By REBECCA KUKU
Marie Michaels (not her name) is a successful lawyer with one of the most prestigious law firms in the country.
She is a 28-year-old single mother to a beautiful 10-year-old girl who is now in Grade 4.
Seeing the strong, independent, wonderful lawyer she is today, you wouldn’t believe it if she told you that 11 years ago, when she was just 17, she was raped by her biological father.
Marie got pregnant and had to withdraw from school but she held on to her dreams and made sure that she achieved them. This is her story.
Incestual rape is happening in many homes and communities around the country but people tend to ignore it. I don’t know why, they can gossip about it but no one speaks up against it or tries to help the victims.
My father was a good God-fearing man; he raised us in the church and was a disciplined man. He expected no less from us.
There are four of us in the family; three girls and one boy.
I am the third born. I have an older sister who is the first born, then my brother, then me and then there’s our last born sister.
Even when I was young, my father treated me differently. He was harsh with me, he would blame me for everything that went wrong and tell me to do all the housework.
When my sisters tried to help he would forbid them and tell them to go and do their homework or go play.
But even then, my mother (god bless her soul) would tell me, ‘don’t worry about him, you just make sure you get good grades in school so you can go to University and work and leave this house’.
Though my brother was always kind to me, and would stand up for me, he left for Australia when I was 15 years old to study there.”
A year later when I was 16, my mum died. I was so heartbroken because she was my only friend.
My other two sisters treated me like a servant and I just accepted it because that’s how our father treated me. After mum died it was just the three of us with our father.
I would come back from school, do the dishes, get dinner ready and clean the house before dad arrived from work, then after dinner I would do the dishes, clean the house and do everyone’s laundry. Since I was told to do everyone’s laundry including both my sisters’, I preferred to do them daily so that I wouldn’t have to do heavy laundry.
Then I would do my school work. My aim was to get out of the house. I knew that if I got a place at the university my father would have to pay for my school fees because he was the kind of person that wanted people to think highly of him, like if he didn’t pay for my fees his friends would think he couldn’t afford it…so there was that guarantee.
We all went to school early, so I was 16 when I sat for my Grade 12 exams. That week during the national exams, father told me to do extra housework. I was studying for my physics exams and I just screamed at him that I needed to study and he should get my older sister do the chores. He was so angry with me, he belted me and even gave me a black eye.
The next day, I used my mum’s make-up and covered the black eye as best I could and went to school. I graduated with distinctive marks and got an offer into law school. I turned 17 at the end of that year. I was so excited that finally I would move out of this awful house.
The acceptance letter came in January and my father upon getting the news, told all his friends how proud he was of me.
Then he sent my two sisters to Australia to visit our brother. Though I wanted to go to, I didn’t ask because I knew he would say no. So I just watched as they packed their things and excitedly left that Sunday morning.
Little did I know that my hell was about to begin.
My brother called that afternoon, to ask why I didn’t want to go visit him. My father had lied and told him that I didn’t want to go and visit him, so while we were talking on the phone (during those days there was no mobile phones, just telephones and ours was on the wall) my dad walked in.
When he heard me tell my brother that I was told to stay back he just walked up and started bashing me. He got the telephone cord and tried to strangle me. Then he raped me whilst I was fighting to breathe as he had the cord around my neck and fighting him off the same time.
For the next two months, he disconnected the phone, locked me in the house and would continue to beat me and rape me.
The neighbors heard my screams for help but no one bothered to help me, even the cleaners that came in to clean the gardens knew but they turned a blind eye.
Finally March came and he finally let me out of the house to go to school. During the first semester I found out that I was pregnant, so I withdrew from my studies.
I went to my mum’s parents and told them everything that had happened and though they were not rich like my father, they took me in.
Before, when I used to run away to my grandparents my father would go and argue with them and take me back, but that time he knew what he did was wrong and he was so afraid of going to prison.
Both my grandparents reported the incident to the police but I don’t know what he did but he was never charged.”
My brother flew in from Australia where he was working and upon hearing what I went through he went home and beat my father up so badly and he nearly murdered him.
He flew back to Australia and sent both my sisters back to father after he heard how they treated me as their house girl.
To be honest I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my brother and my maternal grandparents; they supported me all throughout my pregnancy. I gave birth to my beautiful daughter when I was 18.
And I told myself that I wouldn’t let this happen to her or other daughters so I started selling food and meri blouses to pay for my school fees.”
I saved enough and went back to do my first year when my daughter was one year old; the next five years flew by.
I graduated when I was 26 years old, and since then well, let’s just say I’ve got a couple of promotions along the way to become who I am today.
I’ve cut off all communications with both my sisters and my father.
My brother calls me once in a while for a chat and to check up on my daughter, who is our half-sister as well.”
I’m not strong, there are times when fear grips me in its fierce hands but I’d wake up and I’d tell the person looking back at me in the mirror, ‘you’re strong, beautiful and successful.’
The only regret I have in life is that my father died before I became a lawyer. He died whilst I was in third year from a heart attack.
I never attended his funeral, and his family hates me, blaming me for what happened.
But I don’t really care. My only fear is the day when my daughter asks me about her father, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, I just pray that I’ll be strong enough then to tell her the truth.
My aim now is to build my career, love and raise my daughter and fight for other young women who are victims of incestual rape.
Stand up and speak out, and if you know what’s happening don’t just sit around and gossip about it, please report the incident and help the victim.
Every child has the right to be loved and protected.