There is way too much going on in society where women are being victimized and some re-victimized for speaking up about sexual assault that I have chosen to not wait till my book is complete to share my story, rather shed some light into what I deem ‘the unspoken’. Irrespective of how long ago a woman encountered a sexual predator, she encountered, she endured, she lives it – on one end the unspoken has overcome her or on the other end she has overcome the unspoken.
It is unspoken. It is the unspoken truth. It is the unspoken secret. It is unspoken. You wouldn’t know what goes on in the mind of a sexual assault victim until you’ve walked at least a quarter of a mile in their shoes; and it is one shoe, I hope you don’t ever have to wear. This unspoken comes in many forms- disguised as a friend, as a family member, as a lover, as a parent, as a stranger, as anyone that is on a mission to steal your innocence and rob you of your spirit. That robbed spirit could be your sister, mother, girlfriend, wife, co-worker, bestfriend, next door neighbor, a stranger. That robbed spirit could be you…it was me.
Born and raised in Ghana till the age of 18, my childhood and teen years were filled with sexual assault. When I was young, as far back as I can remember – 7 years of age – older men found me very attractive thus made physical and sexual advances towards me. I’m talking about men in their twenties to late fifties. How do I put this?
It all began one night…my innocence was stolen! I opened my eyes in the middle of the night to a burdensome weight on me and the sound of heavy breathing while I felt hands sliding down my waist. The innocence stolen wasn’t a physical encounter i.e. sex but of my mind where a part of my being was awakened to something that as a little girl laying on my bed in the dark I knew wasn’t right. Before his hands could slide down any further, I mustered all the physical strength I had in me and pushed his weight off me; he pushed back, and I pushed even harder until he finally realized that night wasn’t his night. He was a family member. And so began my love-hate relationship with the penis. Let me share a few with you…
When I was a child, my days outside of middle school were filled with me staying alert and ignoring prying eyes from sexual perpetrators who also happened to be family members, family friends and workers/employees in my family compound.
When I was a child, I was forcefully introduced to pornographic videos by a family member and a worker in my family compound.
When I was a child, I was sexually molested with an object by a worker in my family compound which resulted in reproductive surgery and countless behavioral issues thereafter.
When I was a child and teenager, I escaped 3 rape attempts; one at age 7, one at about age 12 and one at about age 16 or 17.
When I was a teenager (19), my virginity was finally… taken – stolen – from me. I was raped by a college crush. That was when I knew that my spirit had been robbed. You see throughout the years of sexual assault, I held on to one safety – my virginity – it was mine, and I held on to it. All the sexual assault that I had encountered since age 7 in my mind was ‘nothing’ if I still had my virginity. That night as I lay on this tiny twin bed as his genitals groped mine, his drunken breath all over me, his hands pinning mine deep into the mattress, and my soft voice repeating ‘NO’, tears streaming down my cheeks…and eventually laying numb to what was going on… all I could think of was ‘finally they got what they were after’. ‘They’ represented all the men who had crossed paths with my mind and body in some way.
See while they got my mind and body all those years, they never got to my soul. I got to my soul after the first incident (one could say I was young, I didn’t know anything and that’s absolutely true). But I chose to burden my soul with the woes of these incidents and so I acted out all through childhood – I had behavioral issues (most visible to my family would be my constant lying and stealing), emotional issues (moodiness, sadness, attempt at suicide more than once; gender identity issues/sexuality issues (contemplating lesbianism); body image issues (weight gain); sexual issues (hatred for men, used sex as a tool, bossy-always-in-control attitude in my relationships, treating men as ‘worthless’ as I could i.e. withholding respect but expecting them to love me unconditionally); faith issues – I had mixed feelings about God. On one hand I knew He protected me through many incidents, however on the other hand I couldn’t understand why I had endured all that. The list goes on and on…in a nutshell, yes that’s what the unspoken does to you – it rips your spirit and leaves you reparably broken (broken BUT reparable – read on)
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me; whatever emotions you have going on right now as you read my story you are entitled to those emotions but I will whisper this to you “God saved me from myself” That’s what happens when you have good people constantly praying for you and speaking life into you – even when you don’t see or understand it.
I run from God often during my early 20s but somehow He always brought me back to his love. After running for so long and feeling empty, unfulfilled by a string of ex-boyfriends and an ex-fiancé, I walked into a church one day – Victory World Church – and began attending their Young Adults Ministry (Fusion). That did it for me, every Wednesday I was there rain or shine. Eventually I broke it off with this guy who I was seeing (a Muslim- don’t get me wrong, I hold nothing against other faiths, I just knew that we were unequally yoked and all the worldly things I was doing, playing house et al wasn’t pleasing to God)! On one of these Wednesday sessions there was an altar call which I heeded to as I could sense something nudging me to. That night as the praise and worship team sang ‘I am free to run, I am free to dance, I am free to live for you, I am free’ I felt this unnatural feeling of the need to release my past; I kept hearing a voice throughout the service beseeching me to let go. That night as I drove home, rain pouring heavily, I stopped on the road not far from the church, turned on my hazard lights and cried…no…wept my heart out to God. I wept till there were no more tears but the sound of rain hitting my windshield. It was that night…that night I made a promise to God that I would become celibate and wait till marriage to have sex again IF He would create in me a new person, cleanse me and help me through the pain.
He did! The process wasn’t easy, it was painful, confusing – I had many days of wrestling with my flesh on things that God was asking me to do…Romans 8 was my lifeline – and forgiveness was the hurdle I needed to climb to get to my healing – forgiving myself for getting in my own way in the form of blaming and feeling ashamed; forgiving all the men from my past and those I was yet to meet (thankfully, it was only one – my loving husband); forgiving all those who I felt could have protected me but in my view didn’t. See once that forgiving journey took off, there was no stopping this woman because I started to feel extremely free and unashamed; I let go of bitterness and anger towards men, the self-protecting mechanism I’d employed; at the point where I chose to forgive, I became healed, I became FREE – Faithfully Renewed Encouraged Exceptional woman of God. And as a FREE woman, my attitude shifted from focusing on man (humans) to fulfill me; rather focusing on God and allowing Him to love me. Through His love, I learned what love is, I learned to love me, I learned to love a man, I learned to love a friend, I learned to LOVE.
In all I have learned that you need to address your past no matter what it is and that with His help and love, the unwavering faith you have in Him, He will pull you through. There is always laughter on the other side, there is always Joy on the other side; however you cannot take shortcuts to that joy, and you cannot take shortcuts to that laughter. You’ve got to go through Him to receive your healing and be set FREE. God has done for me what no man has and will ever do which is He’s given me peace and has made me FREE. I lean on Him heavily daily so as not to live for the world but rather pursue Him to use me. That’s my calling, my purpose. The FREE woman I am today is because I went through some stuff and that stuff…that unspoken made me stronger…I may have some scars, but those imperfections are what He’ll use to make perfect His works.
The unspoken has become spoken because I have found my voice; there is no timeline to when a sexual assault victim speaks – she speaks when she finds her voice no matter how long it takes. You (society) ought to not re-victimize her, not re-wound her, not shut her down. You (society) ought to listen, support and take action because the unspoken comes in many forms- disguised as a friend, as a family member, as a lover, as a parent, as a stranger, as anyone that is on a mission to steal your innocence and rob you of your spirit. That robbed spirit could be your sister, mother, girlfriend, wife, co-worker, bestfriend, next door neighbor, a stranger. That robbed spirit could be you…it was me. But I found my freedom, I am a Survivor, I am FREE Woman – Nothing Sticks! I hope you find yours too.