A Courageous Conversation about Rape with my older sister

Margaret Ngunang
Posted October 7, 2016 from United States

The year was 1974 when I was raped by the husband of a distant cousin. I had been sent by my aunt whom I lived with to take food to her niece in the city. When I arrived she had left and gone to her farm on the outskirts of the city as it is the custom for families in the city to have another compound on their farms.

Her husband drugged me with beer, sexually assaulted and threatened that if I dare told anyone I will die. I remember vomiting and feeling very afraid and sick to my stomach but when I saw my much older sister at the market on my way back I broke down and started sobbing and told her that "Medoza" made magic and produced a scarf out of paper and told me not to tell anyone or I will die. My older sister must have found it strange that giving a 12 year old a scarf should be cause for a death threat; and so shared the story with my birth mother who lived in a different city.

My mother traveled all evening to get to my aunt's house in our village. When she arrived, my aunt was surprised to see her and when she disclosed what her reason for the visit was, my aunt scoffed and told my birth mother that the man was known for making scarves out of paper all the time and giving them away; to which my mother responded that she had lost too many children and was not about to lose another one to a magician. My birth mother told my aunt that we were to leave the house immediately which we did and spent the night at my mother's cousin. My aunt had a nightmare about the magician and from then on believed that he was out to harm me and never spoke to him again. I was taken to different traditional healers who cleansed me with all sorts of traditional herbs to rehabilitate me from the evil spirits cast on me by "Medoza".

I was cleansed physically but the sexual, emotional and psychological damage had been done and it will take its tool and manifested itself in my early 20s where I started to self doubt, feeling very useless and hopeless about my life after a failed arranged marriage, fraught with domestic violence, which I ended and left with a child. I did overcome those dark days by refocusing on getting an education and doing very well in school and becoming rebellious to all traditional family norms; where I started dating a European which was still a taboo in my culture and eventually, went on to graduate college.

The monster or self-doubt showed its head again in 1998 when I was living alone in the U.S. and had just had a child with a man who told me I was not good enough. This time, I told the story in a narrative form in a letter which I sent to my immediate older sister and lamented the sufferings I had gone through having missed the opportunity of growing up with my birth mother who raised all of them and how I lost every sense of self, the day I was raped. It was hard but very freeing and I have continued to own and share the narrative in my own words. I used to fantasize owning a handgun and marching into the rapist's home and killing him but I don't feel that way anymore...I guess like they say, time help heal the wounds!!!

My initial fears were those of death which is why I never quite disclosed the rape but choose to tell the story of the scarf instead. Being vulnerable and sharing the shaming part of my life history, straightened my connection and bond to my immediate older sister who I am still very close with to this day. I learned to own the story and tell it in my own words not let the narrative own my life and this turned out, to elevate the sense of guilt, shame and hopelessness that often stays with rape victims and survivors. It made me a stronger woman, sister, mother and a fierce protector of my own children and other females in my family; a strong social justice advocate on women rights and a good clinician who work with victims of trauma and domestic violence.

Courageous Conversations
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Comments 10

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Sunny_Day
Oct 08, 2016
Oct 08, 2016

You had a hard life but at least now you're strong and educated and are doing something good with your life. Good for you!

Margaret Ngunang
Oct 08, 2016
Oct 08, 2016

Thank you Sunny Day.  Just try to make a difference one person at a time and hoping that it will trickle down.

Anne Dupont
Oct 08, 2016
Oct 08, 2016

Dear Mngunaug,

You are brave and courageous! You have had some terrible things happen to you and now you are using those experiences to help and inspire others to take action as well as help yourself to heal. You have found your voice and are a great role model!  Thank you for sharing your story.

Warmly,  Anne

Margaret Ngunang
Oct 08, 2016
Oct 08, 2016

Thank you for your support Anne.  All I can do as a survivor is share my experience and hope that it will inspire others to move pass some of their own traumatic experiences.

Great appreciation for your supportive feedback.

kianac
Oct 09, 2016
Oct 09, 2016

Hello Mngunaug,

   It is very hard being a woman. Whether it is the little representation of woman in power, the gender pay gape, blaming the woman for sexual assaults/rape, and so on, our society has a long way to go. Thank you for sharing your story. I've had an obstacle as well hidden within me and it took me a long time to tell others what happened. I was scared but telling someone what happened taught me to not blame myself anymore. I believe you are an incredibly strong woman. I am still a teenager and trying to discover who I am while also struggling against the struggles of being a woman and person of color. Your story taught me that pass all the struggles, I write my own narrative. Thank you for sharing your story.

With warmth, Kiana 

Margaret Ngunang
Oct 10, 2016
Oct 10, 2016

Thank you for sharing your own story, challenges and suffering on the violations of basic human rights, that occur very often in our societies and cultures and are not known or taken care of because the girl child is not supported and raised to feel that they have rights also like the boys and men.

Please always remember that it was never your fault and there is no reason to feel guilty or ashamed of the transgression that took away your sense of innocence.  It is hard because it is very confusing and brings up a lot of depressive thoughts that make you feel less than as a result of the traumatic event and sometimes the only way to explain it is to turn your anger inwards towards the self. Try to turn it outwards either in journals or talking to a mentor or someone who understands your pain and empathizes with it without judging.

The after effects of such an even is what is called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in trauma studies and the best way to take care of the situation is to own the narrative and share it in your own words and use the situation as a teaching tool for other young people and families.  Find a mentor who understands you and can help you along the way because it is a hard, painful road to travel.  It is also,such a rampant problem that I cannot begin to explain how often it occurs especially among and within families. 

I stand and grief with you in your pain and loss and joining my voice to yours so that we can move forward together holding and supporting each other along the way.  Stay strong and love yourself first and foremost and all will be well.

Warmest greetings and peace, MNgunang

helen.ng
Oct 10, 2016
Oct 10, 2016

Thank you for sharing your story! I am so sorry for your experiences, but you are so strong for having come this far from your hardships. Keep your head up!

Margaret Ngunang
Oct 10, 2016
Oct 10, 2016

Thank you Helen.ng for your support.  This seems to be the only way out of the hole where you plunged when your innocence is snatched away from you at a tender age.  The road has been hard and long but helpful also in the fact that I am also helping others heal from their own traumas on a daily basis.

Your voice and support is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, MNgunang

Manmeet Kaur
Oct 11, 2016
Oct 11, 2016

Dear Margaret, thank you so much for writing this. This is such a beautiful account of how much sharing, sisterhood, and speaking up matters. Thanks for inspiring so many of your readers with the same spirit. Love.

Margaret Ngunang
Nov 09, 2016
Nov 09, 2016

Thank you for your support ManmeetK.

In Sisterhood we stand with love and care.

Mngunang