By Zuleka Pukwana
Trigger Warning: Sexual assault
My rapes have all happened at vulnerable moments in my life.
I was asleep. I was drunk. I was a child.
I have been raped by someone I considered a friend, a family member, a lover and molested by countless others. For a long time, I centred my existence around these incidents – allowing them to define who I am. Some were brief, some were long. Some were scarring, some were not. I live in constant fear that someone will violate me again. I fear that they will shatter the last bits of me that are still intact. I am afraid they will kill me.
For nineteen years, I have been silenced by fear, but I am now taking ownership of my life and sharing my story. Not only with others, but for myself as well. I had locked away the memories so tight that they started to feel like a figment of my imagination. I will no longer let others silence me and take away my voice. I am loud, I am free and I am finally happy.
I have survived and I am living.
It’s taken me my whole life to recognize my beauty – inside and out. And on this journey, I have come to realise that I am smart, I am kind and I am important. I have learnt that my existence is not a waste of oxygen, but rather a beautiful celebration of life.
I wake up every day and remind myself that I am a brown girl wonder. That I am excellent by being.
However, there are days when I am afraid. Afraid of the victim that I have become. My life is lived in fear of what might happen if I wake up. I am so mad. So, mad at myself for living in fear, especially when I had just started loving myself.
I now suffer from clinical depression and anxiety. An illness that I will always have. There are days when I am paralysed by my depression and when I’m not, I fear leaving the house because I am too anxious.
Ke entseng? What did I do to deserve the pain that has continuously been inflicted upon me?
What I can vividly remember from my sexual abuse as a child was not fear, but rather anger that this was happening to me. Then I would catch myself in those thoughts and be ashamed because, “who else must this happen to?”. A pain that I thought if I endured others wouldn’t have to. An act I thought I was the only one in the world experiencing.
We are taught to watch what we do, what we wear, how we behave. But I was 5. There is nothing I could’ve done to stop the abuse.
I struggle with trust and letting people in. I can’t afford to allow them to be close enough to hurt me. The walls are high and no one has gotten through, not even me. I have gotten so good at hiding my emotions that the yearning for good, wholesome relationships eats me up inside. I do not know how to handle love. How to reciprocate. It is not lack of love but the inability to love. Five-year-old me loved love. Five-year-old me was precious. Five-year-old me is who I aspire to be.
And in my attempts to move on from the hurt and the pain, I have forgiven my perpetrators and crucified myself in the process. I have wanted to end it all to let them live. And oh, how they have lived while I walk around an empty shell of who I once was.
I have hurt and I have cried. I have lived and I have died. And with this story I have been reborn.
For more pieces of this nature read Almost Deaths, which deals with depression and this piece asking why we are silent about lesbian rape. There is also a short story called Daughters Who Became Lovers. There is also this piece about speaking about assault in black families.
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