I was 4 and living in a cramped 3 bedroom apartment with 7 relatives, namely my aunt, uncles and grandmother. My parents worked hard at their factory jobs to pay off their own home and to earn a decent wage to support our family. They will visit me in the evenings and then return home.
Being the only child at the time, I will play pretend in my grandmothers’ clothes and liked to pretend that I was a schoolteacher. I don’t suppose that I had much attention because everyone was busy with their own lives.
In my country and society, caning and hitting children was de rigueur and I had already experienced that at age 4 by the adults in that household. One day while my grandmother was doing the dishes, I repeatedly asked her to help me with something but she kept saying no.
Out of nowhere, my uncle came towards me and kicked me across the room. He then bound the long sleeves of my grandmother’s dress that I was wearing so I could not escape and kicked my privates repeatedly. I cried for him to stop and ran towards the bathroom to wash myself. The pain was unbearable. I vomitted from the pain and crying so hard. He did that a few more times, and each time, he will adopt the same strategy. It was only when I was older that I found out that he was a drug addict, and in his drug fuelled rage, I was likely his main target.
During the times when those assaults would occur, my grandmother will turn a blind eye and keep at her tasks on hand. When I got older, I realised that her coping mechanism to stress was to shut down and disappear into her own world.
I forgave him for a time, when I saw what a good father he was to his young sons (one had cerebral palsy) but the memory of what he did still burned in my mind.
When I was old enough to articulate that story, nobody believed me, not even my own mother.
I cannot help but wonder sometimes if his tragic road accident and eventual death was some kind of divine intervention to help him atone for his sins. It gives me some sort of closure, because he had received his just desserts albeit in a morbid way. At times, I am glad that it was me he attacked and not my grandmother. At times, I hated her for being so passive.
Many times into my adult years, I will break down and cry when I think about how someone had used me in my defenceless state as a young child to be his convenient punching bag.
I am now a married adult with a toddler girl, but sex has always disgusted me. I find it to be a shameful and painful act and will only do it out of utmost necessity.
When my daughter is older, I will have open conversations with her about her sexuality and build our relationship to be one that is based on trust and honesty. I will protect her at all costs, I do not want her to be a victim.
— Salma, age 32