My father passed away when I was 5 years old and my mother soon remarried. This step-father was good to her, and to my little sister and I. He fulfilled his fatherly duties and took care of my fragile mother. My mom had a little boy, my half-brother when I was about 8. All seemed fine on the surface. But my step-father had been molesting me this whole time – and it continued till I was an early teenager.
At the age of 6/7, you don’t really understand what is going on. Something feels wrong but you can’t describe it because you don’t know what it is. He was very manipulative, promising to buy my toys and whatever. He would remind me all the time that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. As I got older, I became more and more impatient and rude towards him. I was living with a secret that was eating me alive. My grandparents (my mom’s parents) moved in with us when I was about 11. He started to lay off with his messed up sexual assaults, but he would still hug me inappropriately and small other unnoticeable acts of that nature.
One night, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned for hours. I needed to tell someone – I was done living this lie but I was so, so terrified of the consequences. I grabbed a paper and pen and wrote down everything; everything he had done, and I gave it to my grandmother the next morning and left for school. I was dreading coming home.
I remember it clear as day; after school, I came home and I walked around the back of the house to where my grandmother was hanging up the washing to dry. She turned and saw me walking towards her and burst into tears. At that same moment, I did too. And we stood there, crying and hugging.
My granny kept it a secret until I left a few months later for an overseas sports tour. She told my mom. I can’t imagine what went down during those weeks, but it was God’s plan to have me safely far away while the story came out. When I got back, he had left. He had been kicked out and my mother was devastated. She took years to heal. I don’t think she’s healed to this day.
Life for the next three years in that house was rough. My mother was in a rehab for weeks to come to terms with had happened. I had to see a psychologist help me accept that none of this was my fault. My mom was convinced that I was confused, that I was mistaking my abuser for a different man, but I was certain. Particularly after a friend of mine disclosed that he had tried his luck with her as well.
I honestly wanted to die. I didn’t want to live with the mess going on around me. But God kept me strong.
My mother divorced the man, but she’s still in constant contact with him because of my brother. When he was kicked out at the beginning, he tried to mess with my mom’s head, telling her she needed to get out the house and stay with him, to “drink some wine and relax”. Thinking about all of this makes me so damn nauseous.
6 years on and my life has stabilised. I’m in university, I’ve got my grandparents, my siblings and my mother and I have a decent relationship with her – but we never talk about it. About him. About what he did. Nothing. She still talks to him every single day. We cannot report him to police, I cannot tell certain family members about what has happened to me because my mom cannot afford to lose his financial support – the house / the car / food / my brother’s school fees. As a family, we are still so dependant on him.
I see my mom’s phone go off and it’ll be him calling her and messaging her. Constantly. I’m pretty sure he’s the first person she speaks to in the morning and the last one at night. This grates me, it makes my bones curdle with anger and disgust. Sometimes I feel like taking my mom on and screaming, “THIS MAN SEXUALLY ABUSED YOUR DAUGHTER. HE HURT ME. HE’S SCARRED ME AND HE TOOK AWAY MY INNOCENCE.”
I know it’s not her fault that any of this happened. I worry about her, and I worry about my little brother. What he’ll think of me when he finds out about this – if he’ll take his dad’s side.
I got through that dark time, but I’m still fighting demons. Sometimes memories will just appear in my mind of the things he did to me and the things he made me do. My stomach churns and my eyes fill with tears. I don’t know if this is something I’ll ever get over, but I’m lucky to have the love of family – and my grandmother in particulalr. She is my hero. Forever and always.
— Survivor, age 21