“According to Plan International, 1 out of 3 women in the world gets beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetime.”
Growing up as a child, I was fond of spending time with family members during the holidays and weekends; I had this one uncle that I loved so much because he treated me like a princess, so I was always running to his place for the holidays. When my school closed for 2010 Christmas, I went to spend the Christmas with my uncle; unknown to me, that fateful Christmas turned out to be one of the worse experiences of my life.
My uncle shared the compound he lived in with his landlord, who had so many boys staying with him. At the time, I was 15 years old, one of the older guys who was about twice my age was constantly getting me presents and treats. I accepted these gestures thinking that he was just being nice as I took everyone as my uncle. Eventually, he started making advances at me; he would hold my hands and say, “you are a very beautiful girl, do you know that?” Being a kid and not knowing any better, I would just smile because my uncle always said the same to me and who doesn’t like compliments? As time went by, whenever my uncle was not around, this guy would come to the house to ask for my uncle at the very moment I was leaving the bathroom after a bath. When I became suspicious of him sneaking into our apartment, I told my younger uncle about it and his response was “the man can only be joking.”
I was afraid to cause any form of a quarrel between my uncle and his landlord since they seemed to have had a good relationship long before I came to visit, so I didn’t bring it up again with my uncle. The sad part is that my uncle, not knowing this man’s intention towards me, asked him to be my “study class teacher” -a Liberian name for a home tutor. I was hesitant to agree to this arrangement, but my uncle set it up anyway because he couldn’t have possibly imagined my reason for hesitating was anything more than normal teenage rebellion. So the tutoring sessions began and whenever this guy would come to tutor me, he would start to touch me inappropriately. I tried to scare him off, threatening that if he did not stop what he was doing, I was going to report and disgrace him; his response was, “people won’t believe you because I am a good man.” I brought it up to my younger uncle for the second time, thinking he was going to warn off my predator and ask him to desist. Again, he rebuked me saying “don’t say such things about the man! He loves all the children living in the yard here and jokes with them like he’s doing with you”.
One day, I spoke about this guy’s action with two other girls in the compound –we were just about the same age. I told them I don’t know what to do about our so-called uncle harassing me and one of them asked, “he is harassing you too?” They both recounted how he harassed them countlessly and whenever they complained to their aunt about it, she would call them liars. Absolutely no one took them seriously when they spoke out. I felt lost and helpless. After hearing their experiences, I felt like there was nothing else I could do about the situation.
It was on December 23, 2010. My uncle had left for town, I was home alone –all by myself– getting ready to shower and I forgot to lock the bathroom door. As I was undressing to step under the shower, he came out of nowhere, grabbed me by the waist and pull me towards him. He was way stronger than me. He forcibly tried to tear off my covering and at the same time his left hand held on to my breast firmly. I was shouting, but no one was in the house to hear me; worse of all there was no one in the entire compound, and I did not know that. Everyone had gone out; I yelled desperately hoping someone in the yard would hear. I did all I could to escape from his clenched fist, but he eventually overpowered me and held me tight in his arms while forcibly starting to kiss me. I was still fighting back, not giving in to the fear that gripped me. But each time I tried to pull away, he slapped me violently and said, “stop being disobedient and give me what I want”.
I was weakening, about to lose my virginity to an imbecile who paraded himself in the community as a good man –a monster who was old enough to be my father. I was weeping bitterly, but he had no conscience. He said “cry all you want, nothing is going to come out of this! Ask the other girls if anything came out of what I did to them.” While saying that, he threw me to the floor and I began to bleed from the nose. He went on to pull his trousers off as he kicked me on the floor. With so much rage he climbed over me, forcing my leg apart, separating my feet with his body. As he was about to force himself into my fragile teenage body, miraculously, my uncle entered the house and came rushing to my rescue. It was a Christmas miracle.
My uncle reported this monster to the police and he was arrested. So many of the other girls in the community were happy that the guy was finally arrested and testified about how he molested them. My younger uncle, to whom I reported this man several months ago, denied that I ever told him anything relating to this guy’s advances on me.
This is part of my story, and I say it to seek neither pity nor suspicion from anyone. I’m telling this story because I want it to serve as a wakeup call for us, as a society. Horrendously enough, this is part of almost every Liberian girl’s story; and it could happen anywhere, be it their houses, communities, churches, schools, or sometimes just in the street. And it is everyone’s fault! We support rape and sexual abuse with our silence; our indirect support, by victim shaming, or by not doing enough for whatever reason. I’m here to earnestly beg and plead with each of us: please, let us do better! Let us do better by our sisters, aunties, and our babies, who are being broken every day in this country. Please! Let’s fight for them. I’m begging you all.
Featured pic by Khebar Samay