Too many whispers, too much silence!

Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
Posted December 10, 2017 from Zambia
Breaking the silence, taking action!

"I was very hesitant to add my voice. I was worried about how the world would see me, worried about the prejudice or stigma I had always felt", she confided in me. "I felt the victim and felt guilty that I might have done something to bring about the sexual abuse.”

The abuse started when Natasha was a young girl by someone she should have been able to trust, a member of her own family.

"When I was 11, one of the older boys of the family, I think in his late teens asked me to touch his erect penis!"

Such imagery may appear shocking. You may think the language too graphic? But there it is, a shocking tale of an unfortunate child in an unacceptable and deeply disturbing situation. Who could she turn to tell and would they even believe her?

She was brought up by her father after her mother passed away. She stayed silent and tried to make sense of the ordeal she had been through. She wanted to tell her father about the boy's advances but could not bring herself to do so.

Luckily, her relation did not stay long with Natasha and her family. Nonetheless the experience left its scars. The memories have never passed and it still makes her shiver just thinking about it. She still finds the incident difficult to talk about.

After the death of her father she was taken in by relatives. She was very lonely and had a difficult time fitting in. She formed a close bond with her cousin l. He was kind initially and seemed to want to help her adjust. Her trust soon evaporated when he too began to make sexual advances toward 15 year old Natasha demanding she do ‘things’ to him. She managed keep him at bay.

“I'd pretend to be sick, I made up all sorts excuses to avoid him. I wrote in my diary everyday. I kept asking myself the same question, why had my parents forsaken me. I wondered what would happen when the excuses ran out."

Natasha is all grown up now, an adult with a daughter and son. She is working hard to create a better life for her children and children’s children. Even as an adult she has had to deal with unwarranted attention. She recalls receiving an inappropriate text message from a senior manager with whom she worked. She ignored the text. The texts kept on coming. She agonised whether to tell someone but she felt uncomfortable with approaching Human Resources. As a mother of two, she was extremely worried for her job. She managed a team of young women who saw her as a strong bad-ass goal-getter-woman able to stand her ground and she feared she may lose their respect. So she kept quiet and said nothing, afraid of the consequences on her family and her reputation as a woman.

“The stigma, the blame, the ‘victim’ syndrome, you know. I should have said something but I felt the world would have judged me, the victim, for whistle blowing and I would feel more condemned than the perpetrator. Which is a not an uncommon reaction to such events but needs to be corrected sooner rather than later.”

So I too I eventually hash tagged myself, with a simple #Metoo. Nothing further. In solidarity with Natasha and others like her and for the sexual harassment, I too had experienced over the years.

But is that it? Just a count, a number on Twitter and Facebook to increase the frequency of the trend? I did not feel better, no one questioned what I posted. Maybe someone did noticed but no one ever asked anything further. I guess, I was expecting someone to ask me who had sexually harassed or assaulted me, to ask me for what sort of justice I sought. And just like most items that trend on social media, this too would pass into obscurity I thought to myself. I agree that talking about it and coming out and sharing our stories is a huge step towards removing the veil on this evil, but l know we need to do more.

What happens when social media hooks on to a new story? Do the victims silently slip back into obscurity? It is imperative to shine a light on the perpetrators and demand more justice for women who have been abused. #MeToo is a great start but is it enough? What if we named and shamed that ‘supervisor’, 'relative', 'uncle' in public for their wrong doing and heap praise on the victims for their courage to speak out?

This post was submitted in response to After #MeToo: Stories of Change.

Comments 23

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  • K C Milan
    Dec 11, 2017
    Dec 11, 2017

    Thank you so much for writing such a wonderful real story !!!

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Thank you K C Milan

  • Olutosin
    Dec 11, 2017
    Dec 11, 2017

    Bless you for this article. Bless Natasha's heart and soul. We can't be silent. We shall continue yo speak against all forms of violence against women and girls.

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Dec 13, 2017
    Dec 13, 2017

    Indeed Olutosin, thank you. We shall continue to speak out!

  • Sophie Ngassa
    Dec 13, 2017
    Dec 13, 2017

    Dear Lulu, Thanks for talking about this very important issue that makes females really feel bad.Yes,we must find some other ways to keep on fighting against sexual harassment until change is visible. We will have to demand for justice.

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Yes, Sophie. Thank you so much for your comment. We must indeed continue the fight.

  • Tamarack Verrall
    Jan 27
    Jan 27

    Dear Lulu,

    It is so important that you have been able to be a support for Natasha, and that you have added your name along with the millions of us with #MeToo. You have raised a critically important question,  "#MeToo is a great start but is it enough?" and your immediate answer, to name those responsible and to heap praise and support on the victims, is the best answer. Also by making sure that Natasha and others know that this is happening worldwide, and that many of us are working to literally change what has been embedded as and accepted as "culture", a culture of violence that we do not accept. In my country at this point we are finally reaching the tipping point after having had many years of each woman feeling isolated, and just this week having government officials fired because of enough women coming forward in support of each other. I hope that by knowing that this is everywhere and we are many working on it, Natasha and women providing support like you, and coming forward with #MeToo will feel not alone. I know that it adds to the strength of this globally, that we can report that a woman in Zambia has stated #MeToo.

    In sisterhood and with a hug across the ocean,

    Tam

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Thank you so much for the support Tam. Ah reading about the progress you are making is refreshing. Encouraging! Thank you.

  • Lily Habesha
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Dear Lulu,
    What a heart breaking story!
    The victims stayed and stigmatized. What a world! We've no protectors when we were children, and even if we dared and spoke up, nobody was there to hear.

    We have to ashamed them.
    #metoo

    Yours,
    Lily

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Indeed Lili, what a world! We must change this situation. Speaking up and speaking out is a great start.

  • Vivian Emesowum
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    You did so well to share your story and desire to be celebrated. Many of our challenges at childhood are standing stone for our lifting higher today.

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Thank you for your support Vivian.

  • Araba
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    My dear, the little steps we take everyday, has an impact on somebody's life. Happy that you have taken a bold step to right the wrongs of such injustice in our society. Keep it up!

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Thank you for the support Araba. Thank you.

  • Valéria Barbosa
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Dear Lulu, I wonder how hard it must have been for you to quote your story.
    Perhaps your questions do not have answers because they are so painful, but the questioning will echo the world's chants and other girls will read and may strengthen to seek help.
    Gratitude for opening the chest of your memories and my affection and admiration for the strong, warlike woman who has an important voice of change.

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Thank you so much for the encouragement Valeria. It is difficult yes, but we must persevere until there is change. Thank you again for the support.

  • Karen Quiñones-Axalan
    Mar 08
    Mar 08

    Hello, Lulu,

    I could relate with this story, together with the sexually harassed women in the Philippines. We were quiet about the incident because of the shame and gossip to the victim. I finally shared my story in World Pulse, and I am encouraging the victims I know to do the same. But they said they needed more time.

    I agree that we should create a positive affirmation to a victim who breaks her silence, and place the shame to the perpetrator.

    Thank you for voicing out your valid questions, and for sharing this story.

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 26
    Mar 26

    Thank you Karen for your support and for sharing your story too. I think it's a great start when we share our stories. This way we can also speak for those that are not ready as we work to create a safe space for more to stand in their truth.

  • Musenge  Musomali
    Mar 09
    Mar 09

    Thank you Lulu for sharing. There are so many women who have been sexually molested and harassed. It is always good to read more of such stories. Thumbs up!!

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 26
    Mar 26

    Thanks sis. Thank you for inspiring me.

  • William Shipilo
    Mar 26
    Mar 26

    Well written.

  • Lumbiwe Lulu Limbikani
    Mar 26
    Mar 26

    Thank you

  • Mauwa Brigitte
    Mar 30
    Mar 30

    Hi!
    Thank you for your story that is so touching, you must help other girls to be used to denounce the perpetrators of sexual violence. Have you ever heard of United Nations Security Resolutions 1325 and 1820?
    Be brave to help your nation, go with the strength you have, you will win.