By REBECCA KUKU
ESTHER (not her real name) is a 22-year-old young woman from a mixed parentage of Milne Bay and Chimbu.
She was only 15 when she gave birth to her first child and 17 when she gave birth to her second. Both children are her half-brothers. This is her story.
My mother is from Chimbu and loves gardening at the back of our house. Mum had a big garden plot and would always be at her garden.
I have an older sister and two younger brothers. We loved to help mum with her garden so after school, me and my siblings would run back home and help mum with the garden for an hour before we all washed at a creek nearby and went home.
It was an adventure for us, plus every time mum sold her produce she would give us an allowance so we always helped out in her garden.
Father was a government worker, who travelled to town every Sunday afternoon and would return on Friday evening.
One weekend, when I was 14, we were at the garden and my little brother ran up to me and said that dad wanted to talk to me. So I left mum and my siblings at the garden and ran to the house to him and instead of talking to me, my father raped me and threatened, warning me not to tell anyone, especially my mother. He told me that if mum knew, she would fight with him and he would have no choice but kill her and it would be my fault.
My father was known for being an ill-tempered man and I was young and so afraid of him that I didn’t tell anyone. That night, I was so quiet at dinner that everyone including my mother asked me if I was feeling sick but dad screamed at me and told me to stop acting stupid.
It continued, every weekend while mum and all my siblings were at the garden, he would say “daddy’s girl will stay with daddy and make his coffee before joining you all.” And everyone would just laugh as they headed out to the garden.
My siblings would tease me that I was daddy’s favorite girl as he always brought back dresses, ribbons and other little gifts for me from the city but I would just look at them hoping that they would see it in my eyes, see the look for help because I was so afraid of speaking.
When I turned 15, I started getting sick, and my mum took me to the hospital. The nurse told my mum that I was pregnant. She was so shocked. She asked me who the father of the child was, then thinking maybe I didn’t understand her she asked me who I had sex with but I was so afraid to tell her.
My father came home that weekend and when my mum told him, he started beating me and telling me what an ungrateful daughter I was, to go and get myself pregnant. He beat my mother too, telling her that it was her fault that I was promiscuous and had gotten myself pregnant.
I wanted to scream, it’s you, you have been raping me but I was too afraid to speak.
My mother sent me to school and told me I was going to go to school with my stomach protruding whether I liked it or not and would sit for my grade eight exams.
My father said he was disappointed in me for letting him down and went off to the city, sending us money occasionally.
I gave birth to my son a day after my grade 8 exams ended and mama said that she would adopt my son and I was to continue with my education.
I thought I was finally free from him but after I gave birth, he came back and the sexual abuse continued.
I was pregnant again when I was in grade 10. My mother was so disappointed and angry. I was the dux of my grade eight class and had really good grades in high school.
So a family meeting was called. All my dad’s family came. They said it was time they found out who the father was as the first time it happened they let me off easily but now they would not leave till they had his name and knew who he was.
Some of mum’s family from the city also drove up. Dad chased them from the house, telling all of them to leave, and that if I didn’t want to say who the father was, that was my choice. But my uncle, mum’s brother who had driven up with his family, said no! They insisted that they had the right to know who the father was as I had made the same mistake twice.
It was humiliating to hear all my family saying that I was a promiscuous girl. That afternoon, we all sat, and seeing my uncle, gave me the strength because I knew my father would not kill my mother when her brother was there. I told them that it was my father who raped me, and continued to rape me over the years. I told them that he threatened to kill my mother if I told anyone and I was so afraid because mum had no relative where we lived that I was too afraid to tell her, knowing how much she loved me and knowing full well that she would fight for me till her last breath.
My mother was so devastated she wanted to murder him but my uncle stopped her and instead called the police in and my father was arrested.
Later in court judge sentenced him to eight years in prison where he still serves to this day. I sat for my grade 10 exams and gave birth to my second son a month later.
My father’s sister adopted my second son, and I am now doing my second year in law at university. It’s been five years but there are still times when I think back and I get angry. If I had told someone about it, the abuse would not have continued for years.
But then, people talk about breaking the silence and speaking out about the abuse but it’s not that easy to speak out when it’s happening to you.
I was lucky I had a good supportive family. After my dad was sent to prison, my family helped me to get past the abuse, supported me, and helped me to stand up with my head held high.
But even after my dad was sent to prison for raping me, the stigma of being raped remained with me.
My boyfriend was pressured by his family into breaking up with me after he heard that I was a rape survivor, and that I had given birth to two kids as a result of the sexual abuse.
Everywhere I go, people whisper behind my back that I was raped by my father, they made me feel like I was dirty, that it was my fault.
So I’m here sharing my story because I saw the positive feedback from the other stories and I saw how people, strangers encouraged one another to break the silence so I want them to know that breaking the silence comes with its own challenges.
My family were supportive but my school mates, neighbours or just people in the community viewed me like I had a deformity.
Why can’t we look at the perpetrators like that, and whisper about them and talk about them?
It was my dad who was sick in his head, not me. I have nothing to be ashamed of, so I pray that one day, Papua New Guinea can reach that state where we don’t judge the survivors or blame them or look at them like they’re dirty and unclean.
I truly hope that one day we can reach the state were we know who is at fault because I’m sure if we reach that state a lot of people will come forward and break the silence.
I am now dating someone who does not know my past and I fear telling him about what happened though I know eventually he will hear the whispers. Because he just may break up with me too or his family may not accept me like my ex did.
You see, the stigma remains, and we are marked for life, made outcasts by the very society that encourages us to break the silence.
So far now, for the sake of having a normal relationship, I cannot break the silence. I cannot share my story or name my father.