Standing Strong: Years after Surviving Abuse, Lady Set to Finish University in Style; "I Can't Sleep"

Standing Strong: Years after Surviving Abuse, Lady Set to Finish University in Style; "I Can't Sleep"

Like a setting sun on the canvas, Nkem (not her real name) saw her life gradually fade into the darkness and her childhood memories heavily hazed by a nightmare. A young girl, all she craved was protection and love, like other children from the neighbourhood.

But at age 10, she became prey to a predator, constantly abused in her village in Enugu state. The miserable memories of painful pen'etration and the scary images of violent violation from someone old enough to be her father would stay with her for the rest of her life.

“It has been 10 years since the incident, I am rounding up my university education. I still have flashbacks from Enugu. There are days I can’t sleep, and when it rains, I am scared I will be woken up and taken to the parlour again,” she told on the torturing trauma that came to be a companion of her growing.

Nkem will be fulfilling her dream of completing university after surviving abuse in Enugu
Nkem found strength in WARIF after months of abuse in her village in Enugu state. Credit: Getty Image
Source: Getty Images

When home is a mouth of alligator

Nkem’s nightmare did not start with Mr Eze having canal knowledge of her; it began, rather, with her mother leaving her father’s house in Lagos state, Nigeria’s commercial capital, after years of silence and enduring pain which forced her back to Enugu.

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She (Nkem’s mother) had been promised a better life on the condition of marriage. A beautiful woman with towering dreams before her, she was brought to Lagos at the prime of her life by Mr Okafor (Nkem’s father) with the promise of a ‘university education, a corporate job, a supermarket and a jeep.’

Okafor was a top businessman respected in her village in Enugu. This was perhaps the reason he was able to convince Nkem’s mother into believing in an exaggerated utopia waiting for her in Lagos. But ten years after the union, which later produced two children, she realised she married a beast in a man's cloak.

The marriage where Nkem was born was a cesspit of hell characterised by noises and fights. Nkem’s father was a violent man, an addicted punter who constantly abused his wife. He was a drunkard, always getting tipsy whenever he lost a bet on his favourite team, Arsenal.

“He would always get drunk whenever he lost a bet, whenever his favourite club Arsenal lost a match and even when it was just a bad day at work. So, you can imagine that he came home screaming quite often,’’ Nkem recounted.

One day, Okafor returned home an angry man and started to beat his wife. Nkem said the beating led her mother to the hospital. After realising that she could no longer trust a man she had lived with for a decade, she packed her luggage and returned to Enugu with her kids, leaving Nkem and her sibling under her grandmother's watch.

A hardworking woman, she would later return to Lagos to make ends meet after realising that there was not much for her in the village – leaving Nkem with grandma.

“I can still remember the day my mom left; it is very vivid in my memory. I cried till there were no tears in my eyes. Why was she leaving me? Why did she decide to take my younger brother? What was I supposed to do here, alone with grandma? I was broken,” Nkem recounted.

Tragic turn in table of life

Nkem’s mother’s absence left a huge vacuum in her daughter’s life. Growing up without a mother’s presence was unbearable for a young girl like Nkem, who always looked for consolation from the neighbours.

She would later find a companion in Chidera and her younger brother Chisom, both children of a neighbour.

“We would play catcher, police and thief, hide and seek and even cook soups with the leaves in the garden to be paired with our famous mud garri. I always looked forward to spending Saturdays with my best friend, we had more time to play, and her mom would cook jollof rice and plantain on Saturdays. I never wanted to miss that,” Nkem narrated how she found companionship and trust in the new family.

Chidera’s father, Mr Eze, appeared to be an accommodating man, but inside him was a serpent hiding under the green grass.

On one fateful Saturday, as usual, Nkem said she visited her friend Chidera whose mother had gone to the market to get some things for the house. It was getting late, the clouds became dark, and Nkem had to move to Chidera’s room, where she fell asleep. Suddenly, she noticed a movement, followed by a strange touch. It was Mr Eze who told her to follow him to the parlour.

“He told me to get up and follow him to the parlour. I thought my grandma had called for me and proceeded to look for my slippers, I was always so careless with them. He told me to sit on the settee beside him…He touched my hair and told me I was a very good girl, he also said I was very beautiful; I smiled. Nobody had called me beautiful before… He said I was a good girl again and told me to lie on the settee. He removed my skirt and pull down my pants. I hesitated. He saw my confusion and said I shouldn’t worry, that he would put the beauty inside me. He said If I shouted, I would spoil the whole thing and turn into a masquerade instantly. I didn’t want to be a masquerade; they were ugly and scary.

Mr Eze removed his wrapper and came on top of me – I got scared. I wanted to call Chidera, I wanted her to walk into the parlour. I wanted Mrs Eze to come home, I wanted my grandma to shout my name so that I could leave. I didn’t want the beauty anymore. But it was too late, I felt a sharp pain in my private part; I screamed,” Nkem recounted how the first sexual abuse happened, which left her unconscious.

After the first incident, Nkem said Mr Eze would continue to perpetrate his evil, threatening that he would kill her and her grandmother if she dared tell anyone about what he was doing to her in secret. Keeping the secret gave him the license to continue his assault as Nkem lived with the agony for months without help.

WARIF: The life changer

Everything, however, came to an end after Nkem's mother returned from Lagos and noticed some strange behaviours in her daughter. After a lot of probing, Nkem later let the cat out to her angered mother who reported the case to the police.

Mr Eze was arrested, and Nkem was referred to the Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), a non-profit organization incorporated in 2016 in response to the high incidence of sexual violence, ra'pe and human trafficking occurring amongst young girls, for medical examinations and counselling.

At WARIF, Nkem was given support by a vibrant team of experts.

10 years after the encounter, Nkem, who is about to finish her university education, still continues to receive steady psychosocial support from the organisation amid renewed hope for a better future.


WARIF’s involvement in restoring young girls to better lives

Here is what you should know about WARIF, the non-profit organisation that saved Nkem’s life.

WARIF was established to raise awareness and address the prevalence of sexual assault, ra'pe and human trafficking occurring among young girls and women across Nigeria. The foundation leverages a unique holistic method called the “WARIF Approach” for tackling Gender-Based Violence. This approach involves developing and implementing a series of initiatives, targeting both the intervention/treatment of these affected women, as well as providing preventive measures in education and community service to reduce the high incidence of sexual assault and other vices that WARIF is addressing in Nigerian societies.

The foundation seeks to redress the adverse effects seen as a result of Gender Based Violence both immediate with health and psychosocial risks to survivors such as new cases of HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies, as well as in the long-term, societal problems that subsequently occur such as higher incidence of illiteracy and the adverse impact on girl learning and the social development of a nation.

If you have been ra'ped or know someone who has, please visit The WARIF Centre at 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba or call the 24-hour, confidential toll-free helpline on 0800-9210-0009. For questions or more information, please contact:

Get Involved

Like 100 other survivors among a million others whom Charity has chosen to provide support to through awareness, Nkem is just one with another chilling story that hits you at the core. Like Nkem, other abused girls and women do not know where to seek help in their environs.

These are girls whom you talk to, the ones who live around you, yet it's hard to tell. Imagine the toll this takes on their mental health and their physical well-being, the fear they live in and the urgent need for protection.

Donate today to improve the medical condition of a hundred girls and women who come to WARIF centre for restoration. You can donate now to: WOMEN AT RISK INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION (0232742469 - GTBank).

Misfortune does not get the last word.

Donate to Women At Risk International Foundation


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