“Sexual trauma isn’t a one time event. It’s something we battle for a lifetime. No matter how much I tried to mute troubling memories, I couldn’t. Flashbacks occurred without warning……….I was a broken mess.” – Dana Arcuri
He was trusted by my parents to take care of our homestead back in the rural country. That was many, many years ago. He lived there while we were in the city. Being relatively older than I, it made sense that he would be around when we were sent away by my folks to stay in our rural farm during the school breaks.
My late grandmother’s home is not too far from our rural home. It’s a walking distance. During the day, we would be at her place doing all sorts of chores or running scared from her ‘wild’ sheep that were notorious for head butting stunts.
We would work in her farm, tend to the compound, occasionally swim in the river and eat some of the best meals prepared on a three-stone cooking fire. Oh, forget the smoke. That food was delicious. After a long and fruitful day, we would walk back to our home before it got too dark. Some of our cousins would join us at home for the period we were upcountry. That’s how close we were as an extended family.
Being young, we didn’t mind sharing beds with my sisters and cousins. One evening, having hit the bed to sleep, I was startled. I felt someone’s fingers move up my body, around my thighs, heading to a place I consider precious, you know where. I woke up. There he was, my relative, right on the side of the bed. On his knees, looking like he was ready for some good time.
I was shaken, quite confused. What was he doing? I immediately woke my sister up. That seemed to have put the fear in him as he ran out of the bedroom. However, what followed thereafter was ill treatment from him. I couldn’t take it. Being the first born, and with the powers that had been vested in me by my parents, I decided that my siblings and I would leave our home to stay with grandma.
I never shared that story with her, nor my parents. Nor anyone else. Until recently. I have finally gathered the courage to share it with my mother.
Why? Why now?
I was upcountry recently. I saw him, my relative, that is. All the negative thoughts towards him re-emerged. His presence was unwanted, unwarranted, according to my feelings. I was totally disengaged and silently wished he would leave the room as fast as possible. He didn’t stay for long. Luckily for me. Or was it for him?
It made me realize something; the power and effects of abuse. Days, months and years may pass but one never quite forgets those bad experiences they went through. No matter how small they seem to others.
I was lucky it didn’t go to another extent. But I know, there are many out there who have fallen victim. Sexual abuse is happening. I have a few friends who were abused by those familiar to them, including very close relatives, and the scars remain. To this day. We’ve heard of how others have been affected and cannot bring themselves to talk about it. They feel ashamed, unworthy, and sometimes convince themselves that perhaps they had done something to deserve the abuse. As a result, silence becomes their close ally.
Choosing to be quiet about such heinous acts is regrettable. On the other hand, it’s quite understandable. The scars that one carries around are not easy to put in words. There is the fear of humiliation and stigma that is associated with abuse. Silence, when the abused person reports the ordeal to family or close ones, however, is utterly inexcusable. Especially when the abuser is well know to the abused.
If the offence is by a relative, why should family seek to hide the matter instead of having the offender apprehended by the authorities? Because it is despicable? Because it is abominable? Is the family’s reputation more important than the shame, pain and disgrace the abused person is going through? How many of them have had to live with the humiliation, bitterness, anger or torment because necessary action wasn’t taken?
Sexual predators thrive because of silence. It’s a cold hard one. They hush their victims by instilling fear. Or they dupe their victims by reassuring them that the abuse is okay. No need to tell mummy and daddy. And those who choose not to deal with the offenders, whether family members, friends or government institutions, like the police, go on to strengthen these villains because they know they can walk away. Scot-free.
The negative effects of sexual abuse are immense. We know of people who become hyper-sexual because they think that is the way of life. Others have suffered from self-esteem or depression, sometimes to the point of being suicidal, especially when one hasn’t been able to come to terms with what happened.
It is estimated that one in every three girls in Kenya experiences sexual abuse before the age of 18. This is according to the Violence Against Children Survey (2010) issued by the Kenyan government and United Nations. I recognize that sexual abuse is also affecting many of our young boys.
To parents, be vigilant, especially about who your children hang out with. It is very easy to assume that relatives are safe because they are family. Be extra cautious, particularly, when they are of the opposite sex. And if you have boys, dont assume that any male company is good for them.
Be very close with your children to the point they can open up to you when there are signs or when such instances occur. Train your children to know when any form of touch is undesirable or wrong.
If you have been affected by abuse, I trust and hope that you have taken the step to seek help to heal. It doesn’t matter when this issue took place. Learn to trust the opposite sex again, otherwise it may affect how you relate with them. Put your trust in God, even though you feel like He abandoned at that moment.
I hope these verses will encourage you.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…Matthew 11.28
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50.20
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6.14-15
Beloved, learn to let go of the pain. You may not forget the ordeal, but find rest in God. Know that He still loves you and has a plan for you. And forgive those who have hurt you.
“You can recognize survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren’t alone.” – Jeanne McElvaney