Wow! The support for #OurTaboo has been absolutely phenomenal! Thank you for all the emails, text messages and the general goodwill! Thanks to all those who also sent in their PCOS stories after reading Intruder as well as all those who sent in remedies and alternative solutions. I also love the fact that so many people are now aware that PCOS exists. That is exactly why I started this series. One of my readers who had the PCOS condition asked me to give everyone who is going through it this message:
‘Don’t give up. Have faith in God. I just gave birth to a healthy baby boy a few months ago. It could only have been the grace of God. Don’t give up. Miracles happen.’
This story is equally moving and I hope that it starts a new conversation about the status quo in Ghana. Don’t forget the hashtag #OurTaboo . Happy reading!
I was 9.
It was my birthday party. I was wearing a pink ballerina dress with frills at the end. Everyone was there- my siblings, my cousins, my friends from school, Mummy’s friends’ children, the kids in my Sunday school class, the neighbours and a bunch of other kids I didn’t know. Even Chris was here- the cute, quiet guy who had just joined our class. He smiled when he handed me my present and said ‘Happy birthday. You look pretty.’
There was toolo beefi jollof with a lot of pepper in it- Mummy had made it just the way I liked it. There was also banku with fried fish and pepper, a lot more Coke and Fanta than I was normally allowed to drink, plantain chips and ats)m). The speakers were booming with Usher’s voice, crooning, ‘You remind me of a girl that I once knew..’ My cake was perfect- a Bakeshop Classics cake. I knew that there was chocolate and vanilla cake beneath the icing. I picked the flavours and the colours a week earlier.
It was the perfect day!
Yes, the perfect day to be 9 years old!
It is a day I will never forget.
It’s the day Uncle Yaw raped me.
My stepfather’s brother.
I went to put one of my presents in my bedroom. He followed me. I didn’t see him until his hands were ripping off the ballerina dress off me. I tried to beg, it didn’t work. I tried to scream, but the music from the party was too loud for anyone to hear me. I tried to fight, but I wasn’t strong enough.
So I just lay there. I told myself it was going to be alright. He said I had been asking for it and that the way I danced at the party was not the way a virgin dances. He said I was a bad girl and that he was only doing what was done to bad girls. I wanted to throw up when he pressed his lips to my neck.
It hurt. It hurt a lot. He smelt. He smelt like beer, sweat and evil. I wanted to vanish. I wanted to die.
I was shaking.
I wanted to take a bath. My thighs were sticky. from sweat and whatever came out from between his legs. There was blood on my dress. It hurt when I tried to pee. Everyone was gone. I no longer looked pretty. I no longer felt special. The shaking was getting worse. I couldn’t bring myself to talk.
They were fighting- Mummy and her husband. I had never really liked that man or his brother. They had been fighting ever since my brother found Uncle Yaw on top of me. He hit Uncle Yaw on the head with an iron, pushed him off me and yelled for my mother.
They were fighting about what to do.
Mummy wanted to report the matter to the police. Her husband said no. He wanted to protect Uncle Yaw. He said it was an accident, that we should treat it as a ‘home matter’.
‘So we are just going to sit here and do nothing?’, my brother asked.
Mummy’s husband ignored him and continued his argument with Mummy. He was going to send Uncle Yaw away so that he would never bother me again. He was going to take me to the UK for the holidays so that I would forget about what happened. He told Mummy to give me a bath and some painkillers. I just kept shaking.
Mummy couldn’t stop crying. She couldn’t look me in the face. She just kept saying, ‘I am so sorry’ over and over again when she was bathing me. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t speak for a week after that, according to Mummy.
The shaking stopped eventually. I never saw Uncle Yaw again. It didn’t help that Mummy’s husband looked a lot like him. I stopped speaking to Mummy and her husband. I could only fall asleep if my brother was near me. Somehow I just felt safer with him around me. I came back from the UK with lots of clothes and pretty things. The nightmares stopped. Mummy and her husband even seemed to have patched up.
All was forgotten, it seemed.
Until my tenth birthday.
And every birthday after that.
On the day when I should be celebrating my life, this is what I remember.
It’s my birthday tomorrow.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to share what you think on social media with the hashtag #OurTaboo.
Author’s note: Children are abused by people they trust all the time. If a child confides in you that she has been abused by someone she trusts, please don’t try to cover up for that person. There is only one true victim- that child.
The Taboo series is a collection of stories that highlight conditions and stories that are generally buried in Ghanaian everyday living. Each of these stories is based on a true story and is shared with permission from the persons who shared them with me.