‘Your sexual abuse stays within these walls’
What drives family members who cover up acts of sexual abuse?
A certain lady I spoke with, let’s call her Nomsa, was sexually abused by her grandfather, her uncles and brothers. With her grandfather it started while her grandmother was away- he asked Nomsa for tea while he was still in bed. When she served him he started fondling her. From there it became penetrative sex and that was the start of the sexual abuse. Since Nomsa grew up in a big family, she slept in the lounge - one of her uncles used to come and pick her up at night and sexually abuse her. Her grandmother knew about it, but she used to say that Nomsa must never tell anyone, and that "one day it will stop". I have realised that this is a common trend where women sacrifice their children in order to save their marriages.
Repeated abuse more likely than once-off abuse
She later discovered that her mother who left her when she was still young was also sexually abused by the same man - her father. She says that life at home was very unpleasant because refusal to have sex resulted in her being punished for trivial things.
What breaks my heart about the whole thing is that the grandmother knew all along but since they were a respected family she did not want the community to know about this disgrace and she would not divorce this filthy man. Where can a 14-year-old run to if not to her mother or grandmother? How heartbreaking it must have been for Nomsa to be so rejected and betrayed like that by someone who is supposed to protect her. Once, she went on a school tour and one of her male teachers forced himself on her - she did not even bother to report this because who was to protect her? She felt she had no one.
Doing anything to cope
She says her ordeal resulted in her being promiscuous as a young girl. She also resorted to alcohol to suppress her pain at home. Sleeping with a man was not a problem to her at all and a sexual encounter with a man was easy. Men could ask her for sex and she would gladly give it away - something which she says pains her when she looks back because she feels ashamed.
Now that she is a mother she says that she is quite vigilant and would do anything to protect her children. From her promiscuous past she is HIV positive, but has turned her life to God and offers counselling to those in need.
Protect your child!
Nomsa’s story is a heartbreaking one and I would urge parents to stick by their children all the time. We are the ones they look up to. To be a parent and know that your child or grandchild is being abused and do nothing in order to preserve a marriage is beyond shocking. So many families are broken because we hide shocking things, all in the name of wanting to show a perfect family to the community. We need to stand by the truth all the time. Some mothers know that their husbands are sexually abusing their children but they keep quiet because they do not want to leave their marriages. Such innocence double betrayed. These kids need us, mamas and papas. Single mothers, let us also be careful of the men we bring into our children’s lives.
Read more by Masanda Peter
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
Do you know of families with these kinds of secrets?