This is Nkem’s story:
“My father was a very violent man, from as far as I can remember he used to hit my mother. Sometimes for no reason at all, he would just come home screaming and we would run into our rooms. He would always get drunk, whenever he lost a bet, whenever his favorite club Arsenal lost a match and even when it was just a bad day at work. So you can imagine that he came home screaming quite often. I always wondered why my mother covered up for him, every other day she was covered in cuts and bruises and would lie to the neighbors that she was very clumsy when it came to heavy lifting and she loved to clean deeply. But really – how many times can you “mistakenly” hit your head on the door? Maybe she thought they were fools.
My mother was very beautiful woman, she was brought to Lagos at the prime of her life with the promise of a university education and a corporate job and a supermarket and a big big jeep. I mean, my father was a top businessman in Lagos and was well respected by everyone in the village. All of her friends felt she was the luckiest girl in the world to be chosen by Mr Okafor, it meant she was blessed- but was she really?
Fast forward to 10 years later with two children for Mr Okafor and nothing else to show of her life. No university education, no job, no shop and of course no jeep. Just 2 children who she loved dearly.
It took a very severe beating and a long hospital stay for my mother to decide to leave, she came to this realization while she was on admissionat the hospital and concluded that she could not trust our father to take care of us. Honestly, with the way he was going she would probably be dead soon.
We did not go back home after that incident, my mom took us and the rest of her dignity and we went to live with my grandmother in Enugu. Not long after we moved my mother decided to go back to Lagos, she felt there wasn’t much for her in the village and since she had lived there before she could find her way around the markets and maybe sell clothes or jewelry – just to make ends meet.
I can still remember the day my mom left, it is very vivid in my memory. I cried till there were no tears in my eyes. Why was she leaving me? Why did she decide to take my younger brother? What was I supposed to do here, alone with grandma? I was broken.
One day on my way back from school I noticed a truck just beside our house, was it my mom? I was so excited I ran all the way there. I saw that we had new neighbors and they seemed to have a daughter my age. Her name was Chidera. We became best friends very quickly and I spent more time in her house than with grandma, her parents were very respectful and so grandma was comfortable leaving me in their care. I would spend most of my afternoons playing with Chidera and Chisom her younger brother. We would play catcher, police and thief, hide and seek and even cook soups with the leaves in the garden to be paired with our famous mud garri. I always looked forward to spending Saturdays with my best friend, we had more time to play and her mom would cook jollof rice and plaintain on Saturdays. I never wanted to miss that.
It was another Saturday as usual, I was at Chidera’s house and her mom had just left for the market. She was going to buy things for the house but I had heard her mention goat meat for the jollof rice. That was my favorite meat. Not long after she left, the clouds became dark and we had to move inside the house, there was no light and so we fell asleep in Chidera’s room. I heard some movement and I thought it was Chisom coming to tickle me because he was always so mischevious; to my surprise it was Chideras father – Mr Eze. He told me to get up and follow him to the parlor. I thought my grandma had called for me and proceeded to look for my slippers, I was always so careless with them. He told me to sit on the setee beside him and asked if I would be staying for mama chidera’s jollof rice. He said “ Todays own is going to be very sweet o, you know she will buy goat meat”
I wondered why he was speaking to me, he had only ever said a few words to me before and I just really wanted to go back to sleep. He touched my hair and told me I was a very good girl, he also said I was very beautiful; I smiled. Nobody had called be beautiful before. He said he had something that would make me more beautiful, but I had to promise not to tell anybody. He said once I told someone, the beauty would fade and I would turn into one of the village masquerades.
He asked if I wanted the thing that would make me more beautiful and I said yes. He said I was a good girl again and told me to lie on the settee, raise up my skirt and pull down my pant. I hesitated. What did my pant have to do with making me beautiful? He saw my confusion and said I shouldn’t worry, that he would put the beauty inside me. He said If I shouted, I would spoil the whole thing and turn into a masquerade instantly. I didn’t want to be a masquearade, they were ugly and scary. Mr Eze removed his wrapper and came on top of me – I got scared. I wanted to call Chidera, I wanted her to walk into the parlor. I wanted Mrs Eze to come home, I wanted my grandma to shout my name. So I could leave. I didn’t want the beauty anymore. But it was too late, I felt a sharp pain in my vagina, I screamed but he covered my mouth with his hand. I had never experienced that kind of pain before and I pray that no child should ever experience it, after a few more seconds, everything faded to black. I passed out. The pain was unbearable.
When I regained consciousness, he had cleaned me up, put my underwear back on and laid me on the bed like nothing happened. I woke up thinking it was a dream but I knew I needed to leave. He met me at the door with an evil smile on his face, he said if I told anyone he would kill me and my grandmother. He said he wouldn’t let me play with Chidera again and I would be banished from his house.
I loved my grandma and I loved Chidera. I had to keep this secret. Keeping the secret gave him the license to continue his assault on me. A 10-year-old girl, his daughters best friend. This went on till my mother came back for me a year later. She wondered what had happened to the bubbly outspoken little girl she left in Enugu. After a lot of probing I was able to confide in my mom, she was outraged and reported to the police. Mr Eze was arrested and I was referred to a Sexual Assault Centre for medical examinations and counselling.
It has been 10 years since the incident, I am rounding up my university education but I still have flashbacks from Enugu. There are days I can’t sleep and when it rains I am scared I will be woken up and taken to the parlor again. I cannot say I am healed but each day is better than the last. I met a counsellor at WARIF and she constantly reminds me that it was not my fault, for going to Chideras house, for wanting to be beautiful and for what Mr Eze did to me. It was not my fault…
Dear survivor, please know that you are not alone and it is not your fault. Help is available.
If you have been raped or you know someone who has, please visit us at The WARIF Centre – 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba or call our 24-hour confidential helpline on 08092100009.
For questions or more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality