The Untold Trauma (Building through ruins)
There are moments in the life of a person which can determine the entire course of their lives. That sleek moment when the greed, selfishness and carelessness of another, can rub you of your youth, your joy and sometime your life, (drive you to suicide) is what I call the masked pained. Well I believe many people have had this moment at least once in their life time but not many can muster the courage to talk about it. Some people lack the words; some fear the stigma, while others are just too traumatised to speak.
After coming face to face with death some days back; I realised that one of the reasons I am still alive is to tell my story so that some girl or boy out there can be inspired to live their best life despite the traumas they have lived.
This is the story of my untold trauma behind the smiles.
Life for me from primary four to secondary school was not one you would term as stress free and walking on petals of roses though, many people had that impression. Yes I was from a lovely home, I really did not lack for any material thing a girl could want. I was enrolled in one of the best schools at the time and parents were considered as well to do people in the community. However, my realities away from material needs seemed to differ from popular believe. Life had started changing when I started experiences things that no girl would desire to experience in their life time.
Life for me changed drastically at the age of twelve. My dad had been sick for a while but since I was in boarding school, I did not have a vivid picture of what his health was like at the moment. It was the holidays and my dad was scheduled for a spinal cord operation at Bamenda. We lived at the staff quarters of the same school I attended since dad was transferred there (he is a teacher).
We had a visitor so nice and friendly, he was a saint or so it seemed, he exhibited all the traits of a trust worthy person so it was just normal for my parents to entrust their kids to his care and travel for my fathers’ surgery. Oh! How much I loved this guest. He was so friendly and playful, he even prayed with us most nights before bed.
That day came when the night seemed colder than the days passed; the weather seemed to eco words of fear and pain all at once however, I could not understand its language. The branches of trees all danced some confusing dance all in a bit to follow the direction of the wind. All these atmospheric changes gave way for rain so heavy that we felt the roof will be pulled off. With all these experiences the atmosphere gave us, my siblings fell into deep sleep as the weather seemed to be soothing to our faculties. The night was like one of those Friday nights when you wish it could rain so that your night could be awesome. This visitor who happened to be our cousin (was older than us all so was addressed as “Uncle”), tucked my siblings into bed while I stayed up listening to the wind blow, drops of rain tapping at the roof top and the mumbling of thunder. I always loved such moments since it would always produce some beautiful melody to my ears.
During his stay at our house, he was to sleep in my room since my dad (being a scientist) had turned the guest room to his study where he did all sorts of experiments. It wasn’t long after my siblings had gone to sleep that I too fell asleep on the couch in the sitting room. Uncle (unexpectedly) took me to my room (which was at the moment his room) and put me to sleep in as well. I was too sleepy to notice I wasn’t sleeping in the same room as my siblings however, it was my bed all the same and the feeling was normal. I cannot tell how long it took for him to lock up and come in to sleep because I was already deep asleep.
It was so late that night when he turned and wrapped me in his arms as if to shield me from the dreadful lightning and thunderstorm outside. What seemed like comfort to me soon became a tug of war when he started asking questions like “Baby why is your body so warm?” “Are you sick”? The former statement became a statement I grew to hate when a man asked since; it often takes me back to this night.
Still in deep sleep, I just curled in his arm and gave no respond. He started touching me all round and caressing my seemingly grown breast which was just starting to shoot. All of this made little me at the time very uncomfortable and in a bit to complain, he sealed my mouth with his big hand which he placed over my face. It was then that the real nightmare started. He told me words like; “I just want to take care of you because you are my baby girl”
In all my ignorance and innocence, I could not understand what was going on but something in me told me the way he was touching me wasn’t right. ‘In life, we can get crushed when the people we expect to protect and love us turn out to be those who hurt us and ruin our lives’. In this moment of confusion and being wide awake then, my little self started struggling to get away from his grip but he being 28years old or so at the time, was too strong for a tiny 12year old girl. My confusion then turned to fear and the fear to defence; I was in a situation where I had to fight for freedom. I remember feeling in penis so hard against my thighs. The struggle went on for a while then; I hit my chest at the side of the bed and screamed but with the storm outside, my voice was masked. The experience of being forced into an act your mind finds hard to understand is a nightmare no young girl or boy should go through. Till now, I don’t think I have the right vocabularies to explain the excruciating pains I went through.
By some stroke of luck for me at the time, he then realised the harm he had done and decided to leave me there (bleeding) and head to the sitting room. What was most strange to me was that; while in the sitting room, he started playing some gospel melody (which now serves as a nightmare to me) like a psychopath. What I still cannot wrap my fingers around, is how he could sit there and worship God after what he had just done. All this happened with my siblings sleeping in the other room and my dad getting ready for surgery.
I stayed in the dark, glued to the end of my bed with my knees drawn to my chest and my arm wrapped around my feet. With fear in my heart, pain in my abdomen and confusion in my mind, I cried all night. Finally it was morning and my siblings were awake. I ran to the school field behind our house and cried for about an hour or so before being brought back home by a concerned neighbour who found me crying and stained but was of the opinion that it was the first time I was seeing my menstrual flow as a growing girl. It was strange how adults back then would just let children understand something as menstrual flow without properly educating them on it. Worst, is the fact that our neighbour just assumed without asking me any question even after noticing I could barely walk straight.
One would think that this uncle would at least feel remorseful hmmm, he wasn’t. To make matters worse, he increased my pain and confusion when he cornered me that morning and talked me into not revealing the truth to anyone. He tried explaining to me that whatever he did could not be termed incest. I did not have the slightest idea of what the word ‘incest’ meant. He went on to justify himself by making a statement which completely changed the course of my life and that of my parents in the long run (that is a story for a later time). Then, he went on and pulled a 5000frs note from his pocket and slipped into my left hand. He gave me as a gift (it seemed he was paying me off). I remember leaving that money in my parent’s room because that was where he actually cornered me. It was as I grew older that I came to understand the implication of that action. The most aching reality at that time for me was the fact that; my saint of an uncle had become the monster in my nightmares. Did I mention why I address him as a saint? Well, this is the bitter part; he was a Priest of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he was home for a little brake or vacation from the seminary.
The Never Ending Nightmare
Being sexually assaulted at age 12 and left to deal with the traumas that followed after, is no place for any child. I was broken from within. It was like the world which looked so bright became so deem. I could literally see the bitterness within me grow day in and out. I had a big journey to sail through as my life unfolded.
My parents returned home and our monster of an uncle left home like nothing happened. My mum noticed changes in me but was so busy looking after my dad to have really taken a deep look into the failing glow in my eyes. One of my siblings kept asking if I was feeling okay since she saw blood role down my nose the day after the incident. At that time, I never knew that the knock on my chest that dreadful night, had caused a scar in my chest. This scar was internal so no one knew of it (not even me) until I started having pains in my chest.
I remember trying several times to tell mum but she was always too busy to notice. In fact, I wanted to speak but never had the vocabulary to use. I had never been told that a man could rape a girl. What am I saying? I didn’t even know the word rape. I was never educated about what a man or boy (or anyone for that matter) should never do to or around me. All I know is; I wanted to tell my mum what that saintly uncle did to me and that it still hurts but she was too busy. It is very important for every parent to sit their kids down and talk to them about their bodies without sugar quoiting words. Most African parents would never say ‘virgina’ or ‘penis’ when referring to the female and male sex organs and that is the start of a big problem. Age appropriate sex education is not a taboo but a blessing when well handled. If only I had the right vocabulary ahead of time, I would never have had to deal with that pain bottled up inside of me and building into a ticking time bomb.
It was now time to go back to school and my parents were still unaware of the trauma their daughter was in. I got back to the dormitory and then reality set in. I found it hard concentrating at school. I hated all my mail teachers and school mates. I could not stand the sight of a male classmate. Every night after preps followed by evening devotion, I would rush to my dorm, clean up, and climb up to my bed and just cry all night. I kept on feeling like my world was shrinking. I soon built a defence mechanism to shield my pain. I started behaving like a boy so that no man would look at me and admire me. Most importantly, I built this wall so that I could get into the minds of men and understand why my uncle will chose to hurt me that way. I became more aggressive by the day. Dealing with asthma in school, my mates will often point fingers at me while calling me a sickling. I was growing with so much anger, pain, frustration and bitterness. It wasn’t too long when my mum got fed up with my new behaviour that she called me to her office (she was the school nurse). She was so mad at me that she kept shouting down on me whenever I tried to speak. When I too got fed up of the shouting, I shouted back in anger and this time, the anger came with words that almost tore her heart out. For the first time, I told my mum that I blamed them for bringing a snake into the house and leaving me at its fangs. My mum was confused then asked what I meant. I then said that my uncle hurt me while they were away (I still didn’t know the word rape but my mum got the image fast). She was shocked, promised my uncle hell and then wrapped her face in her kabba (a big gown sewn with African fabric) and wept. At that moment, all I had was anger and bitterness toward everyone. Lesson: if every sexual assault survivor is given as much attention as the perpetrator, many of them would heal faster. Most often we are so concerned about punishing the perpetrator and not on helping the survivor heal. We need more love, concern and psychological help before anything else.
One year became two and two years became three, before I knew it I had become more of a boy than a girl. My mum just went with the flow and kept buying me t-shirts, baggy pants and tennis shoes since I was most comfortable with them. I then found solace in the only thing that ever made me forget my pain; dancing. I danced while in church, when I took my bath, and even when I slept. I danced like a boy since my reality was more inclined to living like a boy. I have spent my life believing I was to blame but then I ask myself if it was a crime that I was just a little girl. The lessons I have learned are many so, through my organisation ‘BAE’s Pillar Foundation’ who's missio is to ;
empower young underprivileged girls and boys through formal education, capacity building programmes and mentorship as a means to combat teenage pregnancy and backstreet abortion in Urban and Rural Regions, of Cameroon.
We envisage a nation where young girls and boys no matter their background or education have equal opportunities at making healthy choices and maximizing their God given potentials as pillars of their families, communities and the world at large.
I spend my life educating and helping young girls build through their trauma so that my community can be better.
This story is being told this detailed, for the very first time.
I pray you out there reading, can come out too. It is not your fault that you were assaulted. Speak out now and let that pain out. Let’s come together and crush the undeserved stigma we get all because someone took advantage of our vulnerability.
I am Blessing Agbor Ekiko and I am ready to tell my story for your sakes.