The caption of this blog (19th Street) is ‘let’s explore memories of life’s experiences’. It is not enough to just explore, we should also learn from the experiences. I did not type all these words so people can comment on how sad it is. This part is a “moral of the story’ piece and I am confused as to how to start.
We all hope to be mothers and fathers one day; some of us already have kids. Permit me to generalize and say parents (especially Nigerian parents) are too dismissive of their kids. Your son is scared of Aunty Bola, have you taken your time to ask him why? Do we actually listen to our children or we just hear what they have to say and pen it down to an over active imagination. Children see things and we often underestimate their ability to understand these things. They know more than we can imagine. Asking questions and listening actually goes a really long way. I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if I had been asked why I always ran after my mother’s car whenever she was to leave the house. Listening to your children does something else; it makes them find their voices and gives them the confidence to use it. I am not going to say do not let relatives live in your house or do not leave your daughters with them. The truth is I have some pretty awesome uncles and cousins and I know I have friends that think the world of their nieces and nephews. Being cautious is good but asking your kids why and meaning it goes a long way. I read a story about a girl who cried every school morning; her parents thought she did not just want to go to school. If they had taken their time to ask they may have learnt that she was scared of a classmate of hers who kept threatening to kill her. Listen to your children, even when they say the most ridiculous things like the house girl turned to a snake. I mean you will be shocked. Recognizing that they have something to say and taking your time out to hear them shows clearly that they matter and you can see them. Not listening is equivalent to not seeing them.
Our former gateman was always reporting my little sister to my mother; he said she was always rude to him and refused to greet. She was nine and a generally pleasant child. When asked her explanation was that she did not like him. Do not blame me but in my eyes everybody is a pervert until proven otherwise so I kept on asking her what the problem was. Finally she said she did not like the way the gateman looked at her and he was always ‘talking rubbish’. Early one morning I peeped through the window as she tended to my mother’s birds. The gateman made several comments on how big she was; he said she “just dey grow like agric fowl”. That statement some may say is innocent enough but not to a nine-year old girl who is the biggest in her class and is growing faster than her age. The transition from being flat chested and having no worries is hard enough. But your entire body changes too and all of a sudden you always have to wear a shirt and then the alien bra comes along. This stage is very delicate; uncles and family friends and the likes that never fail to point out how you are growing do not make it easier. We all see the growth, shut up about it. I don’t take all those ‘my wife’ jokes kindly, call it paranoia or whatever but I have quite a number of younger sisters and it is my prayer that they do not see half of what I have seen. Call any of them your wife in my presence and you will have to explain to me when you paid the bride price.
Child molestation is horrible and difficult to imagine but it is real. It happens more often that we care to admit. I think boys get molested more but somehow they find ways to joke about it.
You may be reading this and you have a similar story or you know someone who does. There is nothing to be ashamed about. It even has to be a sin for you to take the blame for this. It is not your fault, you do not emit freak pheromones; there is nothing that you could have possibly done that makes it okay that this happened. Guilt kills. Trying to understand it is like gradually digging your grave, you would never understand why it happened and accepting that is so hard.
Rape has to be the most hidden crime of all. The victims do the hiding and please do not blame them. Proving rape is hard. How do you explain getting raped in a boy’s house? These days going to a boy’s house is synonymous with asking for ‘the D’. It is sad that people think this way. I wish there was a way there was a way to get people to come out. The need to keep it secret is like admitting guilt, you cannot tell anybody because you did something bad and you are ashamed. I wish I could preach the sermon of go to the police, report to whomever will listen but that will be hypocrisy on my part. Honestly, if I get raped again I don’t think I will do anything differently.
This is hard because on so many levels I am not past it. I want to say be careful because every boy is a potential rapist but that sounds bitter even to my own ears and it is the height of generalization. Well, maybe I am bitter. Just be careful, listen to yourself, and never ever ignore your instincts. Never. When it comes to physical strength, except the Lord saves you, you are no match for a man in a state of testosterone-induced madness. It is best not to get there. If this has already happened, can you please forgive yourself and move on? I am speaking to myself too. Your life is not over and it is not based on this. It is impossible to forget so do not act like you have. Remember it and find a way somehow to use it to your advantage. Somehow.
Daniel went to South Africa three days after he raped me to start his masters program. He said he was in love with me and the thought of being so far from me drove him crazy. He said since sex was out of the way, we should just date so he could prove his love to me. I see him in church whenever he is in the country and when he is not I see his sweet mother every Sunday. She sends me plantain through my mom and gives me twenty naira every Sunday. Every Sunday, even though I smile as she ‘chooks’ twenty naira inside my purse for offering, I lose a little bit of my sanity. I have all the twenty nairas stacked somewhere and I think that is crazy. This year Daniel sent me a long letter though his mother about how he has not had a good night’s sleep since it happened and that he needs my forgiveness. To prove that I have forgiven him, I am to give him a call since I never pick his.
Uncle Emma got married three years ago. I was at the wedding and I smiled and shared rice. Now the doctor says his sperm count is zero so he can never father a child. His pastor says that someone he offended in his past has not forgiven him. So my uncle literally stalks me now, begging for forgiveness. I have said in all the languages I can speak that I have forgiven him. He says I have to lay hands on his head and pray to show it. That’s when I pause. If I have forgiven him why won’t I pray for him? Why won’t I give Daniel a call? What does it mean to forgive? Do not let me get started on how I feel bad and somehow want to carry the guilt for this.
Be careful how you treat people.