* Trigger warning - the story shared may trigger some readers due to the topics shared. Please read at your advisement. *
Even after coming forward with parts of my story, and sharing that I was raped by an ex-partner, this was still hard to write. I kept coming back to type everything out and each time I would stare at my computer screen frozen. Frozen just like the first time he raped me.
I think of the days when I was with him. I'm a completely different person now. Back then I was on the brink of a meltdown every single day. I was so vulnerable. Fragile. I had endured months and months of verbal abuse, and I suppose most people would classify it as mild physical abuse as well. It didn't even register. Things happened so quickly, and progressed to become worse and worse, and I was just there. Living it.
I got pregnant with a man I barely knew. After choosing to keep my child I tried to get to know him better. In many ways I wish I didn't. I will never regret my choice to become a mother. But I regret not doing it on my own from the beginning. I know why I stayed. I was 20 years old. Scared out of my mind to become a mother. Scared out of my mind to give birth. I came from a good family. Supportive. Two loving parents. I wanted that so badly for my child... so I tried. Over and over again I tried.
Tried to convince myself I could change the situation.
Tried to convince myself that eventually his lack of commitment would change.
Tried to convince myself that the verbal abuse would stop.
Tried to convince myself that the "games", which intentionally hurt me, were just games. Just like he said.
I hid everything. His verbal abuse. How controlling he was. His "games" that would result in black bruises on my legs and arms. Always in places that I kept hidden. I tried to ignore the fact that everyone was telling me he was sleeping around. I chose to believe his lies and in all honesty, I tried convince myself that he really did care.
When he thought I would leave for good he'd always behave like the man I deserved. He liked the control. During my pregnancy he'd say things like "I own you". "Even if I meet other girls you'll always be mine". I never expected things to get worse. How could they?
I moved away from Kenya, the country we were living in, where we met, when I was 6 months pregnant. I needed to be with family. I needed to give birth back home in Canada. I wanted to make sure my child, who I knew was going to be a baby girl by that point, would be a Canadian. Partially to keep her safe when it came to custody (at the advisement of family), and partially because I was almost at my breaking point. The cheating, verbal abuse, lack of empathy for the rough pregnancy I was having - it was getting to me. I had never been so low.
My child and family were the only light in my life.
He came for the baby shower. He insisted he come. Apparently it was a big deal in America (where he was from). No one knew why he was coming. He told no one about our daughter. Very few members of his family knew. God forbid his secret get out....he blamed it on his career. It was a choice.
The trip was horrible. I was trying to balance my families concern for our relationship, keep him happy (which was near impossible), and remain positive for everyone. I cried daily. The day of my baby shower I discovered he'd be secretly dating a past co-worker who deployed elsewhere. She told him to abort the baby. She told him it was wrong of me to have the child. He promised this girl the world and more. I was heartbroken. In my mind, all that I had endured was for NOTHING. It was hours before the baby shower. He treated it like my fault. Like I had somehow done something wrong. That his lies were due to things I was doing wrong.
I was so stressed that the day of my baby shower I developed Bells Palsy. Half of my face was paralyzed. I felt horrible. I felt numb. I tried to act happy. All friends and family were there. Inside I was dying. That night he said sorry. He tried to get me to forgive him. He just wanted to have sex. I should have known.
I was 7 months pregnant the first time he raped me. One night, as a way to "make up for me being mad at him", he asked me to engage in something I wasn't comfortable with. I said no. Surely he was joking, I was PREGNANT. VERY PREGNANT. He got frustrated.
"You promised you'd do anything for me". He was getting angry. My family was right down the hall, surely he couldn't be serious. I said no. No I don't want to. Come on he said.
I said NO.
It happened so quickly. Him flipping me over. Pushing me down. Me trying to resist. All the while I was just thinking you can't fight too much, no distress - the baby can't take it. If I screamed my parents would come. He would be arrested. My child would have no father. His family would hate me. It hurt, so badly. Everything hurt.
Time stood still. I stopped thinking.
I must have been crying. Begging him to stop. I didn't even realize. He got mad at me - pushed me down and then said sorry. He tried to apologize as I laid there crying.
Curled in a ball. Trying to cover myself.
He tried kissing my shoulder, saying he didn't mean to hurt me. I didn't say anything. I just got up. Walked down the hall and took a shower.
I tried to wash the memory off of me. I tried to forget.
He left 2 days later. We didn't speak about it again. Yet every time we'd fight afterwards it's as if he'd remember what he did. He'd stop himself when I was telling him I deserved better, pause, remember, and then promise me the world when I was about to leave. He knew what he did.
The second time he raped me we were at his parents home. He had no shame. He had no boundaries. He knew it would silence me. He knew I wanted my child to have a good home. A family. He used it against me. My hope for her future was my weakness in his eyes.
We were in his city to meet his family for the first time. For him to meet his daughter for the first time. I was 2 months post-pardum. My stitches (which were many) had barely healed from childbirth. He knew that. He knew how hard my 16 hour labour was. He knew I just wanted things to be smooth sailing.
Before we went to the US I made him promise there would be no drama. A week before our daughter was born an ex girlfriend reached out to me with messages, screen shots, between her and my child's father. He said I should have never been a mother. He said I was stressing out my child - yet the cause of my stress was his abuse. He said he wanted to be with her. Have a child with her. All while he was there abusing me daily and telling me I was "HIS". I said I didn't want her around. She had threatened me before those messages. I was nervous about her showing up with my 2 month old baby there. I never should have left Canada with her in the first place. Your mind doesn't function as it would normally when you're abused. You would do anything to keep the peace. You try to convince everyone, including yourself, that things are ok. That deep down that person loves you. That things will get better.
Day two of the trip he went out to meet the ex girlfriend. Day two of meeting his child, and that was the priority. The rage that burned inside me is a feeling I will never forget. Seeing him go out to her. Telling me it's over. After he'd laid with me the night before acting like everything was fine. I was broken all over again.
A few nights later he was drinking with his uncle. I was close to him because, well, I was not in my right mind. Desperate for things to be ok. I made it clear. We were not together. He drank more. Suddenly he said we're going to have sex. I said no. I literally tried holding on to the couch as he tried to drag me.
I said no. Multiple times.
His parents were sleeping. His uncle thought I was "playing". My daughter was sleeping. If I screamed this time she would hear it. Surely? Surely they would hear it. I tried to resist as he dragged me by my hair.
No one heard me. No one woke up.
I wanted it to be over. He wasn't stopping. I caved. I stopped fighting. At the time I thought, you might as well try to stop fighting or he won't stop.
After he finished he left.
I was just a vessel to him. Just a toy he could kick around and do as he pleased with.
That trip was the first time he said he owned me. Not in a cute "you're mine baby girl" kind of way. In a possession, you're never leaving me, kind of way. In a way that even then sickened me to my stomach. I remember telling him, "NO". I belong to no one and then having him tell me, "you had my child. no matter who you're with you're always mine and I can have you whenever I want".
In his mind it was never rape. I was HIS. I had no say. My objection was amusing.
The third time he raped me was the final time. The last time I saw him, and when I stopped caring how he felt.
It was our second trip to visit his family. We were "dating". I discovered cheating. I uncovered lies. I was tired. I was done with playing the charade of the "ride of die" who would stick with him through everything, even though he never labeled me as that. "Crazy Bitch", "Pathetic", "Crazy Baby Mama" were his go to names for me. I was tried of being humiliated in front of his friends. His family. My family. EVERYONE.
His family saw it. They saw the verbal abuse. During that trip they saw the bruises and the excessive force used in our "games". Which were really just an excuse to hurt me. They watched him put in zero effort with his child. They watched him yell, curse, and belittle me. Virtually nothing was said. It was New Years Eve -- the last time he raped me. We went out while his parents watched my daughter. I got a nice dress, he picked out shoes for me - inspecting what I was wearing. It was supposed to be fun. Supposed to be my "mamas night out" after caring for my child solo for a full year. NO. It was all about him, as usual. We were on our way out when I saw a message from his ex girlfriend. The same ex girlfriend from year one. I was crushed. I was angry.
He blamed me for "pushing him away". Then the blame turned to fiery anger for passing him his phone when I shouldn't have looked at the message on the screen. We fought almost the whole night. Even though I tried to ease the tension he was livid. He barely spoke to me. It was horrible. I felt invisible. Again, being punished for his cheating. He said I had to make it up to him. He told me he would take me in whatever way he wanted that night. His parents had my daughter. He didn't care what I wanted. I was "HIS" and that's how I would "be forgiven".
Later that night that's exactly what he did. I resisted. I said no. It didn't matter. Until I was sobbing into the pillow. Until I was bleeding. When he finished I ran into the bathroom. I showed for what felt like an hour. I tried to wash him off of me. Sleeping next to him I felt disgusting. I felt dirty. I was DONE.
Two days later he was verbally abusive in front of his family. It was then that they told me to leave and never looked back. Finally I stopped trying. That day we left at the airport was the last time my daughter and I saw him. It was the last time I cried myself to sleep. The last time I had a full blown panic attack. The last time I felt dirty and worthless.
Hearing his mother tell me to leave was my wake up call. She knew things were bad. She said, "you deserve better". I did. My daughter did.
We stepped onto that airplane and I never looked back.
Even after leaving I didn't process I had been raped. It didn't hit me until a year later. I suppressed the memory. I told myself people have it worse than I did. I told myself I needed to be strong, that dwelling on it was showing weakness.
I felt shame. I was scared I would loose donors for my non-profit. I was scared people would think I was lying. The first person I told was my boyfriend at the time. He didn't understand why I insisted in not trying to get my daughter's father in her life. He kept pushing that it was important for me to be the bigger person and update him, even though he never asked about her. He never paid. NOTHING.
That's when I said it for the first time. "I was raped. He raped me". I don't even remember what he said or did afterwards. But there was no judgement. Only support. That small action showed me that things would be ok. That sharing my story would be ok. But I didn't for several months. I wasn't ready.
It wasn't until creating She Matters, and hearing Jackie's story (click to view), when I knew - it's time I shared my story too.
Our voices matter. Our stories matter. After #metoo, I felt even more sure about this community we began to create with She Matters. Especially seeing the limited resources for millions of women around the world. Especially in Kenya, a country I still consider to be my second home. As long as you can access a computer you can be a part of the She Matters community. That means something. No judgements, women who support you, who understand you - that's rare. That's something that we needed more of.
For a long time I questioned my worth. I thought my past defined me. I thought it made me weak. I thought it held me back. Now I realize it made me stronger than I ever could have imagined.
We're stronger together, and we will not be silenced.
So no girl ever has to hear, "I OWN YOU".
So no girl ever has to question her worth.
So no girl ever has to suffer in silence.
So no girl ever has to feel like there is no hope.