I CONFESS – Scars from years of abuse
I WAS SEXUALLY abused as a child. It happened over a six-year period, and the abuse was committed by four male relatives.
It was not a case of being raped week after week during that period by each of them. Rather, it was a situation where one person would trouble me for a short period, then I was moved from that household to another one, where another relative would pounce on me. They did the same thing to my younger sister.
There was no one to complain to who would have done anything about it. Only our mother listened, but then she could do nothing but move us to another house.
Our situation was simple. My mother, sister and I had nowhere to live, so we had to board at different relatives until their generosity ran out. Because of that, when this abuse occurred and my mum realized it was occurring, she would ask another relative for a lodging, make up an excuse and then we would move.
There was never any confrontation, no telling on the uncle, cousins or nephews who troubled me or my sister. All she would say to us is that she could not do any better, and that when you lived at people there were some things that happened to you that you had to take, even if they were wrong.
So that was what I lived through from the time I was seven years old until I was 13. To this day, nearly 20 years on, I still have nightmares about what was done to me and can still remember the pain I felt from the rough way I was treated.
Although this past is a burden in itself, I have the additional weight of having had to grow up as a teenager with the taunts that my mother was a prostitute, and that my sister and I wouldn’t be any better.
This episode happened after my mother got a small old one-bedroom house to rent. But with two daughters to raise and no support from our fathers, she started having a lot of men. So my sister and I were forced to sleep on chairs in the front house while my mother entertained different men in the lone bed.
From my unholy baptism at the hands of relatives, I knew instinctively what my mother was doing. And when I challenged her about her lifestyle and what people were saying about her and us, she used to tell me that I was ungrateful because she had to do that for our economic survival.
Through the years she would always say that she sacrificed herself for me and my sister, but in return had received no thanks, just scorn. As far as she is concerned, because of what she did we were able to finish school and get jobs and do better for ourselves.
This is what I have been through right here in Barbados, even though some people like to pretend this type of thing doesn’t happen here.
It’s not easy to go somewhere and see my cousin who used to pin me down and force himself on me even when I was menstruating. And it wasn’t hard to hate or have the urge to spit in my uncle’s face as he lay in his coffin.
I wanted to get up in that church and let everyone know that he was not the nice person they were portraying him to be. He was a nasty man who used to force himself into a pre-teen girl’s mouth and slap me in my face if I cried. Then he would give me money to buy something to eat.
I hope he is roasting in hell!
I could go on and on about the disgusting things he and the others did to me, but that is not the purpose of this. I want to explain why love is not always enough for women who, like me, have been sexually abused, though we yearn for a relationship with someone who cares and would treat us with respect.
The problem I have is trusting those men I have an interest in. This is my greatest challenge. I have been through counselling to help me deal with this, but still find it difficult to believe any individual.
As a result I am demanding and jealous, and can make my partner’s life really miserable if he does not give me the attention I want, when I want it.
I recognize that is why men do not stay around me. But I console myself with the realization that as they have never been through what I experienced, they would not fully grasp why love is not enough for me. I don’t know precisely what more I want, but I do know something is missing in my life.
This is why it is important to support the work of counsellors and child care officials in child abuse situations. They see the traumatic effects sexual abuse can have as they deal with victims every day.
But as much as they try to help victims, no one can take away the sense of worthlessness you feel from being abused in this way, and not being able to do anything about it when it is going on.
That’s why I urge parents, especially mothers, to listen to their children and help them get out of such abusive situations. If you don’t, the scars left on that child will last throughout their life.