of childhood and pain
OF CHILDHOOD AND PAIN.
….it is from this background that my story evolves. The story of my life is one of pain, hurt, humiliation but also a story of courage determination and triumph against all odds. Looking back, I do not know who to blame for all that has happened to me. All that I know is that I have been a victim of sexual abuse and in my failure to challenge the abuse; I endorsed and condemned myself into a life of self pity, self criticism, denial and safe blame.
I was brought up by a strict mother. I guess due to the pressure of raising six children and working full time in a poor paying-teaching job, mother never realized that she was being domineering and a teacher more than a mother to her own children. Any single mischief was met by gross punishment-in the form of caning. We learnt to fear her, to obey silently without any complains. We learnt to take what was available without voicing our dislikes for it.
Today I am not close to my mother as I would wish to be. I grew apart separated from her by a gulf which is unexplainable. I cannot approach her to discuss any personal issue, to me she remains someone to be obeyed, respected, period! I cannot say that I do not love her-she is my mother- yet that closeness that binds mother and daughter is not there. We never talked or exchanged confidences, not when I was growing up, not even now! Yet surprisingly, mother remains the only inspiring person in my life, her life gives me courage, she is the Hero of my life, that unending determination to make it, to accomplish despite the many obstacles that waylay her!
A lot of memories of my childhood jostle for space. I have always been a child of great sensitivity. My mother resented my tears when I was growing up, I could cry at the slightest provocation. She also resented my hand made dolls; I kept dolls until I was twelve years and in class six. By then I was the laughing stock of the family, my big sisters ridiculed me as well as my small brothers. I guess by then I was considered a big girl, yet in their eyes I refused to grow up. Unknown to them, how could I part with my only close friends? Those dolls were the only friends I had; they represented a perfect world without beatings, hurts and ridicule. In my doll world I could dream of a future so and calm perfect. I grew up as a lone child, separated from my sisters by age, a gap-6 and 8 years respectively- and from my brother by gender- he preferred being with other boys other than me.
My paternal grand mother was never part of our family though she lived close enough. She took care of her own family. Between me and her there was never any close relationship such that I would tell her anything. Besides we had been raised strictly as a nuclear family not as an extended African family by the virtue that my mother was educated- something which was lacking in my grandfather’s family and this consequently led to her ex-communication from the other family members.
I had the misfortune of having an enlarged hernia, so my stomach protruded outside like a helicopter’s belly. My sisters and little brothers mocked and teased me relentlessly. This only aggravated my sense of loneliness and made me cry the more. Surprisingly I never told my mother about their abuses for they were indeed abuses. I did not even fight them; I simply found solace in crying and in my dolls. I instinctively knew that they hated me for my abnormal deformity. Ridiculed and abused by my siblings and with a mother and a grand mother who could not be approached for the terror they wielded, I was alone in the world with no one to turn to when the abuses started.
My memory is full of holes, I cannot remember the exact year when everything started, only flashes of incidents and the surroundings. I remember once, I was yet small, not yet going to school, I was in the fields, the smell of early morning dew, green grass, the cackle of weaver birds and a cloudy day- it was the rainy season and I can see the cattle which I was grazing together with a hired herds boy. I can see the lower terrace, with the herd of cattle on the northern side, I cannot remember who else was there only the two of us and the terrace, but deep in my consciousness I belief there were other people very near, yet I was abused practically next to them and they did not know. He must have been 16 years of age, I can see him pressing himself between my legs and suppressing my shouts with his hands. I have no other recollection, except that every time that incidence flashes in my memory, I feel a cold bitterness throughout my body. Sadly I do not know how many times he sexually abused me- and that is the biggest frustration- not knowing about those events which condemned me to my misery, of having hazy recollection of things which probably define who I am today and yet having no way of ever knowing what really happened back then. I did not report him. I do not know why but I can only guess it was because of the fear that had been ingrained in me-the fear of authority, the fear of my parents.
The next abuse came from someone close home, from my first cousin who was living with my grandmother. I have a recollection of the year through association of other events which occurred at the same time. It also happened when I was young, but I remember he had one of his hands in a cast, after he had fallen and he was not attending in school (high school)-despite the fact that he was a year ahead of my sisters, who were away attending the same school as him. I later came to learn that the year was 1993 the year he was unable to continue schooling because of lack of fees, and I was then 8 years old in class two. Back then school for us ended at 1pm and I would spent the afternoon taking care of my smallest brother who was barely 2 years old and This would give the house help time to go to the river, a two- hours trek to fetch water. This meant that I would be alone except for my little brothers –six, four and two years old respectively. Again my memory fails me, I can only remember fragments of incidents: - one afternoon, he came over to our house from my grandma’s place and told me to help him with drinking water. I rushed inside and left the small child outside with my two other brothers. Before I could take it back he had entered the house and closed it. I can see shafts of afternoon falling from one side of the corrugated iron sheets roof, in the yet to be cemented room. He pushed me to an adjacent room which was my sisters’ bedroom and raped me. I do not remember whether I screamed or cried.
Somehow I feel that that was not the only incident that he forced himself unto me yet I cannot remember anything else. I also feel that that abuse is responsible for reducing what I am now, a fearful, timid, coward person who cannot assert herself in her own life. I hate myself for this!
I also remember vividly the day it all ended- but between these two incidents I do not know how many times or how long I was abused. It was already dark then, the sun had already gone down and darkness had already set in though there was some amount of light to make out someone in the dark. Mother sent me to fetch some flour from my grandmother who lived close by-800 meters from our home. But to get there we had to follow a footpath through our grazing field full of tall grass- the homes occupied the same ancestral land separated only by uncultivated field for grazing in between. On that evening I rushed through the grass to my grandma’s who persuaded me to sit down for a while. I guess he had already heard me and therefore set out before me to waylay me on my way back home, for I did not see him at grandma’s but found him on the footpath at the middle of the field. He took hold of me. I did not scream but I remember telling him that I will tell my mother what he had done to me, he let go of me and I rushed home. Why I never told my mother as I had threatened remains a mystery to me-something I regret everyday of my life, and I am ashamed of even to remember. Shortly afterwards he left our home for good and many years would pass before we had the chance to meet again.
Looking back now I feel that I failed to tell my mother because I feared that she will beat me as she always did when I misbehaved. I realize that my parent’s failure to create an environment where we children could approach them without fear contributed greatly to my actions. I still lay a huge blame on myself though I do not know why.
That cousin was and is still loved by both families as a dedicated and honest person; my father sees a son in him and my sisters are very close to him for they grew up together as siblings. Years later when I was in high school, I contemplated telling my mother but I did not have the strength to destroy the faith that they had in him though he had officially left home and only came to visit both grandma and my parents. I did gain courage and questioned him (back in 2002) - why he abused me- his only reply was that he was sorry and I should seek counseling to be able to deal with it as he had done. But who could I talk to? I was not close to any of my teachers back then, and though in the boarding school that I attended we had a counseling teacher I lacked the courage to approach her. I remained alone, blaming myself, God and everyone else who was close enough to protect me but did not do so.
Though I was hurting too much, I chose to bury my hurts and immersed myself in books. Ever since I was a small child reading was a pleasure to me. I loved books and most times I read anything that I could lay my hands on. Throughout my Elementary school education I was a top performer and I guess being the best, bringing home the best report card was the only way I could get my parents to love, recognize me. They always used me to illustrate how a child should perform in school. Learning became my refuge, during school holidays I would stay at home and read anything that I lay my hands on, novels, old magazines, reading became my escape. Even today I love reading-that’s why I am where I am doing what I love most- reading about people and other cultures.
During my high school I was sent in a boarding school, so I did not have a chance to grow close to my mother or any other family member for that matter .in high school I made friends but my private life remained private. Our school was in one of the harshest parts of the county-makueni . We learned to accept what we had but more importantly we were made aware of the importance of education. My dream had been to attend one of our public universities. In high school I was more determined than ever to achieve that dream. I passed my O-level examinations and was admitted to the oldest public university in the country. I was intensely aware that the only chance of joining university was through securing a place through the regular admission- because then the fee would be subsidized and I will be eligible for a loan from the government-otherwise my mother could not afford to put me through private university or any college for that matter .So I struggled through high school to gain that admission.
We had to wait for two long years before we could join the university, so during that time, a Christian organization that had been paying my school fees since class seven took me to Nakuru, to their college to do some courses before I went for my higher education. This was my first time to be outside a ‘sheltered, environment where there were no rules. I had now become a very timid girl who could not do anything against my family’s wishes. Every body I believe has a love story to tell- that first time they fell in love. Well mine is another bitter episode. I abhorred men and I relatively managed to survive in an environment where dating was the norm- which was alien to me, coming from a strict home and a strict girl’s school. Unfortunately for me, one of my classmates managed to strike a friendship with me. We grew close until I told him the story-the tragedy of my life(what for, I cannot tell). Soon we were together and for the first time in my life I was in love, and I was loved-or so I believed. Only one thing was difficult, he wanted to be intimate, sex was the last thing that I wanted. But one day, it happened all over again-I guess due to my reluctance- he raped me and even hit me for having struggled. I felt bitter, I felt betrayed and dirty all over again. I blamed myself for having walked into it by admitting a man in my life. As if I had not been through enough, I conceived, and with that my world fell apart. I could not forgive that man. What I did next destroyed my faith in everything, my belief in God, myself, my dignity- everything...Well you can guess... But that did me in. I lost every dignity ,self esteem. How I survived remains a mystery, but more than once I considered suicide yet I could not bring myself to do it. What held me together is a force I cannot describe. I have since lived with the guilt of my action and blaming God for allowing me to be born in the first place.
The only positive thing I did was breaking up with that man, I could not take any more abuse from him. I lack the strength to reconcile myself with God, yet somehow I have survived. I crave for love, from my family, from that one person in life, yet my life is empty, full of painful past that has since defined who I am-a victim, who cannot rise above it. I have since finished my undergraduate degree and I am now doing my master’s degree. Only education has given me the strength to move forward, knowing that one day I will make a difference in someone’s life however insignificantly.
Over the last six years I have avoided emotional attachments, though I hope some day in the future I will but before that hope shines I have to find tranquility, an inner peace, accept myself the way I am, move from blaming myself, my parents, God, everyone to what?.. I do not know!