For as long as I can remember, I have always been warned about certain things. Things I was made to believe that if they happened, it’s because I let it happen. My name is Talatu and this is my story.
Before the time of gender violence awareness, I was born. My family, like most families in the north was very conservative. My dad was a good man who owned many businesses across Kano state. In the family house, he constructed a business center out of our garage and he had three employees. When we (my older ones and i) return from school, we were made to sit in the business center till our mother returned from the market. I wasn’t close to my mother, none of us were. She was a hard woman who focused more on her business. She also always resulted to violence which was a major reason why we never told her stuff. She would always tell us that what ever happened to us, it was always because we let it happen. We could complain about a stomach ache and my mother would spank us for eating something bad. My mum was the type to blame the victim. That is just how she was and we learned to live with it.
That is why I couldn’t tell her. I was young and scared. I had come home from school one day without my sister and my brother. My brother had gone to play ball with his friends which he always did and my sister was walking back home slowly with her friends and some boys from her class. When I entered the business center, Uncle Sani (one of the workers) told me that my mum said I can enter the house and take off my uniform before she comes back. It seemed weird to me but he had no reason to lie which didn’t make me suspicious.
I went into I and my sister’s room and as I took off my shirt, he walked in and told me not to be scared. He came closer to stand in front of me. He started touching my hair then he used his hands to cup my face and then proceeded to kiss me. I was shaking because I didn’t know what to do here. My body became limb when he pressed my collar bones. He took up his trousers and forced himself in my mouth first and then went on to penetrate me. The pain was excruciating but I lay still. After he was don, he stood up and walked out of the room, like nothing had happened. He didn’t look at me and I couldn’t look at him.
For days, I wasn’t sure what really happened. I didn’t know much about sex and I didn’t even know I was violated. All I knew was that I couldn’t look Uncle Sani in the eyes again. I was so ashamed and I had no idea why. He did this till it became a norm. He didn’t stop till he was sufficient enough to leave and start his own business. He raped me for 3 years. I stopped crying eventually and I let hate replace every emotion I was feeling. It took time for me to realize that I was raped and when I decided to tell my friend about it she asked me “Did you scream?” and I said no. She told me that if it was not forceful and I didn’t try to fight it then it was not rape. I tried to explain that I didn’t understand what was happening and I didn’t know what to do. This was hard for me and I couldn’t tell my mum because I knew she would blame me, or at the very least beat me and call me a cheap whore.
I had to deal with this scar for a long time. I watched Uncle Sani marry and have three kids. I watched him walk like a decent man. I watched people praise him for how responsible he is. This is what I had to deal with, seeing my abuser everyday walking as a free man.
This is why we need a system in Nigeria. The government needs to start treating rape as a crime against humanity. Women have suffered for a long time and this reign of patriarchy system has to end in Nigeria. A safe space where children and women can go to talk about their experience with abusers. This is why we need more parents to bridge that gap between them and their children. Parents and adults need to do better. We need to listen and protect more. I was abused and i had to deal with it alone, I lived in shame for so long. I am still dealing with it but we can help change things together.
This story was sent in anonymously through our volunteer, Munyale.