To Everyone Who Robbed Me Of Me

To Everyone Who Robbed Me Of Me

I live in a constant state of dread. Every time my phone rings, I feel my heart sink a little. What is it this time? Please don’t let someone be dead. Please let this not be bad news.

Each time my sister calls and doesn’t sound her usual chirpy self, I die a thousand deaths in the second between “Edozie” and “how are you?”

Rather than lie that I’m fine, or say exactly why I’m not, I’d ask, “What’s wrong?” Which makes no sense.

Up until my late teens, I used to share a bedroom with my late brother and I often woke in the middle of the night to check on him, inexplicably certain he wasn’t breathing. Sometimes, I found a mosquito feeding fat on his blood, which I’d swat; other times, I found him sleeping in a slightly awkward position and I would adjust his head on the pillow before tucking his blanket around him, knowing it would be flung halfway across the room before morning. Point is, on every of those nights I woke up terrified, I always found him breathing and sound asleep. You’d think that would have stopped me, made me think, OK, this is crazy, you need to stop. But no. Instead, I stayed up some nights and watched him, checking every few minutes to be sure nothing was wrong, afraid something bad was going to happen.

In the end, something bad did happen, and this served to normalize, if not justify, this feeling of constantly being on the brink.

As a child, I used to do a lot of things that in hindsight were weird. Very weird. I had this manic need to control my body and everything else that moved in its orbit. I would hold pee in for hours on end just to prove to myself that I could and I only had to go when I WANTED to go – still do this till now, my poor bladder. I would feel the urge to sneeze and refuse to sneeze – you read right, system override. My space was really important to me and I made it wherever I went. It didn’t matter how small it was or if it existed only in my head, so long as it kept people out. I’d go ballistic and throw tantrums when anyone crossed these invisible borders into my space – a nebulous, shifting territory I carried everywhere with me.

I’m not sure where these impulses came from, but I suspect they had something to do with having people a lot older than me touch me and do sexual things to me that I didn’t want, things I hated and I didn’t ask for. Maybe finding more and more ways to control my body was a child’s way of asserting his own body autonomy after the fact/before the fact/too little too late. But my wariness grew and grew, until it stopped being about controlling and protecting my body – gauging a room to know when to leave or who not to let myself be left alone with – to protecting my siblings. On the rare occasion that my brother or sister had a sleepover – could never be me – I would sleep fitfully. I watched them like a hawk, restricted them as much as I possibly could, sometimes went as far as hitting them to get them to sit their behinds at home and be safe where I could see them. I was introverted, but I’d go anywhere just so I could keep an eye out for my siblings.

As a child, I hated showing vulnerability. I made a habit of hiding to cry, but I’d cry openly whenever my sister or brother were taken anywhere without me, particularly in the company of people I didn’t trust. This was always misread as me crying because I didn’t want to be left behind.

In December 2016, my family – what is left of it – travelled to the village for my Mum’s burial. My Dad and I arrived first, weeks before my siblings. My siblings took a wrong turn coming in – the driver having never been to the village before – and I went to get them. Back home, we pulled in and piled out of our respective cars just as one of my Dad’s stepbrothers was making his way out of our house.

You!” my sister said, pointing at him, her tone dripping with accusation. She hadn’t seen him in years. “He tried to rape me when I was little!” she announced to her friends.

This uncle melted out of sight.

I knew exactly what she was talking about. She was 5 at the time and we were in the village for the Christmas holiday. This uncle had asked her into his room, and I don’t know if she remembers this, but I was the one who rapped on the door till he opened it and I told him my Mum wanted my sister immediately.

I don’t like sex – at least not in the way others seem to like it. It’s pleasurable and I am efficient at it, but it won’t be all that terrible if I never have sex for the rest of my life. Just leave me to my hands.

When I say I’m horny, what I really mean is I want to kiss and cuddle and, if need be, get myself off. If one’s feelings about and during sex were sentences, mine would be prosaic, clipped, simple and painfully utilitarian. I like the idea of sex as much as the next person, just not the reality of it. It requires too much playacting on my part, because I’m hardly ever there in the moment. I’m always thinking ahead like an actor scrambling for his lines. First, you do this, then you do that, and that, and that. Almost there. This will be over soon.

Truth is the more intimate I become with a person, the less likely we are to have sex. Despite all the pep talk I give myself, sex might have been irremediably ruined for me, tainted before I ever had the chance to experience it without violence and abuse of power. Sex is something I get through with people I like and avoid offering the people I love. I will need a lot of Hail Mary’s and therapy – maybe someday when my ship comes in – to get past this one, but six glasses of liberally mixed cranberry juice and vodka have been known to help things along.

I HATE cunnilingus. It’s not something I will willingly engage in, and if I do, best believe I’m down there in the sunken place while at it, closing my eyes, making no noise, and pretending I don’t exist. Every single time I’m face-to-face with a pubic area, I’m transported back to the guest bathroom of our flat in Okota, staring up Aunty Ifeoma’s hairy snatch and fighting the urge to vomit as she made me give her head. I was three years old at the time; now I’m twenty-eight and I’m still not over it. She was old enough to have been my mother; may have factored as teenage pregnancy but only by a hair’s breadth. She was supposed to care for me and protect me. My parents trusted her to protect me, trusted the lot of them to look out for me. I trusted them, too, but they took something from me that was mine to give (and certainly not to them). I’m done protecting these fuckers with silence.

I need to find ways to heal and deal with their poison, which I’ve carried around like a receptacle for too long, otherwise it’s going to kill me. And keep ruining good things for me.

If you’ve ever raped, sexually assaulted or molested a child (or an adult for that matter), know that you have ruined a life, no matter how well they look coming out on the other end. They will always have to deal with your shit, and nothing in the whole wide world can make up for that. But you can start by honestly apologizing (some of you like to think you were stupid and didn’t know better, well…) and finding out from the people who you’ve hurt and forever denied the experience of their true selves how you can make reparations.

I’m one of the strongest people I know, and if I have it this hard, I can only wonder what a lot of people, particularly women, are hiding behind their practiced smiles.

Written by Chiedozie

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7 Comments

  1. Q-Mara
    September 20, 12:04 Reply

    Whaaat did i just read? OMG, you really are a strong one! This touched me in places i thought never existed anymore. Stay strong dear, the battle is almost over. Pls, also try to live for you now; stop giving them the power over the entirety of you existence. Stay Happy and Loving. The world is truly cruel…

  2. J
    September 20, 13:46 Reply

    Ha! This one pass me ooo. But seriously, why do some people molest infants? Could it be biological? Could pedophilia be a mental problem?

    Uncles and aunties not even total strangers? It’s so wrong, I can’t imagine molesting my nephews or anyone at that 😫

  3. Jamel
    September 20, 13:56 Reply

    What a pleasure it has been to read this piece in spite of the dark nature of the subject….. “If one’s feelings about and during sex were sentences, mine would be prosaic, clipped, simple and painfully utilitarian….” Such elegant prose !!

  4. Margarita
    September 20, 18:46 Reply

    I sifted through this slowly. Taking in every word while at the same time hoping there would be more as I scrolled down. This was beautiful, in its own painful way, it conveyed a message in a way that was both poetic and heart wrenching. Sexual harassment is something alot of people have experienced and didn’t escape without lasting scars. I’m gay, but I used to be very close to women as a boy. In my JSS2 a corper in my secondary school sexually assaulted me and till today I can barely talk 5 straight minutes with a lady without feeling uneasy. Even a simple smile from one and I’d feel she just wants to have something sexual. I pray you get better, you’re already on that part. Lovely write up BTW.

  5. Simba
    September 20, 19:23 Reply

    Unfortunately we don’t have lots of mental health specialists in Nigeria who practice in areas like pschogenesis of child abuse or thought processes of abused kids. Whenever u need someone to talk to, I can always avail myself but am not a licensed psychologist but am MD.

  6. Patrick
    September 21, 00:05 Reply

    I am sorry about your childhood sexual assault.

    Writing about it alone is therapeutic and shows you’re healing.

    Pls be strong!

  7. Q
    September 22, 11:16 Reply

    I totally relate with the issue of offering sex to those I like but never to those I love

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