I CONFESS: Mother’s partners kept abusing me
THAT SAYING “time longer than twine” is really true. Basically it means that even the worst problems will come to an end given enough time, and that certainly happened in my case.
As a girl I had it rough as my mother was poor, was often unemployed, and we had nowhere proper to live, few clothes and shoes to wear, and little to eat. I came to have that life because my mother and my granny could not get along. I never found out why but my suspicion is that granny was disappointed that mummy got pregnant with me while at secondary school in fourth form. In those days that meant the end of your education, so after I was born my mother had to look for work to support me as my father was still in school.
Apparently, my mother could not hold down a job no matter where she worked because she had a “don’t-carish” attitude and was lazy, as far as my grandmother was concerned. So the two of them were always quarrelling about everything until it eventually came to a head and she put out mummy. I was six years old going on seven at the time. From then until I was 19 when I stopped living with her, mummy was also scotching at somebody or living with one man or another.
The one sensible thing she never did again was to get another child. In fact, she drilled into my head that I should avoid ever getting pregnant and having a child until I had money in the bank and a roof over my head.
So my memory of growing up is about always being hungry all of the time, and different people treating me as if I was a humbug. Because of this I grew up always feeling that I was not worth anything and no one loved me. For that reason I did a number of things I am truly ashamed of. Namely, I allowed two of my mother’s boyfriends to “trouble” me and accepted food, gifts and money from them.
I know now that what they did amounted to sexual abuse of a minor. They took advantage of my need to feel appreciated by someone and my desire to not feeling hungry and to have things the other children I went to school with had.
I remember one particular man my mother lived with. He was ugly but lived in a nice wall house that had an indoor shower and toilet. It was the first time I ever lived in a house like that. I also had my own room for the first time in my life, and there were always things in the cupboard to eat and drinks in the fridge. I was really happy there and I guessed I showed how satisfied I was with the improvement in my life.
That man also treated my mother well as he would always be kissing and hugging her and telling her how sweet she was. He was completely different from the last man she lived. That other man’s house was an old two-roof board house with no electricity and a pit toilet in a yard that had a lot of rocks and grass. He always had a musty smell as if he used to sleep in his clothes. I think that was because he smoked a lot and was always drinking liquor. What I hated about being there was that he used to hit my mum for no reason at all. We only lived at his house for four months but in that time he slapped her around at least twice in front of me.
The “ugly” man, on the other hand, was nice to my mum and me, but I only realised what he was really up to about two weeks after we moved into his house. One day my mother went to town and I was left at home alone with him. He came into my bedroom and asked me if I liked him. I said I did. He then asked if I liked living at his house. Again, I said I did. He asked me other questions like if I was comfortable, if I was getting enough to eat, if I liked the clothes I was wearing which his money bought, then ended up with if I was the happiest I had ever been. For each question I had to say yes.
That’s when he said if I liked him and was happy at his house eating his food and wearing his clothes I should show him. I was eight and really did not understand what he meant. So he opened his hands as for a hug, so I went to him. Then he started to touch me and after a while “troubled” me. When he was finished he dried my tears and gave me a dolly he had bought for me – the first new dolly I ever owned.
He then warned me that if I told my mother what he and I did she would get angry and I would never get anything again from him. Furthermore, I would have to leave his house, so I needed to keep our secret.
That was nearly 30 years ago but I still remember that moment in which I lost my innocence as if it was yesterday. He went on to abuse me until I was 13 before he and my mother fell out and we had to leave there. And then the next man she lived at did the same things to me. Again, I said nothing about it.
As I said, I had it rough growing up.
I was motivated to speak about this because I hear talk about discussing morality in Barbados. I wonder who will be speaking because that ugly man is now a big-up in his church. Will there be discussion about people like him who took advantage of my innocence, or is this morality talk just another political thing?
It really is about time people who are in positions that matter in this country realise what poor people have to go through and try to put things in place to help us. I would never like another little girl to go through what I went through, but I know it happens. It is a shameful thing, but for many girls this was, and continues to be, how we are abused.