TRIGGER WARNING: Abuse, rape and suicide.
Editor’s note: Last week, Jumoke* sent me a message on Twitter saying she had a story for me. We had a conversation and here’s what she told me:
My dad was physically abusive to us growing up. There was a time he stripped my mum naked and pushed her out at night. Another time, he gave her a black eye. The area around the eye is still black to date. I’m not saying my mum didn’t have her own issues but my dad was worse. My mum paid the bills while my dad preferred to spend money on his second wife and his friends. Both of them beat us for any offence we committed. My dad would strip us naked and beat us. I used to tell people they were not my real parents, and that I was adopted.
When I was 5, the rent at the house we lived in expired so my parents decided to move into their own house which was still under construction. They felt it wasn’t safe for us to stay in an uncompleted building so they took us to live with our grandparents for a while. There, my uncles always had visitors over. One of them was a man named Tawfiq* — he lived on the same street as us. Whenever my uncles wanted to go out, they would leave me at his house. Tawfiq would take me to the uncompleted part of the building and make me do things to him. Sometimes he would make me suck his penis. At other times, he would rub it on my labia. He would finger me and do other things that I shouldn’t have known at that age. Afterwards, he would threaten to beat me if I ever told anyone. Beatings were regular — I knew I would definitely get beaten if I reported it, so it continued for months.
My father took a second wife when I was in JS 3. He would send me to her house to help with housework, and she would use me like a rag. Eventually, my parents decided to split and we had to pick whom we wanted to stay with. I picked my mum and my dad promptly disowned me. When I was about to enter the university, my mum introduced me to the Dean of student affairs in my school. He was my mentor — I even called him daddy. One time I was having issues at school and my mum fought me a lot about it. She reported me to the dean and he asked me to come and see him in Osogbo where he lived. He picked me up from the park and he was talking about school and what my mum had told him so I was relaxed. He said he wanted us to have privacy as he had guests at home so he drove us to a guest house. I didn’t even think of how he knew the gateman’s name, and how the front desk person had set up his usual room for him. He was a father figure to me. There was no need to suspect anything. Anyway, he raped me. I begged him. I reminded him that I am his son’s age and classmate. When I threatened to scream, he laughed. After struggling for a while, I gave up and let him have his way. I just stayed there and stared at the ceiling thinking about Tawfiq. When he finished, he said he didn’t know I was a virgin because I looked like a big girl. I cleaned up and went back to school.
I knew nobody would believe me. After all, I went with him to the guest house. I tried to tell someone about it and she said it wasn’t possible, “He doesn’t need to do that to get girls to sleep with him.” When I told my mum, she asked what I was wearing. Nobody gave me the support I needed, so the rest of my stay at the university was a blur. I sought solace in drinking and eating heavily. I told myself that if I looked unattractive enough, then no one would want to abuse me. I used to say, “People will betray you but food won’t.” I could count on filling my stomach to make me feel better. After eating, I would feel bad because I had eaten so much, then I would eat some more to comfort myself.
Of course, it didn’t work. I tried to kill myself but that didn’t work either. Sometime in 2020, there was an uproar on social media about sexual abuse. There was a protest happening at the time. I remember waking up one morning to see a picture of Tawfiq and his daughter on Instagram. He and his family live abroad. He looked like he was balling, and the only thing I could think about was how karma is all a big lie. He is living his best life and I am here, stuck with nightmares and a shitty mental health. I messaged him and confronted him about what he did to me as a child. Though he admitted to it, he said he wasn’t that much older than me when it happened. I was so angry, I sent the screenshots to my extended family’s WhatsApp group. I wrote an epistle about how they needed to create an enabling environment for kids in the family to report abuse. One of my uncles kept talking about how he would kill Tawfiq. I knew it was fake outrage because when my cousin said she was also molested as a child by one of our uncles, everybody kept quiet. I messaged her privately and she told me the whole story. He would tell lies to get her beaten whenever he sensed that she was about to report him, to prove to her that his word would always be taken over hers.
As we were talking, one of my uncles called and accused her of trying to scatter the family. He said she should bring evidence that she was molested 20 years ago. I was so pissed I left the family group chat and I’m glad I never went back because she told me they made her apologize to him. Last month, he was at a family gathering and it was as if nothing had happened. The men in my life failed me but food never did.
Currently, I am tired of living. What’s the point of existing? If I was dead, none of this would have happened to me. These days, I wake up because I have to and get through the day with no desire to do anything else. I’m not suicidal but if I get a chance to die, I’d take it.