When I was about seven or eight years old, I was sexually assaulted, but, I did not know it was sexual assault. That term was Greek to me. I used to think my assaulter was a family friend but a couple of years ago, I found out that he wasn’t just a friend.
He was babysitting my siblings and me. When I went to take a bath he started off by telling me to never lock the door around him. When I got out of the tub, he called me over to his room and made me watch porn with him. That very night, I woke up because he had his fingers inside of me. When I asked him what he was doing, he claimed to be fixing my skirt.
The following morning, the aunty told me to go check if we had power at home as we had slept over. I wanted to take my brother with me but she made me go with him, so I tried to put as much space between us as possible.
When we arrived, he made himself comfortable on my mother’s couch. There he was man-spread, saying here’s my thing, referring to his penis, then told me to touch it and put it in my mouth. I knew what was happening was wrong, just not to what extent, so I waved a knife in his face, told him to stay away and run. I didn’t make sure he was out of the house, or lock the door. I just ran.
I didn’t see him until my mother got married in 2009. I hadn’t thought of him until I experienced a paralyzing fear when I saw him again. It’s the type of fear I’d experience years later- another traumatic experience for another day.
Neither of my parents knew up until two or three years ago when I got sexually harassed again. As a result, I felt dirty and cut my wrists. The scars are faint and only visible if you look for them. It’s the inner turmoil and psychological scars are what remain.
To this day, I have a problem with being touched, and for a while, I didn’t wear skirts or dresses. The first time I was assaulted, I was wearing my favori blue gradient skirt, it was knee length and flared out a bit. I never wore it again.
I choose to share my story because there appears to be something in the air, something parasitic that drives the increase in rapes and deaths of our sisters in Southern Africa. We are preyed on, it’s been like this forever but predators have been given some incentive to violate young women and take their lives.
People often have many opinions when it comes to sexual assault but the blame falls on one person. The perpetrator. No debate.
Wearing you down by asking for sex again and again or making you feel bad, guilty, or obligated
Making you feel like it’s too late to say no
Telling you that not having sex will hurt your relationship
Lying or threatening to spread rumours about you
Making promises to reward you for sex
Threatening your children or other family members
Threatening your job, home, or school career
Threatening to reveal your sexual orientation publicly or to family or friends
Assaulters do not have a face. It can be anyone, but most of the time, it will be someone you know.
Lastly, everyone reacts differently. The women and girls I know were abused by relatives, friends and even someone they were romantically involved with. Some are hesitant to share what they went through whilst others are forthcoming.
If you know someone who was assaulted or abused, you need to go with their flow. Whether they want to take action or not is their choice; it would be great to hold people accountable as many cases go unreported and when they are, justice is rarely served. It’s frustrating but keep in mind that someone has experienced trauma and it’s not about you.
Remember, victims are usually accused of making up stories, they feel alone because not everyone gets it and there’s a dark heavy cloud of shame and guilt that accompanies a traumatic experience.
To those of you who are not ready to address what they went through, those who get flashbacks and non-related nightmares. Whose mind unravel when triggered, or those who freeze and go numb when uncomfortable or have random body tremors. Those who are irritable, have sleeping problems or self-destructive behaviour and unexplainable mood swings…you are all valid. You’re not alone.
Chances are you’re experiencing some form of PTSD and, seeking therapeutic help is okay. It may be awkward and many you’ll have to try out a few therapists until you meet someone you click with. There’s someone out there for everyone.
We are tired of being told to protect ourselves. We are exhausted from losing sisters, people who had lives they’ve yet to live to the fullest.
What we need are educated boys that mature into decent men.