“Throughout the years I lived with my mother, I was never in doubt she hated me”. Shenne, a 43-year-old industrial nurse said, as part of the reason why she refused to attend her biological mother’s funeral.
“She had me at 19 when she got pregnant for a fairly well-to-do businessman who ended up marrying someone else. When she re-married, I was about six years old, and even at that age, I realized I was no better than a maid as far as my mother was concerned. I did all the household chores and when my half-siblings started arriving, I was forced to wash all their dirty nappies as well as do the household chores whether I liked it or not. Anytime I fell short of expectation, I was thoroughly beaten.
“As I grew older, my mother’s grudges against me increased, and I constantly wet the bed – not a surprise really, considering the stress I was under. My mother’s solution to my bed-wetting problem was to wake me up in the night and wallop me with a shoe. She then made me pee on coal embers and promised I wouldn’t wet the bed that night. If I did, I would get beaten again in the morning. My step-father was no better.
He agreed with my mum that I was the ugliest of the children. His children wear lovely clothes whilst I was dressed in clothes sourced from the ‘bend-down boutiques’. Whenever there were any children’s parties, I was the Cinderella left behind to do all the rotten chores with my mother constantly abusing me physically and mentally.
“I was still in primary school at age 12 because most of the time, I didn’t attend classes. It was at this time that my step-father started raping me. He was almost as violent as my mother – punching me all the time. He always said I was so ugly that no man would have me, that he was doing me a favour by even touching me. If I protested, he would slap me across the face. All the time I asked for my father’s whereabouts, my mother would laugh at me, pointing out the fact that my father was a randy bastard who kept having one wife after the other.
“It was a kind neighbour who wanted to know what my father had to say to my abuse, that helped me find out my father’s address. When next my step-father raped me and fell asleep, I removed some money from his pocket and fled while he slept off his lust. I then traced my father to the address my neighbour gave me. He was shocked to see me to say the least. When I told him all I’d gone through, he actually wept. He said he’d tried to look for me but when he heard my mother had married, he didn’t want to upset a family arrangement.
“He then took me to his elder sister’s place and she was even more shocked than my father was when she saw me. I must have looked a fright but she grudgingly agreed for me to live with her. Her only child was abroad with her family and she lived alone with some domestic helps.
“When I finally settled into her impressive looking house, she regarded me with caution. With my mother’s lies on the atrocities I was alleged to have committed, she didn’t know what to believe. But she took me to a second-hand market and bought clothes and shoes. For the first time in my life, I had real toilet soap instead of the abrasive soda soap that my mum always bought, which doubled as my bath soap, and dishwashing soap. I was re-enrolled into the local primary school and put back a year because I failed the test for my current class.
“In my new home, I actually had my own room and slept on a bed for the first time in my life. Big Mummy, as I called my auntie, already had a maid but I eagerly did most of the chores. I’d been used to all that and more, and didn’t want to give her an excuse to send me back to my nasty mother. She encouraged me to attend evening lessons run by one of the neighbours and I discovered I actually enjoyed learning. Once in a while, my mother would visit but I looked frightened of her that Big Mummy asked her to stop coming. All she wanted anyway, was the money she always got off Big Mummy. She tried a couple more times and even threatened to take me but Big Mummy threatened her with police action that she eventually stopped calling.
“With time, I finished secondary school and trained as a nurse. Big Mummy encouraged me to have enough experience in a proper teaching hospital before I later trained as an industrial nurse. After I got married to my medical doctor’s husband, he used his influence to get me a job as a nurse in an industrial firm. As my life progressed beyond my wildest dreams, I had to pinch myself that what was happening to me was real.
“When Big Mummy had breast cancer, I was devastated. Thanks to my training and her being the mother I never really had, I was constantly by her side. When her daughter visited and saw how well her mother was being taken care of by me, she was full of praises and appreciation. Believe me, it was no fun looking after a bed-ridden woman whom you’d always looked up to as strong and independent. My heart broke as she wasted away but I made sure she had all the care and love she could get at home. She refused to stay in the hospital and would rather my husband treated her. When she eventually died at the age of 68 at home, she was surrounded by all the people she loved.
‘My mother shocked us all by attending the funeral with her no-good husband. I simply ignored both of them as I’d severed contact with that side of my family ages ago. They obviously didn’t belong anywhere and came to sit with my friends and relations at the night party. My husband restrained me from being nasty to both of them and he saw to their being served. If it were left to me, they would have been totally disgraced out of the party.
“Now that I am a mother of three, I think back constantly to how my mother treated me and I shuddered at the fact that you could give life to a child and treat that child like dirt. I never forgave her and when she died two years ago, I didn’t bother to attend her burial. My half-siblings came for money and it was my husband who gave it to them. As far as I was concerned, I’d already buried my mum when Big Mummy died.
“To this day, I never mentioned the constant rape by my stepfather to anyone; it still fills me with shame. Maybe it’s about time rape victims were encouraged to come forward. Unfortunately, the rape law of the land is not encouraging even after all the efforts of various NGOs that rapists be named and shamed and jailed. A colleague recently dragged her neighbour’s driver to the police station for raping her house-maid. When the police interrogated the girl, she was asked if the boy had struggled whilst entering her or if he entered easily. The girl said there was no struggling. Was there blood? NO. “You see,” said the main interrogator triumphantly, it’s not rape!”
Rape is forcing yourself on your victim without her consent whether she’s a virgin girlfriend or a wife. In a society where men do that all of the time under the pretext that the more a victim protests, the more she wants it, rapists will continue to keep quiet for being branded teasers”.