We all hear stories of how women around the world are abused, mistreated, humiliated, harassed, assaulted or ridiculed. We read about it in books, newspapers, magazines and view it in movies, social media or hear of it through our acquaintances, family members, and friends.
I was raised in a very protective environment where I was sure nothing would harm me or hurt me. My parents shielded me from every kind of danger be it real or imaginary. I knew my dad was a soldier guarding his territory with vigor and incomparable zeal. I still recall how as a child I was convinced a monster was hiding under my bed and my dad would pretend to fight and hurl the monster away from my room.
My mother was the one I rushed to when I was scared after experiencing a terrible and scary nightmare. Her warm caress and soft touch would lure me to sleep and only let beautiful dreams descend upon me.
My brother though very quiet was someone who would never let me wince with a tiny ounce of pain. He let the thorn prick his hand before it touched me. I was sheltered and guarded. I always knew once I was home everything would be fine.
As the hard times hit home we have to make a move to places away from home so we can have better lives and opportunities. It is not easy adjusting to a new place, new culture, and new surroundings but we struggle just to make ends meet. Often we face challenges we would never even have to bother about at home but we still persevere hoping to get to the better end of the lane.
During one of my stays way from home, I endured a very traumatic ordeal. To this day when it is all over I still experience periods of terror where I wake up drenched in sweat feeling like the nightmare is recurring all over again and I have no means of escape.
What started as just a rare occurrence turned out to be the worst time of my life. I have had my fair share of heartbreaks and bullying but nothing had escalated to this extent where I was startled by even a slight murmur of breath. Neither was my dad here to squash the demon under his feet nor my mum’s embrace which could wipe away the toughest strains miles away from me.
The family I stayed with and which I considered to be my own family away from home decided to travel away for about two months away from Tanzania. The family consisted of a mother, two sisters one of whom was married and their son who was addicted to alcohol and would do anything to quench his thirst for a drink. I experienced first hand what a cruel person he was several times during my three-year stay with them.He was always in need of money so he could have a few drinks. He spent his entire month’s salary in a day drinking from evening till early hours of the morning. When he didn’t have money he resorted to asking for loans from his friends or relatives. Most of the times his mother would find the money and give it to him so he would leave home and stop creating chaos inside the house.
He would come home drunk not having the decency to step into his room and lie there till he was sober. He would forcefully awaken his mother and demand to have his meal set up on the dining table. He would break everything he could get his hands on – the tv, chairs, plates, glasses and anything within his reach. He would abuse his own mother often humiliating her in the presence of neighbours with no remorse. A number of times he would fall off the stairs or on the road unconscious and the guards would bring him home. He lost all his possessions when he was drunk – his wallet, money, watches, mobile phones and sometimes even his clothes.
A few moths later he had a fatal accident where he narrowly escaped the hands of death after riding a motor bike when he was drunk as hell. He dislocated his arm severely and sustained injuries on his leg and face. He promised to quit drinking and turn over a new leaf but deep in my heart I knew the man would never change. He was a calamity waiting to strike. As soon as he was better he would resort to his drunken ways. How right my instinct was. I should have moved out then but I was reluctant to start over again and go through the stress of moving to a new place.
However, he never abused me or humiliated me or even try getting close to me when he was drunk. I was deeply illusioned in thinking his mum and sister would not let him do as much as lay a finger on me. Even with everyone around I still had trouble sleeping and would fidget around till morning so I could get away from him and the house. I had never come across such a brutally violent man before. My dad and brother never drunk or treated me or mum like this. We were always respected and cared for. The vast different in both the homes should have been enough to induce me to leave but I always stayed believing their endless lies that it won’t happen again.
The day for their departure was nearing and I could not stop having this strange fear in my heart that something bad was going to happen. I could not stop that nagging feeling pleading me to flee away while I had the chance.All hell broke lose when the mother and daughter left leaving me alone with the monster. The first night itself he came home drunk breaking the mirror and banging doors till he fell from exhaustion. I had the third chance of escape but I stuck on.
I started spending more time away from home to avoid him. I started working extra shifts, having sleepovers with friends to avoid being in the same house with him. Anything to just let me not come across him or see his drunken ways which always left me scared to death.
I thank God for giving me the idea of locking my room and placing a chair near the door which would awaken me from the deepest slumber if he tried to break into my room.
The days passed by slowly for me and every night I was scared of being raped or beaten. I had no peace once inside the house. I was always tugged by fear and sensing my fear he would advance towards me and laugh sinisterly forcing me to bolt to my room and recite a prayer for safety.
I was paralysed by fear and unease when he was around. I would keep on testing the lock, again and again, to ensure it was locked. I would avoid sleeping too much thinking what if he managed to enter the room and have his way with me while I was asleep? What if he broke the lock and forced himself on me? What if he sneaked in through the window? What if he bribed the maid to spike my food so I would not be able to defend myself? What if he beat me up, hurt me or humiliated me? What would I do? Should I leave? Should I talk to someone or ask for help?
The fear of being laughed at or being thought of as paranoid would prevent me from sharing what I was experiencing with anyone. He was a person who was a completely different person outside. He dressed impeccably, was kind and generous with his friends and no one would believe him capable of such behavior. I kept on consoling myself with the fact that he hasn’t yet done anything. Why couldn’t I be a grown up and stop being scared like a kid?
I tried to force my friends to go out for movies or anywhere else so I could get away from him. I was upset and angry when they cancelled plans we made or refused to have me for a sleep over at their homes. I did not want to worry my parents and tell them of the situation I was in. They had done so much, sacrificed so much to have me here. I could not possibly let them down because I was scared of someone.
I constantly kept on questioning myself how could someone who was a mother to three kids leave me alone like this with her monster of a son? Did she not fear for my safety? Who would she hold responsible if something happened to me? Not even once did she call or speak to me while she was gone. Not even once did she bother to check on me or ensure everything was in order at home while she was away? Sometimes there was no food at home. I paid her each month yet she did not think it wise at least have food for me at me or arrange something for me. How selfish could she be? Would she have left her own daughter with him? Would she have let her starve or feel so unsafe and vulnerable? The only thing she cared about was getting her daughter married off happily at the expense of wrecking my life and inner peace.
Most of all I am disappointed in myself. How could I have stayed quiet and endured all this alone? Why did I not speak up? If I could have been a little bit stronger I could have left and not gone through this at all. Why did I not protest? Why did I let someone else have the upper hand when it came to my safety?
Her elder daughter who was in the same town and had a large house never bothered to check on me or ask if everything was alright. She only called the maid to check if everything was okay and always demanded I pay for the house expenses while her mum was gone. Upon my refusal, she was totally upset as if all this was my fault. Clouded with her own life she never knew or cared to ask how I was surviving?
His behavior kept on escalating from worse to worst. He started eyeing the maid and would force her to touch him inappropriately. He would appear nude in front of her and suggest she appease his hunger for lust. She warned me to be careful and look for another place since no one was going to hear my cries for help at night, no one would assist me if I screamed since this devil was capable of inflicting harm on anyone. Several times I felt I heard someone was trying to open my door, trying to force their way or pick the lock. I don’t know if it was just my imagination or if it really happened. I am not so sure. But whether it was a fiction of my imagination or not I was deeply troubled and depressed. I did not know who I could turn to for help, who I could talk to. I did not have the means to look for another house or anyone I could turn to for help.
This went on for two months. For sixty days I came home night scared, alone and vulnerable not knowing whether I would wake up safely or not. I did not sleep or have an ounce of peace. I was fearful of even the tv sound being too loud thinking my screams would not be heard if the sound was too loud. I double checked the windows and the doors. I was getting paranoid and was skeptical of talking to anyone or sharing this with anyone.
Then came the worst night of my life. I was lying in my room trying to focus on my reading when I heard someone knock at the door. I still remember how I could sense the steps coming towards the door and how I thought I was imagining things. The knock came a little louder this time and as terrified I was I took a few steps toward the door and with a barely audible voice asked who was at the door? Not sure whether he heard me or not I waited hoping the intruder would just go away. But that was not to happen. He knocked again and mustering all the courage I had I slightly opened the wooden door making sure the grilled gate was closed.
The man claimed to live in the same building as I was on the upper floor but in all the times I had stayed there not even once had I seen him. He said he had the monster’s wallet and he was lying drunk downstairs on the road. If I would open the door he would give me the wallet and leave his belongings with me. I was wide alert and my gut feeling warned me not to open the door. I told him to leave the stuff outside the door and I would collect them in the morning. He kept on insisting there was no need to be scared of him and he just wanted to help.
I was firm and repeated what I had told him earlier. he angrily dropped the stuff at the door and left. I went to my room but my heart was thumping so loudly I had trouble breathing or staying calm. I called the guard and he confirmed that indeed he was lying on the road and was terribly drunk. I don’t know what got into me that I asked the guard to help him up so he would not get run over by a car. He refused and said he would only help if I came downstairs to request him. How lame was that? Why would you not help me when you knew how dangerous it would be for a woman to go out at almost 11 pm? The area was popular for drunkards and hooligans chilling out at night getting drunk and picking up girls.
I was so scared I had no idea what to do. Nothing had happened but I felt like a disaster was about to happen. I knocked at the neighbours but no one came out of their houses to check who it was. I called their numbers but no response.
I dialled an uncle’s number and informed him of the situation. He was someone who frequently came home and asked if I needed anything or if everything was okay ay my side. He immediately came and tried to calm me down. He brought the drunk upstairs but seeing how wild and barbaric he looked he was tempted to leave me alone to deal with him. I pleaded him to stay for a little longer, trying to tell him I was scared.
He agreed to stay but when I moved to enter towards my room the monster called me and made me turn, a look of surprise on my face. He did not utter my name with respect or out of help. He uttered my name, moaning my name the way a hunter would while capturing its prey. I froze in terror and he shouted demanding I lay his meal on the table for him. I was so confused. I did as he asked not wanting any harm to come to me.
He then refused to let me go into my room insisting I stay with him by his side. I was alarmed by this behavior and I could feel his eyes on me watching every time I turned or took a step away. His uncle being a grown man was scared of how the situation was unfolding. Imagine my plight in that scenario.
Then he started beating himself up – banging his head on the wall, getting up and falling down, trying to lift the sofa and dropping it back down, smashing the tv and throwing the chairs. I was still stuck not knowing what to do. He was getting violent as every second ticked by.
I knew I was not safe that night. I knew I should have moved out when I had the chance. I had to leave. I had to go away from this place.I told the uncle I was not staying here tonight and requested a lady living nearby to let me stay there for the night. She agreed and as soon as the drunk took a step towards me I rushed out pushing him with all the strength I had. The push was enough to make him lose his footing and tumble down.The uncle helped me leave the house not letting the monster cause any more trouble. He dropped me off at the lady’s house and advised me to never return to the house.
I was so stunned I could not sleep well for a few nights after that experience. I made a decision of moving out there and then. When I called the sister and informed her of the situation she told me to relax and not worry. Not even once did she say she would come see me or talk to her brother. Every day after that she kept on insisting I return to the house or come stay at her place not because she was worried about me but because her mum would lose the monthly income she received from me.
A week later the mum and daughter came back. They greeted me with harsh words criticizing me and insulting me for standing up for myself. When I left, the whole building was horrified and the guards left no stone unturned to spread the story of how I left in the middle of the night to another place.
All the help and support I had accorded the family had gone in vain. I helped them plan their parties and social gatherings yet when it came to understanding my situation they both supported the criminal. The mum’s word still echo in my ears. “Did my son touch you or tear your clothes? Why are you making a fuss?”
Should I have waited for him to lay his filthy hands on me to taka an action? Should I have let him mistreat me just because I considered them family and was scared of scandal? Should I have endured more violence, abuse, and fear because I was alone?
NO. I made the right choice.
The monster hid behind his mother’s drape warning me not to return since I had tarnished his reputation. What reputation When you were the one who came in drunk and had no shame? You beat your mother and abused her? You insulted your own sister and called her horrific names. What reputation does a monster like you have?
As I was leaving the mother asked me for money saying I still had to pay her for a month which was untrue. But I sent her the money and ended all this once and for all. I had no reason to continue being with such people who only cared for their material gain. Being a woman she never tried to understand how I felt? or contemplate the horrors I endured or how scared I was every night.
Even when I am safe away from this I still have trouble sleeping ready to jump out at the tiniest noise. Even when I know I am with my loved ones I can’t stop holding my brother’s hand tightly so no one could pull me away from his protection. I still have flashbacks and get depressed thinking of how much I endured. Why did I not speak up? Someone who studied law and was aware of her rights, why did I not do the right thing?
It was not easy expressing my fears and feelings but I felt I had to share this. To all the girls out there Ask for help, Talk to someone, Get out while you still can. Don’t let anyone compromise your safety and well being.
To all the girls out there Ask for help, Talk to someone, Get out while you still can. Don’t let anyone compromise your safety and well being.
It is better to create a scene and walk out safely than stay quiet and have someone molest you or scare you. Take action while you still can and never stop fighting for yourself.
Somebody had to say it.
A man who behaves this way is a coward and not worthy of anything.
A woman who does not stand up for another woman who is going through abuse or violence is a culprit who should be ashamed.
Today the mother claims her son made a huge mistake and should not have behaved as he did. She complains about the source of money she lost. That is how selfish she is. Someone who prays five times a day, someone who is at the forefront at the mosque, performing a lot of charity is someone who let a girl endure trauma and be fearful just because she stood up for herself and left the house.
Be brave girls and speak up. Let the world know no one is going to hurt us and we will not go down without a fight.