Uncle, I know your passing won’t allow you to read this letter. But I’ve written it anyway.
I don’t think you will ever understand the depth of what you did to me. The pain from what you did to me 14 years ago haunts me to this day. For so long, I blamed myself for what you did. I thought it was my fault that you raped me. I thought if only I fought harder. If only I had screamed.
I questioned if it was what I wore- that orange skirt, which was below my knees. Was I in the wrong place at the wrong time? If only I had gone to sell kapana with my mom that day. If only I wasn’t home. If only I wasn’t in the very place that was supposed to be safe for me.
I know that what you did was not a mistake. You knew what you were doing. I was only 14 years old but pleasure was more important than the lifelong trauma you were planting inside of me.
For years, I lived a life of misery. A life filled with guilt, pain, fear, loneliness, shame, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal thoughts. You made me live and suffer in silence. I knew I needed help, but I was too scared to reach out, so I continued being haunted by the bad thoughts and disruptive dreams.
For the longest time, you made me carry a body that I didn’t love. A body that continues to be a constant reminder of what you did to me. For years, I felt dirty, the kind of dirt that you feel from the inside and no amount of soap or scrubbing can ever clean it up. My body in itself is a trigger of what you have done.
You changed my life in a few minutes. You broke me into pieces, you entered inside of me, took a part of me that I will never get back and gave me a disease I will live with until the day I die. You drained the life and dimmed the light inside of me. I had to learn how to live while thinking that I was dying.
I wish you knew and understood the pain you have caused me but there is no possible way because you are dead.
I embraced the pain, and it became who I was. I learned to hide it. No one could tell the weight I was carrying on my shoulders. I avoided getting close to people and I am unable to trust men or form relationships.
You did that uncle. But today I am using that pain to make the world a better place.
I have been hiding and running from myself and the world. I have lived in the shadows of shame, stigma and discrimination. Afraid of what people would say and how they would treat me once they knew that I was raped, and I am HIV positive.
It’s very isolating and depressing to live a life of silence. Yet many of us chose that life over and over because of the fear of society’s cruelty.
As a society, we continue to marginalise the victims/survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and at the same time, we continue to contribute to the legacy of silence surrounding sexual abuse against women. We need to counter and create safe spaces.
As more survivors of sexual abuse are speaking out, we need to embrace our role in ensuring that victims/survivors obtain justice, reduce the victim-blaming and rape culture.
Every day you have a chance to examine your behaviour and how your beliefs about masculinity and femininity might permit the rape culture to continue.
I challenge each one of you to take the responsibility to disrupt the culture of rape, victim-blaming, silence and shame surrounding sexual abuse.
• From: The child who is now a woman who was raped.