After spending weeks interviewing a young victim of child sexual abuse and her mother, journalist HANNAH OJOhas more questions that trouble her. This article is a product of those questions, a walk in the shoes of mother and child.
At the time she began to show depressing signs of an obtuse child, you pretended not to notice. At that time her voice became miffed at the breakfast table, you were blithely unaware of the changes to her physiology. One glance at her, another glance at Happiness, both pairs of eyes met your stare and looked down.
“It could be an innocent intimacy between a father and a child,” you thought.
You did not know that sometimes when he placed her on his laps, his fingers caressed her clitoris. Some other times, they wandered farther, into the crevices of her vagina. Did you notice her sheepish grins at those times or did you close your eyes to the “unusual” paternal bonding? Did you think it was just your imagination playing tricks? Did you pray it away?
Perhaps a part of your heart sighed with gratitude. Gratitude that you, an ‘after-one’ landed a ‘tear-rubber’ husband. He was 30, you were 29 when you met. Now, 14 months later, you have a nine-month-old son, fruit of his ‘redemptive love’. He saved your face from the shame of single parenting.
You had her in your second year at the University of Benin and her father refused to commit to the pregnancy. So you were left alone, with a jeering world, to bear the burden. Then Happiness happened and you knew no sorrow until recently, when the lids were opened, the first day you heard the sounds from her vagina. That was when you discovered that she was being molested by Happiness, the same man who promised you happiness.
That day in May, when I met you at the Egbeda police station, you looked forlorn as tears poured down your eyes. You reaffirmed that you did not know he was doing this to her.
I had interviewed your little girl at the office of the NGO you first reported the case to at Akowonjo. Later, I had watched her at the Mirabel Rape Centre when you went to collect the test results. There, my heart broke at the sight of other little girls, your daughter’s age, whose vaginae had been forcefully ravaged by wandering adult penises.
Your daughter’s words when I questioned her still ring in my head. Her bemused tone, her fearful shaky voice, as she spoke of the first time Happiness touched her:
Your own words:
When I started noticing that she was farting through her vagina, I knew someone was molesting her. So I threatened to report her to my brother and she got scared. When I asked her who was doing it, she said it was Uncle Happiness (my husband) and the food in her hands dropped.
The food in her hands dropped many times before that. Once when you knocked for a long time before the door was opened and ‘I was playing games with Uncle Happiness,” was the excuse. You never asked: what games? You did not know that Uncle Happiness was playing hide-and-seek with your daughter, hiding his penis in her vagina, seeking pleasure from it.
The food in her hands dropped those times you returned to the house unexpectedly and you saw her tying a towel, even though she had her bath before you left. You remembered the lies, how she said that she needed to bathe again because her body itches. Little did you know that she was bathing off the stench of his semen? Little did you know that she was washing away the memory of the act.
Soon, your beloved Happiness fondled her vagina the way he fondled yours most nights. You had wondered why he wasn’t reaching out to you of late. Little did you know that when the surge of desire swelled up within and his pants bulged, he would rather lay with your eight-year-old than you or another lithe beauty outside the house.
Months after filing the report of your daughter’s fate for the newspaper I work with, I came across a story titled ‘Mother of the Year’ by Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, in her book Speaking for Myself. Permit me to quote.
According to the newspaper report, Angelina Kyomugisha from Rugyerera village in Kashari County, Mbara district, Uganda, was weeding her banana farm, when she heard her 10-year-old daughter cry out. The cries persisted, and she went over to have a look, only to find 40-year-old Geofrey Mugarura ‘defiling’ her little girl. Angelina took this horrifying scene in….she pounced on Geoffrey and promptly cut off his penis. Just like that. Then she flung it as far as she could into the bush. (Page 24)
What happened to the severed penis of that Ugandan defiler? A dog picked it and ran. Now that is just dessert, well served!
Since you are now engaged in a battle for the sanctity of your daughter’s vagina, I salute your courage to report. You will however need more than courage. I pray you find the strength to avenge the loss of your daughter’s innocence. When you told me Happiness’ family members were already causing an uproar, I shuddered at how long you will be able to hold on to the battle. I pray you will be strong and not be victimised, just like many before you.
The last time we spoke on phone, your tired voice confessed that the strain of catering to the needs of two children has turned you into a beast of burden. You cried for help to ease your financial burden, only that in a society like ours philanthropy is not yet a thriving culture. After the call, I wondered: What becomes of your daughter’s promise to build her grandmother a twin duplex after she becomes an architect?
I have written my article. However, my mind keeps going back to your daughter, to you. Her life may not be the same again but I hope that she finds justice. I hope that you find justice. When you do, tell her of Happiness and how he ruined your daughter’s happiness. When you see her, tell her of dreams abandoned, of potentials cut short by men who failed to control their desires. When you find her, tell her to mete justice on bulging pants that ruin the sanctity of blooming vaginae. Tell her to use her sword on men wandering in young vaginae, hiding their penis in small holes, seeking pleasure in wrong places.