Battered but Restored- Narrative Non-fiction Story by Adekemi Adeniyan

 

Let me introduce myself. My name is Harmony, and I am 29 years old.

And this is my story… Maybe you can relate to it, maybe it’s happened to you, maybe you know someone who has gone through this, or maybe you can’t relate but just want to read it to know how it feels.

It was July, my favorite month of the year, it always reminded me that I was growing into the world of womanhood as the day goes by; my 15th birthday was just 2weeks away. I was excited as always. My Mum had filled my ears over two months about how my 15th birthday will be spent with my Aunty in Michigan. As young as I was, I had always dreamt of leaving the shores of Lagos, if just for a day so I could boast to my friends that I too could go to Oyinbo(White) man’s land.

The D-day came and Mother and I were late for our flight, I had spent so much time daydreaming in the bathroom that I lost track of time and mother wouldn’t let me get over the fact that she would deal with me. Typical Nigerian Mothers. Traffic was very heavy now and airport was just few yards away but there was no way mother would leave her car along the way while we walked the rest.  I broke into a sigh of relief as the cars in front of ours moved away; I watched my mum speed along the road, checking her time every thirty seconds. We made it right on time. Once inside the plane we searched for our seat, I was so filled with excitement of getting on a plane that it wouldn’t matter if mum told us to pack up and go home. This feeling was exactly what I needed.

Now….snapping out of the excitement of the Departure and Arrival! Let me go straight to why my tears won’t stop staining this paper as I scribble on it. Sad, you may ask? No I am not. When I just look back at the tale of my life all that comes out are tears of joy because a broken vessel like me can hold the best water for the thirsty.

Now let’s get to it. Mum had urgently been called back to work in Nigeria, while I was to spend the last days of my summer holidays with Aunty Wemmy and her family in Michigan. Those remaining days brought an eventful turn around that would change my life forever.

I was exactly 15yrs when the nightmare began. He was 43 and family. . He came into my room in the middle of the night. I was the only girl in the house besides my aunty, so I didn’t share a room with anyone.  I thought I was safe, he was family, my Moms brother in law, he was older, and married. He just seemed like the “cool” Uncle. At 15 I had no idea that those things weren’t enough to keep me safe. I didn’t know I should be worried, and no one else did either.  I was in their home after all, which meant he basically had full access to me whenever he wanted. He made me touch him, while he put a knife down my throat just in case I decided to shout. I hated it, I wanted to throw up but in that instant I realized there was nothing I could do to stop what was happening. He was simply too strong.

He took away my dignity in one night. When I look back, I think how I could have been so stupid? I could’ve yelled. He wouldn’t have slit my throat. My aunty would’ve heard or one of my cousins, but I didn’t. He raped me that night and disgustingly told me that he could have me anytime he wanted. I knew this was true. I thought I was going to die that night, it hurt so badly.  At that moment the world stopped moving, everything became move less and dead. I became vacant inside, something had left me. Virtue had walked right out of me.  I had checked out.  I was consciously unconscious. When he stopped, all my tears came out, I was crying for my lost “life, self and emotions’

My virginity was never up for grabs; it was mine to choose to share with another.

All I remember about the hours that followed was me standing in the shower, sobbing uncontrollably, desperately wanting the water to wash away the blood, evening’s events and my shame

WHY WON’T THIS DARKNESS GO AWAY? WHY WON’T THIS DARKNESS FALL BEHIND ME?

They say there is a light at the end of the tunnel. What light can be behind this soullessness that just crept into my life?

I watched my uncle the next day live his life like nothing happened; he was such of a perfect husband and father.  He obviously ACTED like he had no idea that what he did was wrong, it just came so easily to him, and so the chances were he had done it to someone else or several someones before. I was full of resentment and disgust. I wanted to scream and shout it out but I didn’t want to be the Nigerian girl who came all the way to America to break her Aunty’s home. I was worried she couldn’t handle it, that my entire family would fall apart.  Where I come from, family is everything even if you have to shut your mouth and swallow your tongue.

I never told ANYONE, but I wanted to. I kept it a secret; I was a virgin and did not want to believe I had lost my virginity that way.

When I arrived back in Nigeria, I had to act all happy and pretend to have enjoyed every little bit of my Vacation. Two months later I started getting bad grades in school. My mum was convinced that sending me on holiday had hindered my zeal to study. I struggled daily. I was determined to make my Mother proud; ever since my Dad passed away she had done her best so I could have the best and enjoy the best. I started keeping a diary; I had read somewhere that it helps to have somewhere to pour it all out. I spent sleepless night venting out my disgust and hatred for a certain Mr. X  I was careful to use a coded name for Mr. Ugochukwu (my Aunt’s husband) just in case someone other than me finds the diary.

It didn’t help. I had trouble with depression, anger, anxiety, and insomnia. It was a constant battle between self-worth and finding me.  It was ok for me to feel this, after all I was physically hurt, I was mentally scarred, I was emotionally battered.

I struggled for 5 more years, after which my mum passed away and it was ok to cut myself off from my aunt and her family. I wanted to rid myself off of anything that brought back the memories. I had a long road ahead of me, I tried to be aware of my feelings, acknowledge, validate them, deal with them and move on. I hated men, I couldn’t trust any man. Slowly I waited for when and how to trust men again (maybe…hopefully).

Six months after I turned 25, I moved to Ghana.  Then I met Christ. It felt like all the emptiness and brokenness I felt melted off in seconds. I started living life similar to the way it was meant to be, void of self-loath and condemnation.  Maybe it was time for love to find me and me it.  It felt like the plague of inadequacy like a broken drum crept off.  I “officially” accepted Jesus into my heart and life.

 

I felt restored! But God knew I needed to know something,  I needed to EXPERIENCE one more thing…..

On this faithful Sunday, I was all dressed up to go to my New church where I had actively become a worker and was overly zealous to work for God. We had been told that new pastors from America were being transferred to shepherd the church. It was an Ordination service! To my Surprise our New Pastors were Pst Ugochuckwu and Wemimo Douglas. Oh yes! It felt like the devil just threw a million stones in my glass house, everything crumbled at once. How someone so filthy could find God and become ordained as a non-stipendiary minister of the Church is alarming to me? I even, to my shame, had to watch as the whole congregation jumped at the excitement of their new pastors.  After Service, my Aunt was so happy to reconnect with me; she couldn’t understand why I had cut myself off from her family. I cooked up series of lies about losing numbers and contacts and moving here and there. Knowing her, she easily believed me.

I went home filled with self-pity and anger. I was angry at God for playing such a trick on me. I could no longer keep silent about it. One week later, I confronted my so called ”New Pastor” and he immediately asked for forgiveness.  I didn’t think it was ok for me to forgive this act of cruelty to anyone! I was convinced that no one was designed to forgive that kind of cruelty. Not even if they are your Pastor. After so much pressure from him, I agreed. The matter was swiftly closed.

True forgiveness or so it seemed at the time. However, it was only skin deep. What I never knew was that my ability to forgive evaporated that very night 10yrs ago when he stole my virtue, or that was what I thought. Everything about me started to change yet again, I became erratic and inconsistent. I was often emotional and sad for no reason at all.  I was often trying to explain to God that it was my reaction to being raped by a minister who had yet again intruded in my life, and that all I was suffering from was a syndrome called “Silent Rage’.

The feeling of worthlessness lingered weeks after weeks. I remember waking up one night feeling empty, suicidal and frustrated. I realized I had spent most of my life blaming God, or questioning Him, asking why all this had happened to me. I knew God existed, but I wasn’t sure of my own existence anymore. I was lost. I thought I had met with Peace a few months back, but I realized I had only met what I imagined God’s Peace to be. I knew at that moment that I wanted to experience God himself.  I asked God to make Himself real to me. So for the first time in years I went on my knees alone in my apartment and asked God to help me. The only words I could find was just-‘God help me”.  After a few minutes I remember sensing such love and peace, there was a feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold snowy night.  All I knew was this: that night right in my very room I was touched by his love, it felt  absolutely great and I don’t  remember feeling so much peace like that ever before. And I knew it was real. No Counseling, No Medication, No friend had ever made me feel this free and alive. I knew it was real. I should have done that several years ago when I suffered through the hurt! But I figured that I had done everything else possible, all those years I forgot about the only person who could give me the answers. Nothing else had worked, but I had never thought of including God. Ever since that night, my life turned around completely, because when you encounter the love of God you are never the same!

The next morning I drove down to my Pastor’s home, the same one who I couldn’t forgive a day before. It was time to let it all go. The words God put in my mouth then were so comforting, even for me. I remember saying this to him- “I have forgiven how and why you hurt and abused me. It took me a long time to discover that forgiving you is the only thing that would set me free from the pain and devastation of the memories. It took the help of God to get me out of it, he was waiting all these while to help me forgive you, waiting for me to be ready — ready to be set completely free and be made whole.” That morning I watched my uncle and pastor weep like a child. I no longer saw a rapist in him, but the new man Christ had made him. I wasn’t Battered anymore, I was Restored.

Let me say something before ending this… Forgiving those who hurt you makes no sense whatsoever, I realize. Humanly speaking, they don’t deserve forgiveness, right. But, please do not waste another  secs, days, weeks, months and years suffering as a result of what someone else has done to you that has so messed up your  entire life. Choose forgiveness and shut out every emotional cancer. We don’t have the ability to do that by ourselves, only God can. He will be right there with you to give you the courage and strength to do it.

I’m just another woman; I’m not ashamed to tell my story. I was raped, battered and wounded. But I don’t live in the past anymore, I am in the present. To everyone who chose to read my story today, I do hope you realize that can overcome anything in their life, as nothing is hopeless! Whatever you have gone through, or may be facing right now, you can get through it just like I did. You should not and do not have to let the past hold you in its painful claws. You are not a Victim but Victorious. You are not BATTERED, YOU ARE RESTORED.

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