Sin. It is a word we get to hear in Sunday school, at home and in school.
In those good old days, one's life was directed by the Bible. Our parents raised us up with values and rules drawn from the Bible and we got to know what sin is even before understanding what it truly is. But do we know how we become sinners? That I don't know. The story I am about to tell is that of a young girl, and for this story and to keep her protected I would call her, Mah Nfoh.
My name is Mah Nfoh, in my tribal language, it means queen mother and this is my story.
My life has always been filled with action. As a little girl born with a disease that society, medical experts in my country did not seem to understand, I grew up very inquisitive but always in my little world. Well, I related to the world, but I made sure I kept some parts of the world out of my own little world. Why, I know everyone reading would ask, well for my own peace of mind. I did not want anyone looking at me with those eyes they usually do when I get ill or when my eyes become greenish-yellow and my skin gets that yellowish hew which doctors said is caused by jaundice.
But my world changed when I turned 6 or seven. I can not really say, my memory is not very clear. But all I know is that I was in class 3 in primary school. That was when we had a new house help come home with my dad. He was a native of the area where my parents worked and my dad had explained to my mum that his dad had pleaded that my dad keeps him with us, so as to train him to either get a job or encourage him to go back to school. But for the time being, he was to live with us and help in the house while working as a shopkeeper in the little shop my mum had as a side business besides her job. For my story, I will call him Oratio.
Oratio was good at his work. He was caring towards my baby brother and quick in learning. So quick he started speaking our traditional language and teaching my baby brother to speak. My parents were thrilled and everyone loved Oratio and the effort he was doing to learn, educate himself with the books and teaching my parents were giving him.
But then, there was another part of Oratio, that I later came to discover. A part that turned my life around, left me wondering and asking questions that a child of 6 or 7-year-old should not ask.
I used to love playing with Oratio after school. Being the one who came home the earliest since school for kids my age closed early, I would play with Oratio and my baby brother. All seemed normal. Normal for a little girl to play with her brothers. Yes, Oratio was considered by everyone in my home as a big brother.
I cannot remember how it all started but all I remember is that Oratio started fingering me. Touching here and there, asking me to take a bath with him in the bathroom, things I never did. I kept feeling that this was wrong, but Oratio would explain that it was just playing.
It got to a time when Oratio would want me to touch my baby brother and I would refuse, that is when I had the worst thought in my mind, that this play was wrong. Very wrong. I stopped playing with Oratio and kept to myself at home. Several times I came this close to telling my mum who would notice a thing or two but I would feel like I was evil, I was sinful and I would cry and stay quiet. Oratio tried to get me to play with him several times. I kept him away with a warning that if he ever tried, I would tell my parents and he stopped. Later, my dad sent him away to live in our family home in the village and start a trade of his own. I was relieved, I tucked everything inside me and continued living my life. A life filled with a battle with sickness, stigma, live in a family-like any other. I think I got to forget this painful episode, Or maybe I kind of wiped it from my head so as not to think of it. Hahaha, a selective memory loss I would say.
Years later I learnt what happened to me was sexual abuse. I felt dirty and maybe some of the errors I did in life and in love are because I still felt I was sinful and unworthy of anything good. That what happened was my fault. The fact that I almost got my baby brother into this hurtful spiral made me feel even dirtier. I was a bad kid, I told myself.
But then I came to know God and His mercies. When you have seen death several times and woken up to a new day of life, believe me, you learn to trust in the Lord and I did. I asked for forgiveness, I forgave myself and I forgave Oratio.
I think this episode of my life made me be the mother figure I am now to my brother. Always watching out for him, even now when he is an adult.
As I write, I imagine the number of kids like me who have gone through the same and have, like me, stayed quiet. How many adults have had this kind of burden to trail with all through their lives? I ask what can be done in the home to watch over those we bring in to take care of our kids or the people we bring in to help them, whom we consider almost as family. All I can say as a parent is that we need to be watchful and we need to teach our children maybe what is play and what is not play. What signs and actions should be reported immediately.
Hmmm(sigh), this is my story and I hope parents reading it will take a look around them, around their kids, and ensure everyone around is really taking care of the kids and not doing something else with them when the parents turn their backs.
Let's be watchful together. Together let us stand up against child sexual abuse.