My father started sleeping with me when I was in JHS. I was his favourite child. She paid my fees on time, bought me things he didn’t buy for my other siblings and always made sure I was alright. One night, I was sleeping when I felt a moving darkness had descended on me. I instinctively opened my eyes only to see my dad standing at my feet, casting a large shadow on me. I was sleeping next to my elder sister. My dad asked me to get up and follow him.
I trusted him. A man who loved me that much wouldn’t have bad intentions so I got up and followed him to his room. Mom had travelled to the North. She travelled once every month to the north to buy maize, beans and other things to come and sell. Dad was alone that night so he took me to his room and asked me to sit down.
“You know I love you so much, right?” I nodded sleepily. He said, “Open your eyes well and look at me. I’m going to do something with you. I’ll teach you something you’ll use in future to get a husband. You’re my favorite child and you ought to know this before you grow up to have a boyfriend and later marry him.”
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He stripped himself naked and pushed me to the bed. I got it. I knew what was about to happen so I started defending myself. I rolled myself into a ball and buried my knees in my embrace. He said, “Hey, I want this to be as gentle as possible. If you fight me, you’ll end up hurting yourself.”
I fought him. That didn’t stop him. I didn’t shout. He’s my father. I didn’t want to embarrass him or bring our family to its knees because of my father’s shameful act. He took my virginity away that night and asked me to swear an oath never to tell anyone. He gave me water and asked me to pour it as make the oath. I did what he wanted before he allowed me to leave.
I was in pain. I bled abnormally. He took me to the hospital and answered every question the doctor asked on my behalf. I was giving the doctor signs. If he watched my body language carefully, he might have gotten a clue but he didn’t.
It didn’t end there, every once in a while, when my menses was over and mom had travelled, Dad would walk in at dawn and steal a piece of my innocence. When I completed JHS, I was tired. The whole thing was a huge burden on me. I couldn’t sleep well, I couldn’t eat well and couldn’t learn. Sometimes I would vomit for no reason at all. I decided to tell my mom about it.
My mom looked at my face and asked, “What have you been eating lately? What dreams have you been having? Have you checked your brain? Are they functioning very well?” She pulled the skin under my eyes down and checked under my eyes. She said, “It looks like you have high fever. What are you talking about? Who have you mentioned this to? If you don’t shut up, you won’t wake up the next morning.”
When my dad came back from town, my mom told him what I’d told her. “Your daughter says you’ve been having sex with her. Come and answer for your sins before she crucifies you.”
She was joking but my dad’s face changed. He looked at me sternly and asked what evil had descended on me. Mom agreed it was the devil in me talking so she suggested I should be taken to a pastor. She concluded, “I don’t blame her, I blame you. When you pamper one child out of the lot, that’s what they do to you. They dream of you having sex with them because you love them.”
Right in front of them, my stomach turned and I threw up. My mom muttered, “I knew it. You’re not well.”
Dad threatened not to take care of me. He stopped showering me with gifts which I was happy about. He stopped, for a while, sleeping with me.
The night before I left for SHS, he came at dawn. I hadn’t seen him in months. He said, “If you fight me, your SHS life will come to an end tomorrow. You won’t go to school again.” I was too tired to fight. I got up and followed him. We did it in the kitchen because I wouldn’t go to their bedroom. The next morning, I left for school. He came to visit often, bringing food and a lot of goodies. I didn’t want to see him. He reminded me of everything I was trying to forget.
Whenever I came home for vacation or midterm, it continued. Using my school and fees as a threat against me. One night when I came back to bed, I cried out loud. So loud it woke my elder sister up. She asked what was wrong and I told her. “Something happens in your dream and you wake up crying? What is wrong with you?”
I didn’t continue. She was conditioned not to believe me. I turned my face to the wall and cried myself to sleep. The next day, she told my mom about it. Mom also told my dad about it. They all agreed my demons were too loud at times.
After SHS, I ran out of the house. I went to live with my aunt in the same town. She thought it was just a visit until I told her I was going to stay until my results come. She was a single mom and loved to keep me in her house but my dad didn’t agree. He was on her every day, asking her to tell me to come home. She got fed up and asked me to go. When I left her home, I found myself in Accra, living with a friend I went on my midterms with while I was in school. I didn’t mind ending up on the street of Accra. Every place was better than home.
All along, I was carrying a pregnancy but I didn’t know until I started feeling feverish and weak. No drug worked. We didn’t have the money to go to the hospital until my friend’s father came home one day to see my condition. He forcibly took me to the hospital and I was told I was pregnant. The man asked me to go back home to my parents. I cried. I knelt and begged him not to send me away. “They’ll kill me if I go home. My dad will abort the baby. I want to keep it.”
That was what saved me. The fact that my dad would abort the baby. The man said, “Then you’ll go home when it’s grown to the extent that they can’t abort.” I was looking for another place to run to before this man sends me home. The next place I found was a school. Crèche. The proprietor was looking for someone who would stay in and help grow the school. She took me in and gave me a place to sleep. The pay was OK. I worked like a horse so she wouldn’t sack me.
Keeping the pregnancy was an act of revenge for me. It was the reason I didn’t want my family to know about it. I knew I was carrying the baby of my father and I was ready to give birth for him so everyone would know I wasn’t hallucinating when I said my dad was sleeping with me.
I gave birth to a boy. The proprietor of the school was forcing me to go home. I felt she was even going to sack me if I didn’t go so I told her my story. She said, “I know you don’t want to go home but you don’t have to tell me a lie just to keep staying here.” I broke down and cried. I was shaking. I screamed, “Who’ll ever believe me? Am I mad? What should I say or how do I tell my story for someone to believe me?”
I Suspected She Was Cheating On Me But There Was No Way To Prove It
My reaction got her scared. She said, “Tell me more.”
So I started from where it all started to how I ran from home. She looked at me the way my mom looked at me when I told her my story the first time. I was waiting for her to tell me exactly what my mom said when I told her my story. That I’m not well. That I should check my brain and see if it’s working. I was expecting her to come close and pull the skin under my eyes down and check if my undereyes were pink enough. She went quiet. Her next question was, “Are you alright?”
I sighed heavily and said to myself, “There we go again. She doesn’t believe me. I have to leave this place.”
Days later, my school proprietor came to see me with a man. I didn’t like the way he looked at me. His eyes were fixed on me all through the conversation. Even when I locked gaze with him, he didn’t shift. He kept his eyes fixed on me while I was telling my story. He was a pastor. His name was Edudzi. After telling them my story, he went quiet. He was still looking at me, stiff, motionless.
His first sentence was, “She’s telling the truth. Everything she has been through is written on her face. Her eyes confirm what her mouth says. She has been through a lot.”
My baby was lying on my lap. I gave him to the proprietor and quickly rushed out to throw up. I stayed out for a while and cried. For the first time, someone looked into my eyes and told me he believed me. I’ve forgotten the names of a lot of people in my story but that man’s name still stays. Edudzi. Maybe he’s alive. Maybe he’s dead. Wherever he is, may God keep him safe.
They wanted to take me home to meet my parents. Edudzi said something about making my father pay for all the wrongs he had done me. He was looking into my eyes while saying all that. He was bitter on my behalf. Just when they were about to leave, he buried his face in his palm and allowed it to stay there for a while. When he lifted his face, he wiped the tears in his eyes and walked away. That was the only time he didn’t look into my eyes.
The proprietor asked if I was ready to go with them. I said no. “No one is looking for me. No one is expecting me back home. I’m the black sheep they sold to strangers because of my behaviour. I want to be here.”
One dawn, when my baby was three months old, I travelled back home with my baby strapped at my back the way a burden is carried through life. I didn’t say goodbye to the proprietor. I felt I could handle the situation by myself.
I got home and my mom looked at me like she had seen a ghost. She stood there staring at me while chewing on the piece of stick in her mouth. “Why did you come back? I thought you’d abandoned us. What brought you back?”
At this time, she had seen I was carrying a baby. “Oh, I get it. You went to get pregnant. Why are you coming back with the baby? You should have continued staying with the man who got you pregnant.” I answered, “I’m coming back to the man who got me pregnant. If you don’t want me, I will go back but I will leave the baby to his father.”
She stood still with her eyes fixed on me. She shouted the name of my father, calling him to come and witness what was happening. Immediately my dad saw me he quivered. “Mavis, where did you go? We’ve been looking for you everywhere.” My mom drew his attention to the baby. She said, “Asked about the baby first.”
His face changed. When he drew closer, I told him, “I ran away from your abuse. I didn’t want to stay here for you to continuously sleep with me and make my life miserable. Unfortunately, when I was leaving, I was already pregnant with your child.”
My mom screamed from behind. Neighbours who had seen me had started gathering around. They all heard about my disappearance so they were happy to see me but they didn’t expect the news I brought. My mom vanished from view. My dad was doing everything to tell everyone that I was joking. I was shouting. I acted like a woman possessed. By the time I was leaving, outsiders had heard my story and were telling one another.
I went to my aunt and she was very happy to see me until she saw the baby. I told her everything. She broke down and cried while she kept telling me, “Please tell me it’s a lie. Why did you carry a child for your father? Such an abomination. Please don’t tell anybody. I will handle it.”
It was too late. The story was already on the lips of strangers and was being spread abroad like wildfire. This was 1999. Scandals spread locally for so long before they caught the ears of radio stations.
My mom came to see me at my aunt’s place. She came with my sister. She was crying. My sister was also crying. She asked me, “If I take you to the shrine to swear before the gods, can you swear? That your father did that to you?”
I stood up and told her, “I’m ready, let’s go. Maybe someone has to die before you believe me. Let’s go.” She sat down. My aunt asked where my father was and she responded, “I haven’t seen him since morning.”
He ran out of town. For ten years nobody knew his whereabouts. He was scared for his life. He was trying to hold on to something he didn’t give me, life. He disappeared from the face of the earth without any trace.
They came for my child to see the chief. I followed. They took him to another man who they said had spiritual eyes. The man did some rituals and pronounced my child an abomination. I rushed for him, whisked him away and left the place with him. Every day, we had to see someone to perform something to purify the child. It was exhausting.
After my child, they switched their attention to me. I visited seven rivers. I drank concoctions I didn’t know whose stone it was ground. I woke up at dawn and used the morning dews to perform a ritual. My aunt was with me. My mom had fallen sick and was unable to walk. My siblings abandoned me. I went out and brought disgrace home. I was in town for five months.
I woke up one morning and my baby was lying still. I thought he was sleeping but when the sleep lasted more than necessary, I pinched his cheeks to wake him up. He was cold and unresponsive. I tried several times but he didn’t move. I threw myself on the floor and started screaming. My aunt came in to see what was happening. I saw her eyes. She wasn’t shocked. She was consoling me with a sad face but her eyes told a different story. “God knows what’s good,” she said. “And he does only good things for his children. Don’t cry. It’s for your good.”
We buried the child that same day. My siblings, my mom, no one was there. No one came around to console me. Their silence was a message and I received the message in good faith. Days after the burial, I thanked my aunt and said goodbye to her. She asked where I was going and I told her I didn’t know. I left the sorrows and heartbreak behind and went back to Accra. I went back to the school I was working to see if the proprietor would take me back.
She was happy to see me. She was worried something bad happened to me. I told her everything that happened back home. She asked me, “How old are you?” “I’m twenty-one,” I answered. She said, “You’ve had the life of a forty-year-old woman. You’ve suffered but you’ll be fine.”
She gave me my job back and took care of me as if I were her own daughter. She made me rewrite the subject I failed in school. She held my hand and took me to school when the time came. She became the mother I didn’t find in my own mother.
In 2013, I met someone I knew from home. She told me my dad came back home to die two years ago and was buried like a chicken. No dignity or respect. I didn’t feel anything. As if I was being told about the death of someone I’ve never met. My mom is alive. I’ve not seen her again after the incident. I have a new mom. I don’t need her. If she dies before me, I’ve told them not to include my name as her child. I’ve forgiven her long ago but getting close to her would bring back the memories of my torture.
My siblings, honestly I don’t know where they are now. I hear about them through other people. I don’t pay attention. Every link I have with the past has to go so I can move forward in life. I’m over forty years old now.
No husband and no child. It’s a decision I made. What I’ve been through is too hard to share and I’m scared a man will know and someday use it to judge me. I’m in a peaceful place. The only link to the past is my aunt but even with her, there are boundaries.
I don’t know but somehow, I believe she killed my son. I don’t have proof and if today, she confesses the truth to me, I won’t be angry. She did what she had to do. She’s the only person I see as family. The rest are forgiven but cut off