Breaking the Culture of Silence!

I screamed as he held me against the bed, his strong hands covering my mouth. I had just turned five some days ago.

The pain was intense. I tried to push him away, but I couldn't and I gave up just as I had done some weeks ago when I tried to lift the sofa in the living room. When he finally got down from the bed, he spat on the ground, pulled up his trousers and left the room in a hurry. I wiped the tears with the back of my hands and tried to sit up. But my thighs hurt so badly and so I lay there numb.

He walked back into the room and stood in front of me.
'Sarah!'
I didn’t answer.

He called my name again and as if my crying button was suddenly powered on, I began to wail. He rushed to my side and rolled me over, pulling out the bedspread smeared with my blood. I continued to scream. He slapped me. I stopped screaming.

'Listen to me. If you tell anyone about what happened here, I will kill you.' He barked, his big eyeballs boring into mine.

When he heard my aunt drive in, he quickly covered me up with a blanket and ran out.Aunty Dupe entered the house with her cheerful and boisterous self and walked into my room with a cup of strawberry ice-cream. Her husband followed behind, peering from behind her, making a face that reminded me of his threat.

'Sarah darling' she said, grinning.

She sat on the bed and gave me a peck on my cheeks.

'I brought you your favourite ice-cream.'

My uncle wouldn’t take his eyes off me. I remained mute.

'What’s wrong with you?' She touched my head to feel my temperature.

'Sarah is not feeling too well. She’s been on the bed since morning.' I glared at my uncle and thought what a professional liar he was.

' I will make you a cup of hot tea.' She walked out briskly.

'Now you be a good girl.' Uncle Richard and crawled out quietly.

I couldn’t eat anything that night. Aunty Dupe was worried.

As she dragged me to the bathroom for a shower, I winced and pulled away. Now she was concerned.
'What happened to you?' She took me back to bed and then noticed the bedspread was gone.

'Where is the bedsheet?'My lips didn’t move. She picked another clean cloth from the wardrobe and spread it out on the bed before putting me to bed and covering me with the blanket.

Within minutes, I was on my way to dream land. That night I saw my uncle followed by six men, all dressed in black, approaching my bed. I screamed.

The sweet voice I heard woke me up the following morning. I opened my eyes to find my mother sitting beside my bed. I stared at her.

'Sarah, it’s mum.'

I stared at her. My mother stood up from the bed puzzled. My father also walked in, ran to me and hugged me tight. I didn't move an inch.

Mum just kept looking at me. I knew she could sense that something was wrong. There was a strong connection between us, a bond so strong that it crossed the normal mother to child relationship. My father pulled me gently out of bed and I spread out my legs, limping. My aunt and her husband entered.

'Dupe, what happened to my daughter?' My mother asked, clearly worried

'I’m surprised too. I came back from the market yesterday and saw her in that state. Maybe it's malaria or she is homesick.'

My mother faced me, ready to get to the end of this. That’s how I know her. She wouldn’t give up. She sat on the ground and pulled me in front of her. She tried closing my legs but I let out a loud cry.
'Angel, what happened?' I remained silent

'You know you can talk to me right? Mummy loves you and will keep you safe. When did this start?'
She felt for my thighs and I quickly pushed her hand away. Just then, Uncle Richard stood behind my mother as my mouth began to form some incoherent words. I looked at him and the fear in my eyes returned. My mother quickly followed the direction of my eyes and caught her brother-in-law's glaring countenance. In a flash, she got up and slapped my uncle. Then she grabbed his shirt.
'What did you do to my daughter?'

Another slap followed as tears ran down my mother's eyes. My father tried to pull them apart and my aunt was already furious.

'How dare you accuse my husband falsely? Are you out of your mind Shade? Are you insinuating that my husband slept with your daughter, a six year old girl for that matter?'

My mother’s face was covered in tears.

'Dupe I trusted you with my daughter for just a week.'

'Get out of my house!'Aunty Dupe shouted

My mother knelt before me and kissed me on my cheeks.

'Angel you know I love you and I will keep you safe from that man. Tell me, what did he do to you?'
My mouth suddenly let loose and I began to narrate how he dragged me from the living room to the bedroom, how he covered his mouth with mine and pulled down my pant. I showed her the place I was experiencing sharp pains.

I had not finished talking when my father pounced on him. My aunt just stood there speechless. I hid behind my mother, afraid my uncle would kill me but then I felt a soft hand grab me up and press my head to her teary face. We left the house.

The nights that followed came with nightmares as I saw my uncle appeared in my room several times, threatening to kill me for speaking out. Every time I screamed, I would find my mum beside me praying.

Over the years, I became familiar with the pattern of waking up in the middle of the night to find her on her knees, her eyes lifted upward. She and my father would place their hands on my head and pray, calling out my name and speaking soothing words to my ears. I felt safe but I still couldn’t talk much. I had moved from the fun-loving, charming damsel to a melancholic chap.

The three weeks I spent at the hospital had mum by my side. It was later I found out from my Father that she’d quit her new job after that incident. I began to heal gradually.

That was some thirty years ago. Now I am a mother with three wonderful kids and as I sit in my study room, writing this short article which I hope to present tomorrow at the Christian Mothers Conference where I have been invited as a guest speaker, I see clearly the roles of mothers in the life of their children. I wouldn’t have gone far without my mother's love and affection during those trying days.

As she has passed on the spirit of true motherhood to me, I am hoping to do the same to my daughter who interestingly will turn five tomorrow. I will be her best friend and confidant. And just as my mother has done, I will teach her to speak out.

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