Growing up, abuse didn’t have a name. It was never something that was discussed or even addressed. I believe our grandparents, our elders refused to acknowledge that there was a problem.
Abuse was prevalent and it happened in every other household..but nobody spoke about it, and nothing was done about it.
I remember my granny and I went to visit an aunt who lived on a farm. It was a real farm where vegetables were grown and had to be sowed when the time was right. And we’ll all jump in to help. I remember how I use to ran barefoot through the fields, picking the best carrots and potatoes and then fill up my basket and then fill up the cart. It was magical. I loved the feeling of the sand pushing up through my toes! We would be out in the fields for most of the day but the best part was the feast that was always waiting. A warm vegetables stew with freshly baked bread and there was always dessert with a cup of black koffiehuis coffee. Rice and milk was an unknown luxury. Bread was baked on a daily basis and coffee was freshly brewed and always regularly available.
The house was always buzzing with people and that aunt had..hmmm I think eight or ten children. So you can imagine what it was like to feed everyone, cleaning up, standing in a queue for a bath and then finally going to bed. My youngest cousin would start telling ghost stories and as much as it bothered me and most times prevented me from sleep, I would listen intently and make the necessary noices.
I was always one to easily trust, in fact I am still like that…I trust people very easily and I always keep an open mind. This is hardly a good thing or not always a good thing. My story is a testament of it..
In this particular household, there were five brothers which the youngest were about three years older than me.. I could’ve been seven or eight years old at the time. Yes, I remember things..actually as I told a friend recently, I have selective memory. And sometimes this is necessary because some of the memories are too painful to remember and at times you suppress it and other times the brain either refuse to forget or you choose not to forget.
I was treated as the little princess and I would happily jump on a lap, or give a kiss and a hug. Walking in underwear was never something that I had to think about. Getting dress by one of my male cousins felt as normal as breathing.
On this particular day “he” (lets call him just that) called me into his room and said he has a gift for me. He pulled out a small box and it had the most beautiful pair of gold sleeper earrings in! I think I might have been wearing a shorts or a dress…I can’t remember that detail.
I got onto his lap and gave him a bug hug and a kiss! I was so taken by my gift and hardly noticed that anything was wrong. In any case, why would I think that anything was wrong, or how would I have known..I was still very young. And all that I knew as a child is that adults are your protectors from harm, they make you feel safe, they keep you safe. He then put me down to stand in front of him (I close my eyes and see it as if it happened yesterday..) and continued to put the earrings into my ears. I was still full of excitement!
The next minute he runs his hands over the front of my body…that was the first shock but I thought maybe it was his way of giving the adult affection. I however didn’t feel comfortable and stepped back. Next he pulls me towards him. Not too rough but a strong enough pull to ensure I stand between his legs.
I started feeling uncomfortable as I remember his hard breathing in my face and the sheen of sweat on his upper lip. I was already starting to protest and tears wasn’t far away. All I thought was that this doesn’t feel right and I wondered where everyone else was and how am I going to get away from him. He told me not to cry…well this brought on the silent tears as he then told me to be quiet and that he loves me and won’t hurt me..
(goodness, this is difficult and more so because I never told anyone at the time but only a good friend and my cousin…and only recently)
I could only shake my head, tears and snot everywhere, hoping he would stop if I promise to do what he tells me to. Well he even went as far as wiping my tears and snot whilst making promises of not hurting me and how much he loves me. I must have closed my eyes, desperately trying to block out what was about to open and also to stop myself of shaking like a leaf because next I felt him fondling me over my underwear. I immediately jumped away but because he had me in a tight grip I didn’t jump far enough! By now I was wailing softly and this unfortunately spurred him on even more and the next moment he shoved his finger, luckily I still had my underwear on but the force of this action was still very painful.
Only God knew how I got away from his strong clutches, but I gave a hard pull , almost fell backwards and ran out of the room! I ran straight to the fields and remember thinking how am I going to explain what just happened.. who am I going to tell, will they believe me?
And then came the unbearable guilt. The guilty feeling because I believed I’ve done something to deserve what happened. I deserved it because maybe I shouldn’t be so giving, so loving, so trusting. And I shouldn’t walk around in only my underwear…
And because I felt 100% responsible, I told no one. I was too ashamed and disgusted and used to scrub myself for days amidst silent tears.
Then there was the abuse I’ve experienced at the hands of my stepmother which I’m not going to dwell into again as I have written about it in my earlier story The Fairytale.
Now as a grown up I always wonder whether any of this left ” a mark”. Did it have a consequence? Did it alter my character?
Am I scarred?
I don’t know.. What I do know is that I’m a fiercely protective mom, maybe even borderline going a bit overboard. If my adult sons tell me they going to friends, I give them a lecture as long as the river Nile..
I never wet the bed, I never bit my nails, my eyes never twitched, I never cried for anything or out of the blue, I never had nightmares and never did bad at school. In fact I excelled at most things, academically I was an A science student..ugh that was boring and dropped it in grade something, I was an athlete and loved sports, still do, I could socialize.
Hmmmm so I always wonder if there’s anything wrong with me. Am I carrying unseen scars…