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Mama Roz’s Chronicles: The Long Nights (2)

Depressed girl silhouette

November 14, (THEWILL) – Shortly after the incident with cousin Ifeanyi, Kristal left the village to live with her aunt. She started her formal education in class three while living in Ewohinmi with her mother’s sister, Anna and her live-in lover. She was very sickly and small, as she had strange and irregular eating habits. And then the next year she moved again to live with another sister, Aunt Betty. Kristal’s life was unstable as she moved from one aunt to the other depending on which of them required domestic assistance. The instability coupled with regular physical abuse from her aunts and other people she lived with made it difficult for her to form any strong attachments with anyone and therefore she became a perfect victim for other types of abuse.

Aunt Betty was the only member of her family who showed real concern about her education and future life but living with her was not an easy experience. She was very religious, almost fanatical and extremely harsh. Every day a new offence was identified and severely punished and it ranged from wasting food to lack of proper personal hygiene. When Aunty Betty gives you a slap, she leaves an imprint of all five fingers on your face or back but Kristal preferred to be with Betty because she knew that her education would be guaranteed. It wasn’t her choice where she lived however and at the end of Primary 4, she passed the common entrance exam and went to Nsukwa in Delta state to attend a secondary school where Aunt Anna’s fiancé, Paul had a teaching job.

Paul lived in a one room apartment with his junior brother and young cousin both of whom were teenagers and attended the same school. They were two classes ahead of Kristal even though they were both nine years older. The inappropriateness of a ten-year-old girl child living with three males not related to her, two of whom were teenagers was completely lost on all the adults who made or sanctioned that decision. The situation got even worse when a few weeks later, Paul gained admission to Ekiadolor College of Education and left Kristal with the two young men.

There were several issues between them which resulted in Kristal receiving regular beatings from the boys until one day everything came to a head. Uncle Donald had done a good job teaching Kristal and she spoke impeccable English. Paul’s junior brother, Peter on the other hand had great difficulties with the language but insisted on speaking it whenever he was angry, trying to use words he could not pronounce and constructing phrases that did not make sense. Kristal who had an aversion to grammatical errors had endured this for long enough. On this particular occasion the usual scenario played out but Kristal could not hold it any longer. As if she was undergoing an out of body experience, she was shocked to hear herself correct and even admonish him for getting his tenses wrong. Equally shocked, Peter stopped in mid-speech and stared at her, initially disbelieving that those words had actually come out of her mouth. When he finally collected himself, he pounced on her in a blind rage and kept pummelling until he had beaten her to a pulp after which he put her in a car and sent her back to the village. A few days later, Kristal returned with her aunt and was asked to apologise to Peter. Aunt Anna spent a couple of days resolving the issues most of which centred around food and her picky eating habits. This was resolved by arranging for Kristal to eat every day at the landlady’s restaurant nearby.

However, the real problem that Kristal had in that house was not and could not be resolved because she did not have the courage to confide in her aunt or anyone else. Each night either Peter or his cousin depending on who fell asleep first, would attempt to tamper with her. Unlike her encounter with Ifeanyi in the village, she could neither shout nor fight back. She lived with the boys and were at their mercy so she just lay still and submitted herself to their will. During the day, if she was left alone with either of them, he would definitely try to have his way. Thankfully, her small frame made penetration impossible for either of the boys but the effect of having to endure the constant attempts worked negatively on her psyche. Kristal felt so alone in the world as she had no one to tell her sorrows and no way of escaping them either; she dreaded the long nights.

Over the next few years there were several more moves from one school to the other and certainly more physical abuse which Kristal had become accustomed to. After secondary school, Kristal went to live with Anna who was by this time married and living with her husband, Paul at Onicha-Olona. Kristal was 16 years old and fully grown. She was also very pretty, fair and tall with a winning smile. The last time Paul had lived with her she was a ten-year old child in whom he had no interest but now a fully formed beautiful teenager, Paul found her irresistible. Kristal woke up in the middle of one night to find Paul breathing heavily and trying to undress her. She fought him off and screamed until his wife appeared. She thought that bringing the matter to Anna’s attention would save her but Anna was very angry with her. She began to make excuses for him suggesting that he might have sleepwalked into Kristal’s room thinking she was there. She further claimed that as a result of some fertility medication she was on, her husband was forced to abstain from sex and this might have been responsible for his sleepwalking into Kristal’s room. Kristal stared at her aunt unable to comprehend her garbled explanation. This was the reason she had never gone to her or anyone else with reports of her earlier experiences. It was clear that her aunt would not protect her from her molesting husband.

With no one to talk to, Kristal turned to her diary and wrote details of her experience in it but Anna found the diary and that led to another spate of drama. Yet Paul did not stop his advances and attempts to defile her body. Every time he got the opportunity, he tried to lure Kristal who repeatedly rejected him. The long nights became torturous as she had to be on her guard and always lock her door to prevent him from coming in. She couldn’t get much sleep and had difficulty studying for her WAEC exams. Her aunt realising that this was going to create a huge problem for them, decided to look for an excuse to send her packing without implicating her husband. Poor Kristal unwittingly fell into her trap one day when she walked into a room and forgot to greet Paul’s mother. Anna went berserk as if this was the most grievous offence in the world; she immediately pounced on her and began to rain blows on her face and back. She was soon joined by Paul and together they gave her a sound beating, threw her out of the house and sent her back to the village. Their secret was thus safe and Kristal told no one what she had experienced, after all who would believe a discredited and known-to-be stubborn niece against a respectable married aunt. Paul’s indiscretions and paedophilia was successfully covered up and he was free to perpetrate his crime on some other unsuspecting child in the future.

Kristal on the other hand lived with the scars of her trauma. Escaping past abuses can be difficult and sometimes the ugly experiences could influence a person’s choice of a lifetime partner. People who have suffered abuse are often attracted to abusive partners and so it was for Kristal. After some unsuccessful relationships, having graduated from the University of Benin, she married a violent and abusive husband masquerading as a pastor. The physical and sexual abuse she suffered as a child and teenager led to frigidity which enraged him and resulted in more physical and emotional abuse. For Kristal acceptance and endurance was easier as her fighting spirit had long been quelled by years of physical and sexual abuse which had also eroded her self-esteem and confidence.

As a result of his womanising and violent behaviour, Kristal’s husband was eventually sacked as a pastor after he had impregnated a couple of women in their church. Over the years, and after several triumphs and tribulations, Kristal finally conquered the effects of the negativity in her past. Now divorced, she is a successful educator and lives happily with her three grown children. She told her story as a means of getting closure and healing from her traumatic past.