I am Harry. I am nineteen years old, but I grew up way faster than I was supposed to. Even as I write this, I am not sure I want to talk about this. But I’m persevering because, if by doing so without shame, if it will have less power over me and strengthen me to say NO to further unwanted sexual attention, then I must.
There was a time when I was in primary school that I asked my elder brother what sin God cannot forgive. His reply was: “When one worships another god.” Although we are grown-ups now and have discovered that God actually forgives all sins, that one answer he gave those years ago gave – still gives me – great relief. This is because, at the time when I sought that answer, I was being molested and had begun to sense that it was wrong.
Chronologically, it started with my cousin who lived with us. Her name, real name, is Ebiere. My father had brought her to Lagos because she had a hankering for coming to the city. She was also relocated to our home to assist my mother with some chores and be her companion of sorts, seeing as my father travelled about a lot due to the nature of his job, only dropping in at home during festive periods.
I was 6 or 7, in Nursery 2, when she started touching me. She was twenty-something. Whenever I got back from school and no one was home but her, she would tell me to take off my shorts and go lie on the bed. Then she’d come in after me and cover my face with a pillow, telling me to hold it till she tells me to take it off. And I would be in this position as she gets busy with my privates, fellating me, taking her joy from my tiny penis. I felt the warm wetness on my penis but I didn’t know what was happening to me because I never took off the pillow to see. I only got to know that it was her mouth around my penis when one day, I took off the pillow before she’d asked me to.
I was 6 and didn’t understand what was happening. Even then, I didn’t like it. And so, some days, at the close of school, I’d loiter around the school premises to pass out time so that when I got back home, my mother or someone else would’ve been back.
The day I confronted her with my insistence that I didn’t like what she was doing to me and that I was going to tell my mother, she slapped me so hard I felt the right side of my face go momentarily numb. Then she threatened to kill me if I told anyone anything. It was the expression on her face as she said those words to me – that ugly darkness that widened her eyes and flared her nostrils – that was what brought on my first real feeling of fear inside me. I truly believed she would kill me if I said anything. And so, as I clutched my face and felt tears well up involuntarily in my eyes, I accepted that this was something I had no power over. Her molestation became such routine that the days when, after loitering in school, I came home to find her still the only one at home, I would simply take off my short without her asking and go lie on the bed. After my defiance that one time, she kept a close watch on me and saw to it that I stopped playing with the neighbour’s children, all in her determination to see to it that I didn’t let slip our secret to anyone. This remained our routine till she got married and left our house.
I was 8 when this happened.
My second molester was a neighbour, so close to my family that he could come to our house anytime to borrow something or just to relax and watch movies. His name is Nnamdi, and he was in his early twenties, a footballer.
No one would have suspected him of any wrongdoing; he was that close to my family. He was the unofficial babysitter when no one was home to mind me and my mother needed to be elsewhere. She would often leave me in his care anytime she was leaving for the market or to some other place she couldn’t take me along with. And so, he would take me to his apartment and in a playful tone, tell me to touch his penis. His was the first erection I saw in my life. After making me touch his hard-on, he would carry me to his bed and lie on top of me, half naked. Fear sealed my lips and guilt found fertile ground in my heart. I was still undergoing the violation from Ebiere, and couldn’t understand why it had to be this way for me again. No one else, just me! It made me sad and always moody, withdrawn most of the time, although, mercifully, this didn’t affect my academic interests, something my parents were more concerned about.
Nnamdi’s violation of me had a short life span. It ended soon after it started, when the house we lived in had to be renovated. Upon the landlord’s asking, everyone moved out and he disappeared from my life.
I cannot actually place who the third molester was – whether the chemist who sold drugs on our street, or my school teacher, or my older brother’s friend who took advantage of me one evening when no one was home.
The chemist, a young man in his twenties, worked under a close friend of my mother; that was how he had access to us – to me. I’ll never forget the day he tried to force his penis into my behind. It was painful, the kind of searing pain that ripped through the muteness that had sealed my lips, causing me to cry out. Crying out was like a release; the tears came and sobs began wracking my body. I was inconsolable, no matter how many times he desperately tried to hush me. When he saw that I wouldn’t stop crying even after his petting and frantic promises, he hastily fetched a bottle of blue-inky hydrogen peroxide, usually found in a first-aid box, and applied it on an old injury on my head as a camouflage. When my sister saw me crying and asked what the matter was, he said that I’d hit my head on one of the shelves and that that was why he applied the hydrogen peroxide on my head, to help with the injury.
I was seven when this happened.
My school teacher, Deji, was someone who was regarded as family. That is how close he was – and still is – to us. My mother entrusted my siblings and I to him; he was like a second parent to us. I got to know him when I was 6 or 7, after my mother switched me from my former school to a new one to repeat Nursery 2. He was the teacher in my class. He took me and my siblings to school and brought us home, and also conducted after-school lessons for us. It was during one of the extra lessons that he called him into an empty classroom and began to stroke my face and kiss me on my lips. This was the story of my young life, and so, at this time, I had learned to zone out, become an automaton under the onslaught of this kind of violation. Most times, when he stayed overnight in our house, he would reach for me when everyone was fast asleep and try to kiss me forcefully. I never understood why he always wanted his lips to touch mine, and so I resisted. But somehow, he always succeeded in pushing his tongue into mine, all the while whispering, “Harry, open up… You’ll like it with time…” I never liked it, his tongue thrusting into my mouth, his mouth meshing over my lips under the stamp of his saliva. This irritated me. Then he would unzip his trousers and place my hand on his penis, making me stroke it for him until it got hard. Thereafter, he would lie on top of me, making me disappear under his mass, humping my legs and grunting his way to climax.
Just like my cousin, Ebiere, his attention was constant and I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know why I couldn’t. Perhaps it was the fear that Ebiere had instilled in me after the one time I had the effrontery to confront her. Perhaps I had begun to see it as my lot, the cross I had to bear in my childhood. Even after Ebiere left, Deji stayed with me as I matured from Nursery School to Primary School. When it came the time for me to go on to Secondary School, I began pressurizing my father to let me go to a boarding school so that I could get far away from Deji. My father agreed, but then, he lost his job and my wish to leave home for a boarding school was snuffed out under the drama following my father’s job severance.
And so, I was stuck with Deji. He was still a constant visitor to our house even after he got married. I thought many times about simply cutting him out and telling my parents, but I could never bring myself to do so. While what he was doing to me was deplorable, I couldn’t deny the fact that I had grown so used to it that it had become a part of my life. I cried often when I was alone, because I never wanted this for myself. I saw other children my age, carefree and seemingly happy in their associations, and I wondered bitterly why whatever providence had made me this kind of victim had chosen me and not them.
Finally, last year, I got the presence of mind to say No to Deji, no to any further intimacy with him. He had had me for over ten years, used up the better part of my life, and I’d had enough.
But the damage has undeniably been done to me. I am self aware enough to realize that. I do not automatically seek company in the same way others around me do when they have something on their minds. But this conflicts with my need to not be alone. I am afraid something might happen to me, something deserving for all those years I stayed silent and let myself be violated. I also feel like I’m ruined for any future intimate relationships, if I ever get the chance to be in one. I feel like I cannot give anything of myself to whomever decides I’m worthy of tender, loving care.
And when I think about this, whenever I battle the darkness that nips at my mind, threatening to overwhelm me, I try to save myself by telling myself I don’t care. But that’s never really true. It wasn’t true when I started telling myself this lie, and it certainly isn’t true now that I have liberated myself. But it’s much easier to pretend, isn’t it?
Written by Harry