isn’t that we are unaware of the issues we read about, it isn’t that we are shocked about what most women have gone through, it is that we have all decided to look away. Too afraid to admit that these stories are far too common, that we know of someone with a similar experience , know of someone who is guilty of preying on those who like myself were too young to cry out for help.
I want to try and create a safer space for my daughters, I want to have these hard conversations with them early, not only the ones I will birth but also the young girls I know, who have listened to my words and have had similar struggles.
I started this journey in fear, terrified I wouldn’t make it out of the pain that has consumed so much of my life, afraid I would never be okay, afraid that this beast would keep rearing it’s head in my relationships where I could never fully trust a man, fearing that all men are have this same evil somewhere deep on the inside of them.I am slowly learning this is not true.
I am not sure what your story looks like, I am not sure where this finds you. I had to take the brave step of firstly accepting my truth, I then spoke to a few people and found a way to healing. I realise healing doesn’t look the same for everyone, but it is possible if you take it a day at a time. I wish we had more safe spaces to speak our truths, where we won’t fear what people will think of us because it really doesn’t matter, as long we have some form of release. I hope if you read my story and you think of your own you’ll know they are many women who have been through something similar, who are still finding pieces of themselves who are finding a way to navigate through life.
The final step of healing was forgiveness. I spent so long hating that man I didn’t realise how toxic it became to my well being. How toxic it was to my relationships. I had to forgive him.
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors…
True forgiveness can only come when we realise the depth of what was done for us on the cross. When we realise how we were so undeserving of all that was brought for us through the blood of our saviour Jesus Christ. It is only in finding true relationship with him that I could forgive. My life has truly never been the same.
I wish I could embrace each person who reads this, I wish I could listen to you and let you express all of what has torn you apart for hours on end like my best friend Busie did for me. I wish I could explain away the pain, tell you that what happened to us, was just an uncommon mistake but unfortunately that would be a lie. The world is deeply broken , people are deeply broken. I want you to know that there is Saviour who can carry you, carry you to to true wholeness that can only begin with him. I wish my words remind you that you’re not on your own, that it wasn’t your fault, that true healing is possible and it will happen for you. Oh my dream is to start something a project, a platform anything, where healing can be easily accessed, where women can find guidance to navigate through all this. Until then, I hope you always remember you are ART, the most beautiful kind. ALWAYS remember your scars no matter how deep, are proof that you survived, wear them boldly. You are brave.
Life Is Art.