I remember the slap that fell on my left cheek the night it happened. This slap was different from any battery I’d received during the horrendous encounter. This slap touched my soul. This slap condemned the skin that was me. This slap left me naked. It came from my father, Pastor Philips- since he started his church few years ago; we were only to call him Pastor Philips. Thus, that slap meant condemnation. It said, there’s no heaven for you Omotolani, only hell.
That slap left a red print on my light-skinned face but that wasn’t the scar. The scar was between my legs. The stigma was all over my body and now, forming in my belly. I remember that day, listening to mother’s sobs in the distance as he cursed and insulted me. He said I was wayward. He said I was stupid. He said I was ugly. He said my mother didn’t train me right.
The year before, when I’d received an award from the Commonwealth, I was his daughter who he had with his sweat trained to be an exemplary child. He paraded me around, showed me to his friends. I had been his daughter, one he loved so much. Now, having been stigmatized by chance and not by my choice, I was suddenly my mother’s daughter.
He paced the room that day, and though now there’s evidence of my shame, I still wonder why I talked. I wondered why I thought I’d feel better, letting it out. I should have kept quiet. I wonder why I thought my father could be of comfort to me.
Yes, I was raped.
Not only was I raped, according to my father, it was my fault that I was raped. Every day since then, he’d grimace and remark “Your mates are in Universities, studying, making something useful out of their lives but you’re here, pregnant. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
I wasn’t just ashamed of myself; I was ashamed of being a woman.
I was wearing a skirt that reached my feet that day. I had gone to the market to buy food stuff for the next day’s lunch. I was wearing a long skirt because, I wore skirts- they were what I wore. I didn’t wear bum shorts, I didn’t wear miniskirts. No, I listened to my father and dressed modestly, according to his definition of the word, and not because I couldn’t do otherwise. If I wanted, I could show off my light-skinned shapely legs. I wouldn’t care- they were my legs after all. And yes, they were sexy. In other words, I could have been a rebel.
It was growing dark, the rain was about to take over the evening. The sky turned black and the heavens roared, an angry lion seeking to be let out. I tried to rush home. Of course I didn’t know of any danger lurking around, I’d grown up on these streets and I knew every nook and cranny. I knew every neighbor. I knew strangers.
I didn’t know I was going to be raped. No. No one expects that, it just happens. But, this was different because, this stranger invited me into his house when the rain started from where he stood at the verandah. Being my father’s child at the time, which I can rightly say, I only entered because I knew the owners of the house and I expected that the young man was their relative. The woman of the house was close friends with mother. So I entered the house the stranger invited me into, only because I thought I’d be safe, not only from the dangerous rain, but from the night and walkers of the night.
He turned the knob of the door and drew down the curtains with a sly smile. I saw it in his eyes, and immediately became apprehensive.
“Anything to drink?” he asked me.
“No thank you” I replied with a sweet, cautioned smile.
He looked like a gentleman, no more than twenty five. He looked responsible though he wore a beard and kept his hair full. But in his eyes, the way they lit up, I saw a man who wasn’t what he seemed. When I stood to leave only a minute later, he pinned me down, pushed me to the ground and bent low towards me. “What about some fun?” he asked, his breath stank of alcohol.
I gulped hard. The last thing he needed to know was my weakness, fear, so I smiled back at him. “No thank you, my mother would be expecting me”. I was as polite as a primary school pupil speaking to my terrifying teacher.
He smiled and started to trace his hands down my buttons, pulling them, one after the other. “The easy way, or the hard way?” he said, replying my resistance. I ignored him and pushed his hands away from my bust. It came back the way a goat that was chased away came back to its item of interest. He got aggressive when he was frustrated, slapping my jaw and cheeks, continuously. I tried to retaliate, but I was no match for him. His muscles glimmered with sweat. His lips were parted hungrily. His hands worked, like magic. I said a prayer to God. Where are you God? Please don’t just stay up in heaven and watch this happen to me. He tore apart my skirt in an attempt to pull it off. I tried kicking him with my legs. It had no effect whatsoever. I tried punches, bites, screams. He wasn’t stirred. The rain, continued with its deafening rhythm. The elements continued singing. They continued mocking me.
Its heaviness drowned my screams, but I kept screaming. Maybe someone would hear me, if God didn’t.
Maybe God would make someone hear me and come to my rescue.
The penetration came and the pain that sliced through me was one I would never forget. I felt like I was being ripped apart. I even thought I saw a bit of heaven. Tears and sweat blurred my vision. In my weakness, I could not scream anymore. I could not talk, I could not move. I just lay there, like a dormouse. My mind turned around in circles, I wanted to believe I was dreaming.
The monster on top of me kept breathing out loud, and I wondered, why wouldn’t the owners of the house come out from wherever they were hiding to rescue me? It was later I found out they were on vacation to South Africa.
His breathing and moaning finally stilled, just after it got all high and raspy. It allayed and I thought he was dead but his eyes shone and soon, he rolled over. I could finally cry out loud, but I couldn’t talk, couldn’t look at my rapist, couldn’t challenge him, couldn’t curse him. I just put on my shorts, stepping on what seemed like a pool of blood- my blood- and ran out. The skirt was too torn to wear, either that or my brain just wanted to get away from the man. I even left the groceries at his house. I just ran and ran, amidst a few peculiar stares in the rain.
When I got to father’s barrage of criticisms that day, I knew I was doomed.
Mother was strong. I thank her for being strong, for being my pillar.
We went to the house the next morning, but it was empty. She went with me because father said he wouldn’t be a part to disgracing himself. I was a disgrace.
The man had left the house. Mother said he had to have been a burglar. Most things were not in place. We went to the police station. There were stares of pity as we lodged our complaint, but they didn’t seem like they were going to pursue the case any further than “sorry, my dear.”
We were going to go the hospital but father called mother. He said to get back home. “What do you think you want to do? Finally destroy my family’s name? Is it not enough that you have gone to the police? Officer Mayowa just called me and wants to know if the allegations are frivolous, because they believe it to be.”
Mother was quiet.
We returned home. He obviously didn’t think of chances of conception. Mother said father wanted everything ‘hush hush’, and so I was supposed to return to my normal daily life. I did of course. At least, I tried to. What other choice did I have? I tried to push back the trauma that held me tightly, but I only succeeded in blocking members of the opposite sex from forming any relationship with me. The trauma haunted me- a nightmare in my dreams, a ghost in the shadows.
I was in my first year in the University and I already wanted life to end—at least school life.
Then for the first time, God answered my prayer and it seemed, life ended- I didn’t see my period twice. I told mother. She told father. He was hysteric. He was so agitated that he sought me where I cried at the backyard and he slapped me again, a second time. A hot slap that left heat at my cheeks, that turned me red, that let my tears dissipate.
He said I was destroying his life. He said I had to have an abortion.
I turned my back and walked away a different person.
Mother, she spoke out for the first time “Don’t you ever touch my daughter again. Don’t you ever blame her for having a vagina.”
“Don’t bring any bastard baby into this world”, Pastor Philips shouted.
Mother, for the first time, maintained her ground that we would be keeping that baby. I had never seen such a heated argument between them in my whole life. An argument that sent mother to my bed and father drinking.
It’s the eighth month and father has made sure I’m away from the world. He doesn’t let me go out; he doesn’t let visitors come over. The neighbors, the church members, and family friends think I’m abroad on a one-year course. I wonder what they would say when the baby comes. I wonder what they would say when they learn I want to keep it. I wonder what they would say when they learn I’ve decided to look for help and move on with my life. I think something in me changed that day, that second time he slapped me. I think a bolt in me let loose. I can’t tell. That slap had its effect. It changed me. Changed my view of life. It changed my life.
I started to love this baby with that slap. I don’t love how I got it, but I love this baby.
So this is thanking Pastor Philip, for that Slap.