My Parents Were Very Strict …But I was Abused For 15 Years!
Gloria Kanu (not real names) is the only child of her parents. She hails from Eastern Nigeria but grew up in one of the slums in Lagos, precisely Makoko. From age 5, Gloria became a victim of sexual abuse, even under the watch of her disciplinarian parents. Although currently receiving psycho-social support from CEE-HOPE Nigeria, a child’s right and welfare NGO, her experience presents profound lessons for parents, guardians and even growing children. Hear her story:
“I grew up right there in the slum where you know the norm of the day is for everybody to wake up and go about their normal chores for the day, sometimes without any particular focus in life. The slum is one place where there is so much indiscipline, where children are disrespectful and they don’t understand what it means to be educated. You cannot get a teenager of 15 or 16 years old that can even speak very good English. My parents made it mandatory that I get education, so they made me go to school. Besides, I’m always indoors; my parents don’t allow me go out. It’s either I am reading or having my siesta or doing some chores at home. My parents were very strict with discipline and they really taught me well because they wanted me to be able to compete with any other child outside.
But growing in the slums, which some refer to as ghetto has a way of influencing and shaping a child’s life negatively. For example, a girl of about 6 years may not know how to handle a broom and sweep but she is very good at insulting someone that is far older than her. A whole lot of boys living in the slum grow up with this mentality that they want to be touts; its either they want to be one car park chairman or something else. They don’t want to be educated; they don’t want to see the other side of life.
Another thing is that you see a girl of age 14, 15, 16 that doesn’t want to go to school, she wants to get married. And even at that, she wants to get married, stay in her husband’s house and as Iyale (senior wife) or Iyawo (junior wife). She just wants to stay by the road side, cook food and sell. She is content to have many children but does not want to send them to school.
So, you wake up in the morning, gallivant around and come back to bed to sleep. No vision, no mission, no aspiration, no goals, you are just there. My parents were like, ‘No, you will not live this kind of life’; you would have to make yourself outstanding.’ I see most of my mates, and they will be like, I wish I was in your shoes, I wish I was educated; I wish I had the kind of exposure you had. I tell them sometime, it’s not too late, or better late than never. So the slum is one place I don’t think is ideal to train a child. My parents, especially my dad keeps saying for you to get the best out of a child, you have to take the child out of the slum. The population there is very high; so also is the rate of immorality; it is very high. Hence a child surrounded by this kind of influence is very vulnerable.
Talking about my experience as a victim of sexual abuse, it all started when I was age 5. My parents rented an apartment, a very large apartment actually. I would call my parents philanthropists because they are very good at helping and giving to people. They had a clinic at that time with 17 people under their custody (male and female.) These are people they didn’t know from Adam. They knew absolutely nothing about them but they gave these people accommodation and were feeding them. For those that wanted to be educated, they sent them to school. For those that wanted to be empowered through skill acquisition, they paid for the training and that was it.
My parents were very busy; apart from the medical work, they also had other things to do. So, they would leave me at home; mother would travel for days, sometimes weeks and my father would go to Alaba market and come back the following day. They always left me with the people at home, believing that they would take very good care of me. There was this particular guy, out of the 17 people. This guy came home one day; he came with this shortbread biscuit (it’s quite expensive now). It was my favourite biscuit as a child. So, he brought it to me. We had a small store in the house very close to the kitchen. He took me in there. He brought out the biscuit and gave it to me and said this was what I got for you from my place of work. I said thank you very much, I was about leaving and he pulled me back and said he wanted to tell me something. I was like ‘Uncle what is it?’ and he was like ‘Do you know you are very beautiful girl?’ I said ‘Yes, I know; my daddy always tell me that.’ And then, before I knew what was happening he was already touching me. I was 5, vividly that was the first incident that happened to me that I will never forget. He was touching me and I was like ‘Uncle what are you doing?’ He was like ‘don’t talk’. Ignorantly as a child, though living among adults, I was naïve and confused. Before I knew what was happening, the deed has been done. He had raped me and I started crying. In fact, I have not even eaten half of the biscuit. I started crying and he was like ‘you mustn’t tell anybody what has happened, if you tell anybody, the biscuit is an oath, if you tell anybody you will die.
That was my fear; even without him threatening me, I knew I could not tell my dad because he would beat the living day light out of me. My father is a very strict disciplinarian. I wasn’t sure of my safety too. So, I couldn’t confide in anybody. That was how the dirty game started and it went on and on with him. Funny enough, he was doing it and he was telling other people in the house. With time, he wasn’t the only person molesting me; another person joined him. There is this lady; she was one very beautiful lady that worked with a canteen but lived with us. She also molested me and hers was worst. She was so addicted to it, sometimes she would leave her place of work, come home as though coming for lunch, just because she wants to molest me. When she comes in and finds out that I’m not around, she would leave for work immediately. But if I’m around, she would hang around and drag me in, and then she would molest me and leave. At some point my mother was no longer living with us, which made it easier for uncle and aunty to rape me. I was living this bizarre life but was swallowing the pain. When my father is around, I will behave as if everything is okay. I sit in one place; I dare not talk; that was how bad it was. My father doesn’t allow me turn from my sit, even when I’m hungry, I am always afraid to tell him that I’m hungry and I want to eat. That was the kind of fear I had for my dad. Even at that tender age of 5, if he wanted to beat me, he would bring wire, fold it into 6 places, and by the time he is done beating me, you will see blood all over my body. How do you want me to tell such a man that such a thing was going on? So, I just have to swallow it.
And from age 5 to 6, 7, 8, 9 the abuse went on. When I was 9, I went out for holiday somewhere around Lokoja, at Ajaokuta precisely and there; three other neighbors molested and assaulted me. I was a very charming little girl, very beautiful. At first it was the first son that came. After molesting me, he told the second son, the second son molested me too. And it went on like that….
To be Continued
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