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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dear NwaVic: My Uncle Stole My Innocence

This is one of those stories that make you cringe because deep down you realize the rampancy of events like this, especially in Nigeria, where the issues of molestation and rape are swept under the rug too many times to count. Coincidentally, I received this Dear NwaVic letter in the wake of all the sexual scandal surrounding prominent Nigerian Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COVE, Abuja, Nigeria. But this is deeper because it involves an innocent 6 year old, who just wanted buns.

Dear NwaVic,
This is MY story. 
As I was playing “ring-a-ring-a-roses” with my friends in the yard I felt him staring at me. He was my father’s cousin who had come to live with us while he attended college. He lived in the ‘boy’s quarters’. As kids, my siblings and I weren’t allowed near the boy’s quarters but somehow, as with any other kid, we'd go anyway- simply because we were told not to. 
He was the cool uncle to my siblings and I because he'd always buy us ‘mineral’ (soda) and buns, despite the fact that our parents told us we were not allowed those things.  He used to invite us to the boy’s quarters and let us look at magazines and play on the veranda. As soon as we heard mom and dad’s cars come into the compound, we'd run out and put on our "welcome mom and dad- we didn't do anything" we hadn’t been playing where weren’t supposed to.
On this particular day, I was 6 years old and he was 22. We had just come home from school. I changed from my school uniform into my day clothes. I remember very clearly that I was wearing my turquoise shorts with matching suspenders and matching shirt. My mom had bought it for me on one of her trips to the US and it was one of my favorite outfits because it still smelled like ‘America’ even after several washes. If you ever had someone bring you something from America while in Nigeria, you know what I mean.
As we were playing ‘London Bridge’ in the compound with the neighbors, he was sitting by the boy’s quarters and called me to come take a look at something. He then asked me if I wanted some buns from the kiosk. I told him I wanted to finish playing with my friends first and that it was almost my turn to go under the ‘London Bridge’. He said if I wanted buns I’d have to come now. So obediently I went. 
What does a 6 year old mind see wrong with going into a room with a grown man? An uncle. In today’s world, one might find that odd…but back then, when life was pure, there was nothing wrong with it.
In hindsight, something in the pit of my stomach told me it was wrong but my childhood love of buns and ‘sweet’ (candy) quieted my nerves. He took me to his room and told me to sit on the bed….then he proceeded to do the unthinkable. That day, while my siblings and neighbors waited for me to go under the London bridge, my 'uncle' robbed me of my childhood and innocence. I didn't fight because he made it seem ok. I didn't even know what was happening. I just lay there thinking that this must be what people do for buns. He kept asking if I liked it. I didn't respond. I didn't know if I did. I didn't know what was going on…I didn't know it was wrong but I knew it wasn't right. Something was weird. When he was done, he put on his clothes and helped me put mine back on. He walked me to the kiosk and bought me buns.
After that, my childhood brain tucked away this memory somewhere else. When we got back, all the kids had gone back to their respective homes. My aunt was in the living room watching TV. She asked where I’d been and I told her I was my uncle. She said ‘where’, and I happily said ‘in the boy’s quarters. Look! He bought me buns'. She immediately looked at me strangely and said ‘you know you have no business being there. Didn't your mommy tell you not to go there?’ I said “but he said if I came with him, he’ll give me buns and ‘sweet’”. She said “haven’t you seen buns before?”…
....I don’t quite recall what happened after that. It’s one of the things my brain has forgotten- by choice- but I do remember telling her vaguely that he did something to me. Not in full detail but enough- with the innocence of a child- that she knew something was wrong. She sent me upstairs to take my evening bath. My parents came home and all seemed normal. The next day, he was gone. And that was it. We didn't see him again. When we asked where uncle was, they said he went back to the village. I’m not sure what happened. I don’t know if she told my parents and till today, I don’t know. Maybe I should ask. But that will take a different level of courage. 
All I know is that life carried on as normal. My brain tucked this away in some far away land till about 15 years later when I ran into him somewhere. For some reason, I hated him with my guts and I didn’t know why. A day later, it came flooding back. As an adult, I became angry because my adult brain realizes what he did. Why I hated him. I now understand what he did. I hated him for a while….sadly, it turns out I’m not the only one he did it to. I decided on my own to forgive him. Life has gone on but he does have a daughter now...she's probably about 2 years old. 
One day I would like to sit down and have a conversation with him. He needs to know that I know. That I remember. While I've been able to move past it...I have a stable life, married with children and a fast-growing career, I wonder about the other girls he did it to...Did they become promiscuous? Do they still hurt? Were their lives changed forever? Were they ever able to recover, like I did? Believe or not, this is more rampant than you know. As an adult, one random day, I opened up to a couple of close people, only to find out that almost everyone in that group has a similar story. Sadly, this kind of experience is the reason some girls grow up selling themselves because these useless men have programmed them to think that they should give away one of their most ‘possessions’ for money. Can you blame them?
One day I will sit with him. One day, he will know that I remember. One day, I will face him and make him imagine what he'll feel if a man did it to his daughter. For now, I can only wonder if he remembers of if I was just a pawn in his sexual past. Better yet, I hope he has asked God for forgiveness.

Dear Healed,
Thank you for writing NwaVic at It takes a whole fountain of courage to tell the world a story like this. Many young girls I know have experienced this, especially in the hands of men to whom they were entrusted by their parents. Child sexual abuse is REAL but just sadly unspoken. In fact, according to statistics, before they turn 18, 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls suffer sexual abuse.

I agree with you and encourage you to have a sit-down with him if you get a chance. But you have to be prepared for any outcome. Don't go in expecting that he'd be sorry because he may not be or worse still, may have forgotten. Just keep in mind that what matters is the decision YOU have made to move on. Above all, I'm glad you have turned out into a beautiful young woman despite this potentially scarring event in your life. Your story will inspire others who have been through similar to speak out and to heal.

It is also my prayer that as our generation will be more vigilant with our children and that we'd empower our children to speak out.

Live on and Stay Inspired...


Ada said...

Same thing happened to me, but it was my uncle's best friend. My uncle lived with us, and didnt know, his best friend was always around. He had me suck on his you know what. I still remember it, like you I have tucked it away. I never told anyone, not even my husband, but I have a baby girl, and I know I will never let her near grown men without supervision. I also used to have hatred whenever the man's name was mentioned. The man, his brother and mom came to my wedding in Nigeria, and my mom was excited, had me take a pic with them, and all I thought in my head was "God forgive you".
I dont think I will ever sit him down to tell him, when I made the decision to move on, I left it all with God.
I know as a result, I was really protective over my younger sis.

Princess R said...

Oh wow Ada. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. It is just sick the amount of women have similar stories and many parents remain oblivious to it. I'm the same way with all my sisters- especially the younger ones-very protective. I pray just like you, our generation will more attentive to this issue. It was brave of you to move on. Thank you for sharing. Hugs!