This is Tolani’s Story:
We started out as a happy family, it was me, my dad and my mom. It was perfect, until it wasn’t, until he threw us out. I couldn’t understand why – I still don’t know what happened till today but like my mom always says “God knows best”
We were on our own for a while till my mom met Mr Francis, a relatively nice guy who showered her with gifts and made all sorts of promises for a better life. My mom didn’t think anyone would want a woman who had been married before; let alone one with a 4 year old and so when Mr Francis came along and seemed genuine enough; it wasn’t long before we moved into his house. I don’t know if they actually got married or if my parents were divorced but 2 years later she was pregnant with my sister. My step dad was overjoyed and he treated my mom like the most precious egg in the world.
I lost my mom due to complications with the delivery, I overheard someone saying she lost too much blood but thank God the baby survived. So there I was at 6 years old with my depressed step dad and a new born sister. Apparently, Mr Francis couldn’t handle the loss and couldn’t bear to take care of me and the baby so we were sent to Aunty Fati in Ibadan.
Aunty Fati wasn’t married and it seemed like she didn’t have any plans to get married. She was all about her business and the money, she wanted to be the richest amala seller in Ibadan. She was kind but still very strict and because she had to take care of my baby sister while running her business, I had to take care of myself from a very young age. I would walk to school and back, I quite enjoyed it because I was very inquisitive; so I would read all of the signs and posters, look into shops and imagine myself in some of those fancy clothes.
We had spent 6 years with Aunty Fati and on one of my trips back home, while I was busy singing along to the King Sunny Ade song playing in the shop nearby, I saw a man signaling to me, he shouted “Omo Fati!” so I guessed he was one of my aunt’s customers. My aunt had warned me never to stop by anywhere or speak to anyone on the way to or from school but for this man to call me Omo Fati then he must know my aunt. I pondered on it for a while and decided to go to him, there were a lot of people around so he couldn’t kidnap me. He said he was owing my aunt some money and he wanted to send me to her, I was happy to collect the money for my aunt, receiving money when she wasn’t expecting it always put her in a good mood and when she was in a good mood, everyone was happy.
He asked me to come inside his shop to collect the money and I went in innocently, he motioned for me to sit on the stool in the corner and locked the door of the shop with a surprising force. I knew instantly that something was wrong but I couldn’t move from the stool. His face became very hard and I tried to move towards the door, he pushed me to the floor and said “if you want to leave this place alive, you better cooperate. I have locked the door so nobody can hear you”
I got up and tried to reach for the door again, that was when I received what they call a dirty slap. My friends used to brag about stars they would see when they received certain slaps, I saw stars, birds and flashes of light. I knew I couldn’t leave and so I started to beg.
He had taken off his belt at this point and warned me again to cooperate, he said if I didn’t, he would give me 30 lashes. He told me to take off my clothes and I did; I didn’t want another slap and his belt looked very painful.
He told me to lie down and so I did because at this point I knew I had no other choice. As he walked towards me, he had this scary grin on his face, I accepted that this was where I was going to die and I prayed for God to accept my soul. He licked his disgusting lips as he came on top of me and in that moment I wished that my mom was still alive because if she was this wouldn’t be happening to me.
When he was finally done, he kissed my forehead and called me a good girl, he said he would tell everyone in the area that I was the sweetest girl he has ever known. He said he had a surprise for me and told me not to bother standing up. As he stepped out of the shop, I tried to pull myself together but I couldn’t even get up, I was in so much pain. I could hear some voices outside and so I screamed for help, I screamed at the top of my voice and finally saw someone coming into the shop. It was another man and he had a strange limp, I was hoping he was coming to help me but he also had that same scary look. I started to beg, I told him I just wanted to go home, that my aunty was waiting for me. He didn’t say a word, he just took off his trousers like the first man and assaulted me further. It happened with one more man who came in laughing, he said that he heard I was very sweet and he wanted his own turn.
At the end if it all, I didn’t try to move. I felt that my life was over and I couldn’t go back home. After what seemed like an hour, the first man came in, threw my clothes at me and ordered me to get dressed and get out. It was dark by the time I came out and I already knew I was in trouble with my aunt.
I got home and was met with a similar slap to the one I received earlier in the day, Aunty Fati was furious. School closed at 3 and I was coming in at 7, what kind of irresponsible child would do that, didn’t I know she would be worried. She spends all her time and money on me and my sister and this is the thanks she gets? I left her alone to attend to the shop and my sister. She called me wicked, selfish and cruel. I knew that I would not be able to tell her what happened, would she even believe me? She would probably call me a bad girl and say it was my fault for going to the shop.
I was only trying to make her happy by collecting the money that was supposedly owed to her…
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.
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*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality