Your Brief Bio:
I am IFY LILIAN UCHECHUKWU, from Abia state Nigeria, I have a B.A, and M.A in Mass communication from Abia State University Uturu and I am currrently running a PhD program in Mass Communication at University of Nigeria Nsukka. I am a lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Abia State University Uturu.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
Brutally raped at sixteen, her jealously guarded innocence was stolen in broaddaylight by someone she called family. Was this the end of her once beautiful life? Or was she going to dare the odds and stay strong to wade through the storm? Life happens even to the very best of us, time to mkae lemonade out of life lemons, the survival story of a teenager.
Chiazam!!!Are you ready to go!!
Uncle Doo bellowed from the sitting room downstairs, actually his name is Donald but all the children in the family called him Uncle Doo and if he didn’t like it, he never said nor showed it. He was the kindest uncle she had, very jovial and always had a bag of goodies whenever he came to the village to visit, her mother’s immediate younger brother but he looked ages younger than his fifty-eight years. He was also a very smart man, knew almost about everything, he always regaled them with tales of his numerous adventures in the big city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state where he lives. It was a land akin to the white man’s land he told them, where vegetables and fruits and variety of foods abound. A land freezing cold during the dry harmattan season that no one dare venture outside without warm clothing, a land of natural springs where sparkling water gushed out from the rocks, nature designed with amazing sights of huge rocks shockingly resting comfortably on way smaller rocks for unknown number of years, were scattered all over the Plateau.
Jos was a land of promise Uncle Doo said, he always spoke about the land with so much pride and love one would think he was a native, but of course, he was a native he always claimed, if living in a land among its people for forty years didn’t make one a native of that land, then nothing could ever do. Chiazam always daydreamed about Plateau State the land of Peace and Tourism, with the picture Uncle Doo painted with his tales in her mind’s eye, she knew she was going to simply love the town and had been asking her mother to allow her go visit, but her mother always said it wasn’t yet time. When it would ever be time, she couldn’t say, but with the twist of fate, here she was now in Jos, finally.
Chiazaam!! We need to get going, it’s your first day at school and we simply can’t afford you going late, Uncle Doo said coming up the stairs two at a time, in a less than a minute he was standing by the door of her room and looking at her with tenderness and deep concern etched on his face, are you going to be okay? He asked. She wished she could honestly say she was going to be alright, but she couldn’t, didn’t even know if she was going to ever be okay again, she was simply not the bright, cheerful and enthusiastic sixteen year old teenager she was two months back. Two months!! It was merely two months ago, she shuddered at the thought of the harrowing event that changed her life in a matter of hours. Stop! She mentally chided herself, no way was she going to think about it now, with a very weak smile she looked her uncle Doo in the eye and told him she was ready to go.
Clang! Clang!! Clang!!!
The lunch time bell rang with deafening loudness. They students all shouted with glee, it was time to take a break and stretch their stiff limbs cramped from sitting down all morning having various classes. The students milled around in groups of twos, threes and more laughing and talking at the same time. Chiaazam waited until everybody had left the classroom before she stood up from her desk and slowly walked to school cafeteria, as expected it was packed full with students happily eating and talking, not talking while eating, was definitely not a table manner observed here. She looked around slowly until she sighted a lone table somewhere at the rear end of the hall, gingerly, not wanting to be noticed she crisscrossed her way to the table and sat down, with a small sigh she brought out her lunch pack, filled with baked beans a delicacy called “kosai” in Jos. She wasn’t hungry, she couldn’t remember ever been hungry since after her ordeal. At the thought of it, her clear big eyes usually filled with warmth and mischief brimmed over with unshed tears-how could he? She trusted him so much, he was her uncle right? Sure, he could pass for an uncle being her fathers’ second cousin, besides he was twenty-five years older than her and she had always respected and honoured him.
For the hundredth time-what was her offence she asked? Why did such happen to her? Were her sins greater than that of others that she had to be brutally punished in such a way? There was no way she was going to recover from such a trauma she told herself, the deed of one day had sentenced her to a life of misery and shame. Somehow she knew in her hearts of hearts that she needed to end it all, needed the glorious freedom from the nightmare she had been forced into, but what to do, she didn’t know. Reluctantly her mind began to draw her back to that Saturday-two months ago, it was the 21st day in the month of September, she remembered vividly because her mother’s youngest sister-Aunty Susan was getting married that day, it was meant to be the most exciting day of her life, she had always dreamed of being a bridesmaid and finally it was happening. She couldn’t stop blessing Aunty Susan for including her in the bridal train neither could she get over the lovely blue gown sent to her, it was the loveliest gown she had ever seen, it was a flowing gown embroidered with tiny silver stones all over with a high laced neck, it had full length sleeves and the material was pure silky to the touch. She had tried it on the day it came, and she was mesmerised at her reflection, the gown had a life of its own, it simply transformed her into a dazzling queen-it was almost magical.
Chiazam knew she was very pretty, everyone said so, but it had never meant anything to her. Sure she was grateful for being created beautiful but she never allowed it get into her head, like her mother would always say, it was foolishness getting heady over one’s looks, it’s simply an accident of birth because no one had a say in how they should be created. At sixteen, people said she had the looks and figure of a beauty queen, she sure turned heads wherever she went but it never got into her head. She was raised up as a dutiful and obedient girl and she stuck to the ideals her parents instilled in her, she ranked amongst the best five in her class and dreamt of being a news caster someday, she simply loved the ones she saw on television, she could sit and watch them for hours, it thrilled her no end. She was going to study Mass Communication at the University she told her father a blacksmith, he had no problem with it as long she studied hard and pass her examinations, he promised he would do all in his powers to train her. Her parents were slightly below average class, her mother was a small time tailor, they couldn’t afford the luxuries of life but they sure could afford the basics, and for that they were grateful. Knowing what it cost her parents to see her through school, she decided early on never to disappoint them. At sixteen many of her classmates felt they were all grown up and can live their lives whichever way they wanted, a lot of them were already having sex. Chiazam was a virgin and she intended staying that way till she got married later in life, she was a practising Christian and she believed sex before marriage was wrong, besides in her biology class, they were told about the possible hazards that could come with sex-unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and so on. It all helped make her decision easy to follow on, while some of her friends thought she was old-fashioned, she thought they were way too new fashioned for their good and she never failed to tell them so.
That was the thing! To imagine she had decided to keep her virginity only for it to be snatched away in the cruellest of manners, why would God ever allow such happen to her, it was too bitter even for a dream. Uncle Theo brutally snatched away her innocence in broad daylight!! Oh the pain and shame she felt whenever she relived the incident. Yes, it was the morning of the Saturday of her Aunty Susan’s wedding, the whole compound was bustling with activities, a lot of their relatives came back to the village for the wedding and so everywhere was jam-packed. She had woken up quite early as usual, swept the large compound with the help of some cousins, and afterwards they filled all the water drums with water from the well behind the compound, the wedding rice was steaming on large pots on firewood fires littered all over the compound, the aroma was already wafting and filling hungry stomachs. Chiazam refused to eating the usual breakfast of “akamu” the local maize cereal, she opted to wait for the rice. Truth be told, she was too excited for food, she was finally going to wear her gorgeous gown, her mother had weaved her hair into lovely braids decorated with corals the previous day, it was beautiful and her Aunty Susan had brought her a silver sandals when she arrived days back. Her ensemble was complete and laid out on her bed, it was time to bathe and start getting ready, the wedding was slated for ten-thirty am, she intended to be all dressed and waiting by then.
“Chiazam, how are you?” She turned around, it was her Uncle Theo, her father’s second cousin, he had come back from the city two years ago to stay in the village, and he gave no reasons for leaving the city,but always bragged about how rich he was back in the city. Nobody knew when he intended going back and nobody dared ask, he was a business tycoon he claimed, was into everything and nothing in particular plus he was very rascally in his ways and irresponsibly fond of messing around with little girls, even some friends of Chiazam. She never really liked him because he wasn’t jovial, but nevertheless, she accorded him due respect.
“Uncle Theo, good morning sir,” she greeted in answer. She was at the well behind the house where she had gone to fetch her bathing water, she picked the full bucket and started off towards the bathroom. “Ehmm... Chiazam” Uncle Theo cleared his throat. “I ehmm...I have a little gift for you, I heard you are one of the brides maids, so I got you a lovely bracelet to go with your dress. Follow me to the room to collect it” he said. Did he just say he had a gift for her? Chiazam was dumbfounded, he had never given her anything since his unwelcome return to the village, not that she ever expected anything though. She didn’t know what to say, “Wow, thank you Uncle Theo, I am heading to the bathroom, I will come over to pick it when I am through” she said. No! Come take it now because I am leaving for the church right away to go arrange the chairs for our guests” he insisted. “Ok, let’s go sir” with that she dropped her bucket of water and followed him into the next compound where he lives.
The compound was literally deserted as everybody was in her own compound lending a helping hand to the wedding arrangements, there was no one about when they walked into Uncle Theo’s room. Once inside, he quickly locked the door, she was confused, “Uncle may I have the bracelet” she quietly asked. He smiled mischievously, “relax my dear, what’s the rush for, you are now a woman, all grown up and beautiful. I love you and want to be your sweet Uncle, I want to buy you the lovely dresses and gifts you deserve” he said. Chiazam couldn’t believe her ears, was her Uncle making a sexual pass at her? Was the man crazy, he is family for crying out loud? She became scared, really scared for the first time in her life, why did he lock the door? Why oh why did she follow him to collect the damned bracelet? But how could she have known he harboured such thoughts? What to do now?
She rushed to the door and tried unlocking it, but he sprang on her in seconds and held her tight, she screamed with all her might and he slapped her so hard she fell across the bed, he jumped on her and tried fondling her breasts, “NO! NO! Please Uncle don’t I beg you” she cried, “shut up, you little slut” he snapped at her, “why are pretending like you haven’t been doing this before, oh, you prefer sleeping with all those little boys instead of a real man like me right? You are a shameless hypocrite” he railed at her. She screamed again and he slapped her harder than before, with one hand he gagged her mouth while the other was touching her all over, she wriggled and struggled with all her might, but she was no match for him. She bit him hard on the hand, and he got furious and beat her up until no breath was left in her, she lay crumpled on the bed and Uncle Theo took advantage of her, he raped her violently, he shattered her innocence in the cruellest way possible.
She never got to attend the wedding ceremony of her aunt. She had lain dazed where Uncle Theo left her after violently abusing her, for how long she was there, she never could tell. Nobody missed her at first, everybody was too busy to notice her absence, not until they were all at the wedding venue did her mother notice she wasn’t seated with the other bridesmaids. She asked around, but nobody seemed to have seen her around, not wanting to disrupt the occasion, her mother alerted her father and together they went to search for her at home. On seeing her bridesmaid dress and accessories neatly spread out in the bed, her mother got hysterical and started screaming her daughters’ name. “Woman can you keep quiet” her father scolded her mother, he was just being a man, in truth he was getting really scared himself. What could have happened to his daughter, he knew her well enough to know she would never play such pranks like running off or something, besides he knew what the wedding and being a bridesmaid meant to her. No way, she couldn’t have decided against coming to the wedding of her own freewill, please may she be alright he wordlessly prayed. She was such a good child, he couldn’t bear any harm coming to her, though he never said nor showed it, she was his favourite child, she was destined for greatness, he just knew it in his heart.
Her mother ran into the next compound weeping uncontrollably and shouting her name, the shout broke into her reverie and she gingerly got up and stumbled outside the room shaking and mumbling incoherently. Her father saw her first and ran to catch her just before she hit the floor, he scooped her up and marched fast to their house where he gently laid her on the bed, with her mother close by asking a million questions at the same time. One look at her dishevelled hair, rumpled and blood stained skirt, told the entire story, her mother screamed and threw herself on the floor while her father looked away and in a quiet voice asked, “Who did this to you, what happened?” In a tear laden voice, she recounted all that transpired.
How she survived those days she didn’t know, it was hellish. Uncle Theo was nowhere to be found, family members got to know what happened and even her friends at school heard about it. She was greeted with curious stares all around the neighbourhood, she could see and feel the pity and she hated it, there were gossips here and there, some even insinuated she must have led Uncle Theo on, possibly seduced him even. Then there was the constant bickering between her parents, her father had reported it to the local police station and a manhunt for Theo was launched, her mother wasn’t happy with that, claiming it only served to expose her daughter more publicly, Theo was family after all, so there was no need involving the police, it should be handled privately and the whole affair should be left to God to judge, she insisted. Her father would have none of that he swore, Theo was going to pay for his crime, was her mother mad? Did she even understand the gravity of what was done to their daughter? How could a mother say rape be handled privately? The quarrels were so bad, Chiazam began to feel guilty of causing problems in her home. Maybe she actually led Uncle Theo on, but how? She couldn’t say. Maybe she was wrong in following him to his house, but how could she have known? She was traumatised, terrified and confused. Her mother said she was lucky, the lab tests confirmed she was free of any infection. It was almost laughable, lucky? What was lucky about being raped? Absolutely nothing!!!
She couldn’t face her friends and neighbours, the shame she felt was just too much. There was nothing to be ashamed of, her father told her time and again. She didn’t do anything to be ashamed of, she was merely an innocent victim, it wasn’t her fault in anyway and nobody blames her for it. She desperately wanted and needed to believe him, but somehow she just couldn’t. She told her parents she couldn’t continue in her school and it was decided she needed to change environment to help her heal. That was how she found herself in Jos. Clang! Clang!! Clang!! Break over, the school bell rudely brought her back to reality, with a deep sigh, she clutched her untouched snacks and walked slowly back to class.
Her phone beeped, it was a message. “Hello, a kobo for you to share how your holiday has been going, pretty one”. Chiazam blushed prettily when she read the message. “How about some millions you stingy one” she jokingly texted back a reply. It was from Chibueze, that was his name, he was living in the same neighbourhood with her Uncle Doo, he had being a genuine and true friend, at first, she snubbed him when he tried befriending her, but he never picked offence and kept on being friendly, until her broke her icy resolve and now they were besties. How time flies she thought, it was eighteen months since she came to Jos, eighteen long months since the monstrous ordeal she passed through. She couldn’t thank her Uncle Doo enough, he had been her pillar of strength those early days, he kept on encouraging her to let the past go and embrace her colourful future, how she had asked? Honestly I don’t know he always replied, but somehow you have to find a way and let it go.
She simply couldn’t, she relived the ordeal daily until she was almost going out of her mind. Uncle Doo quickly got her registered at a professional counselling centre where she got to meet other victims of rape and sexual abuses. At first, it was shocking to see so many young people who were also abused; she actually thought she was the only one in the whole world. Somehow, it was comforting to know there were people who really understood her because they had also gone through the same thing. Her personal counsellor was Dr Chikama, a very beautiful lady who was also a victim of rape at her teenage years, somehow she got through it and today, she is happily married and fulfilling her promise of helping other sexual abuse victims let go of their pasts. At first, Chiazam wouldn’t open up but gradually Dr Chikama won her over with her warm friendliness and love. She began to make friends there and started letting go of all the pent up hurt she hid inside. The change was gradual, but soon it became obvious to all who knew her. The old cheerful girl returned, her warm laughter could be heard now and again, the counselling worked wonders for her, she even learnt to forgive her Uncle Theo, she didn’t feel bitter anymore.
Her father called months back to say Uncle Theo was finally arrested in the city and convicted of the crime and sent to jail. She didn’t know if it made any difference to her that he was sent to jail, but at least, it was comforting to know he wouldn’t be a threat to other young girls like her, that was justice of the law she believed. She definitely wouldn’t want anyone going through what she went through, so yes, it was all fair that he went to jail she reasoned.
By the sixth month at counselling she was almost her normal self, she bounced back in her academics that suffered a major blow, many thanks to Chibueze who was handy to assist her with school work. He was nineteen years old and in his first year at the university of Jos studying law, he was different from the other boys, he never tried playing smart with her, wasn’t into pornography, she was shocked at how blatantly some students watch porno sites on their mobile devices. She couldn’t understand the fun in it, she felt it was sickening, dehumanising and belittling, thank God Chibueze shared her opinion on the matter. Uncle Doo allowed Chibueze come visit during the weekends, it was safer he came over to the house than she going to his house he said and she saw the sense therein. Most Saturdays he came over and after assisting with her home work, they watched movies, played games or strolled around the neighbourhood. Theirs was a friendship devoid of any ulterior motives and she felt very comfortable with him, plus he was dashingly handsome, her friends at school thought she was lucky to have him and truly she felt lucky because he was a nice person.
It was the second week of holidays, her first time returning home since she left for Jos months ago, she dreaded coming back but her counsellor persuaded her to go, it was part of the healing process she insisted. She needed to go face her fears and have a closure, Chaizam wasn’t too sure she was ready to face that yet, what if people still looked at her with pity? She couldn’t stand that she argued, not after all the progress she made. She pleaded with her Uncle Doo but he too felt it was time, so reluctantly she travelled. She was glad she came, everyone was excited to see her, she was given a queenly reception, and no one mentioned even remotely anything about the past, it was simply past. She had a great time bonding again with family and friends, she realized how much she had missed them. Uncle Doo called to say her WAEC and Jamb results were out and she did excellently well, her chances at securing admission into University of Jos was very high he said.
Her future really looked bright and promising, life is beautiful with the right people in it she thought. She was sincerely grateful for the turn her life took, like her counsellor always said, “Life happens even to the very best of us; the idea is staying strong and refusing to cave in.” She couldn’t wait to go back to Jos, it was like home to her now and she missed the peace the land offered. Okay, more importantly she missed the people there, especially Chibueze. The very thought of him brought a warm glow to her heart, was she falling in love at eighteen years? She was too young for that, or not? She didn’t really know, all she knew was he made her feel good and that was all that mattered for now.
“So how are you enjoying your holiday and how are your people? Hurry and come back because I am missing you greatly lovely one.” it was another message from Chibueze. She smiled as she read it.
“I am doing very well and my people too, thank you. I miss you greatly too. Hoping to come back next week” she texted back. Beep beep, another message, this time it was from her counsellor, she continued routinely checking on Chiazam even after her sessions stopped officially. “So, how are you doing?” the message read. Chaizam stood up from her bed, went over to the wall mirror, looked at herself and with a big smile plastered on her face, she texted back. “I am STAYING STRONG.”