Lived Experiences / Maisha ya kila siku

To my 13 year old self, It wasn’t your fault

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When I think about who i have become and all that has changed me, what was happening to you stands out. I always mention it.

I have found the voice to speak about it now, the voice that you didn’t have.

You didn’t even have the words to explain what was happening, but you blamed yourself. It felt like you thought you were responsible for that, as if your existence is a reason as to why he did that to you. Maybe that’s why your therapist worked through suicide thoughts a lot with you, because you carried this guilty, shame and feelings of if you stop existing nothing bad can happen to you.

Dear 13 year old me, you are brave. To be woken up by the touches of a man older than you felt wrong, to not know how to explain what is going on in your life to your friends made you feel like two different people. One who is known to your fellow students, an active debater, the one who makes her team win, an artist, active volunteer in any event, a noise maker and a late comer.

And the other one, the one who is being secretly ‘prayed’ for by her uncle. ‘Prayers’ that make her question everything about God. ‘Prayers’ that requires her young body to be inappropriately touched by a grown up man, who told her that her mother knows what’s going on, she shouldn’t bother telling her about it.

It must have been hard, to be both.

It must have been painful to walk to school every morning in the mood to conquer.

Only to be welcomed home by the uncle who is ready to conquer your freedom, your humanity, your dignity.

It must have been hard to not feel safe at your own home, that four walls place where everyone should feel safe.

It must have been painful to feel like screaming in the class, your Swahili teacher hated you, she said you were rebellious, all you wanted to do was to run and have someone run after you, all you wanted to do was scream so that someone could hear, all that you wanted to do was rebel and have people at your feet asking why, not beating you and giving you low marks because they hated your behavior.

You didn’t know how to put words to the whole ordeal, but i am so proud of you for the decision you made that Sunday morning.

When your uncle told you that he wanted to ‘pray’ for you again, and you went to church, and tried to stay at a friend’s place buying time till your mom gets back.

When you felt the ‘prayers’ were so wrong and painful to the extent they made you buy time at other people’s homes and finally decided to ask your mom if she knew the way you are being ‘prayed’ for, and if that’s how she wanted you to be prayed for.

I am so glad that you stood up for yourself that way. I am so glad that you took your power back, I am so glad that you didn’t believe him, but you believed in yourself.

You didn’t say because he is older, he knows best. Instead you said, this feels wrong to me, this is not right to me, let me ask mom.

Dear 13 year old me, for long i have been ashamed of telling people what happened to me because once i told someone, and she said but you were so old, how didn’t you know it was wrong?

For years I never shared because i thought it was your fault, you know and maybe that’s why we tried to bury it because you felt like you had something to contribute in what happened to you.

I know better now, and i have seen a lot now to know that it wasn’t your fault. My therapist helped, yes dear 13 year old me, you will get help. In the future, you are getting help, someone is listening to you, you are healing.

For years I tried to separate myself from you, thinking you were stupid and I wouldn’t be that stupid, but now that i know it wasn’t your fault, and I am every age i have ever been, i realize now, You are Me, and I am You.

Dear 13 year old me, It isn’t your shame to carry, it wasn’t your fault.

It is his.

Eunice

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