Trigger Warning: This story contains sensitive content that may be distressing to some readers. Please proceed with caution.
Editorial Note: The names mentioned in this story have been replaced with pseudonyms to safeguard the identity of the person sharing their experience.
At 80 years old, Hannah from Nanka, Anambra State, has “lived two lives”—the life before the night of May 1, 2022, and the life that followed. Motherly love and betrayal represent these two lives.
That night, the first day of May, changed her life. Hannah experienced theft, harassment, and sexual assault by her carer, John, who ironically happens to be the son of her late best friend.
Hannah now battles insomnia and nightmares every night due to the incident with her carer. This is the first time she has found the strength to share what happened to her and the feelings that night left in her.
A ‘mother-son’ relationship
Before the tragic incident, Hannah and John’s relationship was not just that of carer and homeowner but also that of mother and son. “I paid this boy’s fees through secondary school and brought him up in his teenage years,” Hannah said.
“He was the one face I saw every day, and because of my relationship with Ada [late friend], I called him my son, and he called me his mother. He was always respectful towards me. I never believed in all my life that John would do what he did to me.”
“The night my caretaker sexually assaulted me”
Hannah’s eyes welled up with tears as she bravely shared her harrowing tale, the weight of that fateful night still etched in her memory. Her voice trembled with a mix of fear, anger, and resilience as she recounted the chilling details.
“I was surprised to see John there,” Hannah began, her voice quivering with raw emotion.
“He had the spare keys, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but his presence that night sent shivers down my spine. With a gun pressed against my face, he demanded that I hand over my gold jewellery, cash, and will. I couldn’t discern whether the gun was real in the moonlight with no streetlights. And at that moment, I dared not find out.”
Forced to act swiftly under the threat of violence, Hannah recounted the painful submission that followed. “I stood up as quickly as possible and handed him everything he requested. But John’s cruelty didn’t end there,” she revealed, her voice laden with anguish. “In a final act of degradation, he violated my most intimate boundaries. Since that night, I have slept with a bucket beside my bed because of the constant nausea that results from the nightmares. Speaking on the subject now will be my first step towards recovery and psychological healing.”
As Hannah’s voice faded on the video call with me, I could tell she was carrying a heavy weight of unresolved pain. Her story serves as a poignant reminder of the underreported gender-based violence against the elderly and the physical and mental trauma that emerges.
Every year, on June 15, the world comes together to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is a crucial occasion that sheds light on a pressing issue affecting our society.
How could Hannah (or anyone) get help?
This largely depends on the country you’re in. In the case of Hannah, as a Nigerian, you should contact ARDA-DCI’s (a non-governmental organisation) toll-free line, 08000202020. The ARDA-DCI offer medical care, psychosocial support, legal aid, and important information on sexual and gender-based violence.
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