In part 1 of this post, I delved into the challenges occasioned by parents who fail to protect their children. The pertinent example I gave was on parents who either directly or indirectly molest their children. A typical instance of that would be where a father rapes his child, adopted or biological, and the child’s mother, afraid of the legal and social ramifications of such an atrocity, becomes an accessory to the crime, in an effort to protect the husband; hence the post’s title, ‘Children, who will protect them?’
What some parents, and the society fail to realize at times, is that something as traumatic as rape/sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) could be life-changing. Actually, differently phrased, in most cases, victims of SGBV suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, in an attempt to cope, some survivors resort to a lifestyle that others might not concur with.
When I think of myself, I usually imagine majority of people would treat me differently if they knew half of my story. Ordinarily, I come off as very reserved and closed up. The only two people I open up to freely are my two sisters. That therefore leaves majority of outsiders with many unanswered questions about me.
My truth, is that I grew up in a home marred by domestic violence and socio-economic violence, where my dad would insist my mom stays home instead of going to work. One of the most sinister things my dad did to ensure my mom wouldn’t be able to find a job, was to hide her college certificates.
Seeing as we moved houses a couple of times over the years, mom thought they must have gotten lost in one of those moving instances. She found them last year, when she’s practically hitting retirement age. Words cannot explain how betrayed she felt. He wanted to control her life, and to a large extent he did, because over the years he’s wielded financial control, not just over her, but over my sisters and I.
Owing to that, my sisters and I have grown up dreading marriage, and worse still, getting married when one isn’t financially stable. At the moment, most of our cousins and friends are getting married, and the pressure to follow suit is building up with each passing day. People who don’t know the genesis of my hard-line stance when it comes to marriage think I’m unmarried because I’m too difficult.
I remember before I joined law school, I met a young man, who was six years older than me. He’d already graduated from university, and doubled up as a teacher and painter; he owned his own studio and art gallery. Furthermore, his mom owned a high-end clothing store in a fancy mall, and they lived in some lavish neighbourhood. In short, he was financially stable.
After six months of dating, he asked me to marry him, and I panicked! That evening I did not give him an answer. It was my birthday eve, so he was like, “Now you’re old enough to be my wife”. One day later we met up, and when we got to his house, he welcomed me warmly, telling me to get comfortable because everything in that house was mine.
I should have been ecstatic, that my would-be-husband was, for lack of a better word, rich; however, the thought of getting tied down like mom had me gasping for air. He was wealthy, but growing up in a house where mom’s lack of money was the root cause of hers and our misery, had me thinking, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’. There was no way I was repeating mom’s mistake. I kindly tuned his proposal down, and swore to myself, that I would never get into another relationship, until I was financially stable.
About three years later, in my first semester of law school, I met another guy. His buff chest that had his suit jacket fitting like a glove, had me swooning over him like a hormonal teenager. Thankfully, I had the grace not to be too obvious about it. About a month into the semester, we started talking, and before long he made his intentions clear, “Once I’m all settled, I will marry you”. He had a first degree in political science, and was working on starting a consultancy business.
Instead of getting thrilled at the prospect of getting hitched to my crash, my mind went into overdrive, and all I could see was ‘red’. Dizzying warning alarms went off in my head. Subsequently, I started avoiding him from that day. Whenever I saw his texts or calls, I’d get all nauseous, and my relief came when he deferred the semester.
I tried explaining to him why I couldn’t get into a relationship with him, and seeing as he continued pursuing me, my guess is, he never quite understood the extent of my brokenness. Living through domestic violence altered my perception of love, and marriage. So while my age mates are busy getting married, I’m prioritising my financial independence; not because I’m trying to push some feminist agenda, but because this is my coping mechanism.
My unfortunate childhood experience taught me that my husband’s money will always be his, and if I don’t have mine, the lack of it will have me and my children going through what me, my sisters and mom went through. I really cannot willingly subject myself to that again; not if I can help it.
So you see, someone who doesn’t know my story will comfortably and ignorantly, if I may add, judge me. So far, two of my aunts have made my sisters’ and my unmarried state an issue. When I was a kid crying my eyeballs out, these are still the same people who were oblivious to our plight. Now that the damage is done, they’re on the frontline castigating us. Question is, if they were made privy to our story, would they still judge us? I bet not!