My Silence Almost Killed Me
My silence almost cost me my life.
Growing up as a black African child in an extended family can be both a blessing and a nightmare. Everyone usually has a good story to tell growing up, but mine was not that good—and I will never wish that upon anyone.
I grew up in a family filled with violence and harassment, especially sexual harassment. I was sexually molested and kept my mouth shut at a very young age. My cousins used me for their sexual pleasure, and at first I resisted, because no child on Earth wants to be a toy in that manner. Eventually, I gave in. I became a sex slave to both male and female cousins in my family. Those painful nights haunt me until today. I grew up in that violence and abuse until I was in fourth grade—and that is when I opened my eyes.
I knew what I was experiencing was wrong. I had had enough of that abuse. I could have spoken about it to my mother. But I thought she would judge me because she never believed anything I said, anyway. So I had to become a sad, lonely, and quiet child.
Some people wondered why I was so quiet and angry at everyone all the time—but not my family. My family thought I was going through puberty. Can you imagine a child going through puberty at such a young age? I knew it was not true, and I was hurting. I never opened up about it. I was broken that my own family members could have done such terrible things to me. I had nobody to turn to. So I kept quiet.
I had no friends, because I thought if I had one, I would trust them and eventually open up. So I decided to keep it a secret. The funny thing about African parents back then is that they never took their children to see a therapist. I know that could have helped me. A a good parent will know when something is wrong with their child, but back then, that wasn’t my mother.
As the years passed and I grew into my teenage years, I became depressed and very hateful toward every man I met, as well as my family. I was in my own world. I felt dirty, like I was a disgrace to my family and community. I could neither forget nor forgive myself for allowing myself to be used like that.
I used to cry every night on my pillow. Every day, I would pray to God for my soul to be cleansed, just wishing that I was a normal girl…but no, it was just impossible. My depression became so deep that I almost took my own life. I couldn’t take it anymore. To worsen the situation, my friends used to brag about being virgins. I was so afraid that no boy would ever love or accept me. I lost all the trust and hope I had for myself. Therefore, I couldn’t even trust anyone else.
I had been crushed, and I crushed myself.
But even though I had a rough upbringing and worse childhood, one thing kept me going: school. I dedicated my life to school. I wanted to finish school and work toward my career, which is still in progress. As they say, “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.” School was the light I found in my darkest nights and through the worst storms of my life. It kept me going; it inspired me to push myself and try to forget the past.
In short, I became the best version of myself and decided to forgive those who have hurt me. I know God will judge, and their punishment is in His hands. But I will never forget. I experienced such trauma and pain at a young age. At the same time, life goes on.
Though I cannot bury my past, I try my best to avoid it. Today, I am focusing on myself. I am building a future for myself and standing up for all women who have been victims of any kind of abuse. I have learned to trust some people, even though it is difficult to trust anyone.
My silence almost killed me, and it almost cost me my future. It still impacts me. To this day, I have never been in a relationship with anybody. I am always afraid that they will take advantage of me, and I am not ready to be hurt again. I have kept quiet my whole life, but now I want to open up. I want to encourage people to speak. Everyone should let their voices be heard, and the rest should listen. And that is how we can create a better world for future generations.