The Arrangement

He stood there on the grassy mound, looking down at the river as it surged towards the old bridge.  The sun felt warm on his face and a gentle breeze caressed his hair.  It was a glorious day and this was his favorite place to come every morning.  It was where he felt closest to God and to nature.  It was quiet, except for the sounds of the water and the birds.  It reminded him of his home in Inistioge, a small village in County Kilkenny, Ireland.  He used to love sit on the hill and watch the River Nore as it swept under the 18th-century stone bridge.  There and this place were a far cry from Johannesburg where he met Zendaya.

She had left Zimbabwe after losing her job at a supermarket and taken the long and difficult journey to Johannesburg, to escape homelessness and hunger in her country.   She walked into a church in downtown Johannesburg and joined a long line of people waiting for shelter and food.  He was visiting Father Botha at the time and when he saw her, he felt impressed to help her.  He arranged to provide her with room and board at the parish in exchange for doing the housekeeping and cooking at the clergy house where he lived.  It was an arrangement which seemed to be working out very nicely.

Life here in Cape Town was very tranquil. Never before in all of his forty-six years had he ever felt such peace and contentment as he did at that moment.  In the distance, he heard the peal of the church bell. It was time to head back.

Zendaya stood at the bedroom window which faced the road.  She saw him leave.  He was going to the river.  She knew that was where he went every morning because she followed him there once.  He didn’t see her.  She kept at a safe distance and watched him as he stood close to the edge, his back to her, looking down.  It was so peaceful up there.  Not a sound except the breeze rustling the leaves and the rushing water below. And then there were the birds always whistling and chirping as if they were sharing news with one another.

Yes, up there it was paradise.  Up there one felt close to God and could forget about their troubles.  If only she could forget…She started when she heard the church bell.  She hadn’t realized that she had been standing there that long.  He would be on his way back now.  Moving away from the window, she finished cleaning.

2a080176204afb47b35de94846cb5dcd--guildIt was after the midday Mass and he was on his way to the rectory to change into his black cassock when he heard Sister Hughes call out to him.  He stopped and turned as she quickly approached him.

“Father O’Reilly, there’s a young man here to see you.”

An inquiring look came over his face.  “Sister Hughes, did this young man tell you the reason for his visit?”

“He said he wanted to talk to you about Zendaya.”

“Zendaya?”

“Yes”

“I wonder what business he has with her.”

“He’s waiting in reception.  Shall I send him to your office?”

“Oh, yes, yes, Sister Hughes.  Please send him into my office in about five minutes.”

He excused himself and walked briskly to his office.  He went over to the desk and sat down, his brow furrowed.  What did this man want with Zendaya?

Five minutes later Sister Hughes appeared again but this time, with a tall, lanky African man in his mid-twenties.  “Come in,” he invited, standing up.  “Sister Hughes, please see that we are not disturbed.”

“Yes, Father O’Reilly.”  She left and closed the door behind her.

“Please have a seat,” Father O’Reilly told the young man in English.  “What is your name?” he asked after they both sat down.

“Anesu Munashe,” he replied.

The name sounded familiar to him.  He knew he had heard it before but where?  “Sister Hughes mentioned that you wanted to talk to me about Zendaya.  Are you any relation to her?”

Anesu shook his head.  “No.  We are not related.”

“Then, what is your business with her?”

“We are engaged to be married.”

Father O’Reilly’s eyebrows arched.  “Engaged?  She never mentioned that.”

“We got engaged last year.”

“How did you know that she was here in Cape Town?”

“Father Botha told me.  I rented a car and drove here.”

“It’s a very long drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town.”

“Yes, it is but after being separated from Zendaya for months, the hours seemed like minutes in comparison.  I came to take her with me.”

“Where do you plan on taking her?”

“To my uncle’s house in Cape St. Francis where we will stay until we get married.”

Father O’Reilly took a deep breath and said with a heavy sigh, “I’m afraid I have bad news for you.”

“What?” Anesu asked, looking alarmed.

“Your fiancée left here a few days ago and we have no idea where she is—”

“Left?” he exclaimed.  “But that doesn’t make any sense.  Why would she leave?”

“I don’t know.  When she didn’t show up for breakfast on Tuesday morning, one of the Sisters went to her room and found it empty.  She was gone.  We notified the police immediately but so far, we haven’t heard anything.  You can’t imagine how distressed we all are.  We have all been praying that she will come back.”

Anesu stood up.  “Maybe she went back to Johannesburg,” he said. “I will go there.”

Father O’Reilly stood up, his expression one of deep regret.  “I’m so sorry,” he said.  “I feel as though this were my fault, after all she was my responsibility…”

“It’s not your fault, Father.  Thank you for your time.”

Father O’Reilly shook his hand.  “God be with you.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Father O’Reilly opened the door and watched him as he walked away.  Then, he returned to his desk to finish his work.

It was later in the day when Sister Hughes popped into his office.  “Was the young man able to see Zendaya?”

He shook his head.  “He was called away on urgent business, I’m afraid.  I told him that he was welcome to come and visit her at any time.”

“Who was he?”

“A family friend.”

“How did he find out that she was here?”

“Father Botha told him.”

“Shall I tell Zendaya that her friend was here?”

“No, Sister Hughes.  I will tell her myself.”

“Very well, Father O’Reilly.”  She withdrew.

Hours, later after he had dinner, he walked over to the nondescript building which was the convent.  It was after nine and the place was quiet.  She was sitting by the window when he let himself in.  After closing the door, he strode across the room and stood beside the chair but she didn’t look up.

“You had a visitor,” he informed her tersely.

She looked up then.  “Who?”614full-kai-newman2

“Your fiancé.  Why didn’t you tell me that you were engaged?”

“Anesu was here?” she asked and saw his eyes narrow.

“Yes.  He found out where you were and came to see you.”

“What did you say to him?” she asked warily, rising to her feet.

“I told him that you left.  He said that he was going to find you.”

“What if he comes back here?”

“He won’t.  I made sure of that.”

“I wish he hadn’t come here.”

“Are you still going to marry him?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can’t marry him, Zendaya.  You don’t love him.”

“How do you know that?” she demanded, agitated because he was right.

“You wouldn’t be with me if you did.”  His eyes fell on the book of African poetry lying on the chair she had just vacated and picked it up.  “Now I remember why his name was so familiar to me,” he said as he flipped through the pages.  “He gave you this.”

“Yes.  It was his first book of poetry and he dedicated it to me.”

He turned to the front of the book where the autograph was and read it aloud, To my dear Zendaya, you were my inspiration for these poems so I dedicate this book to you.  Many of the words written are tokens of my deep love and appreciation for you, my beautiful, Nubian princess.  Eternally yours, Anesu.  He wanted to rip it up into pieces but instead he closed it.  “I’ll hang on to this,” he said, slipping it into the pocket of his cassock.

“Why?” she asked.  “You know that you’re not going to read it.”

“I want to remove every trace of him from your room and your life.  I don’t want anything around here that would remind you of him.  You belong to me, Zendaya.  I won’t share you with him or anyone else.” He moved closer to her, his eyes intent on her bent head.  When she raised it to look up at him, he saw the expression on her face.  “I know you resent me but you can’t deny that you want me as much as I want you.”  He couldn’t hide his desire for her which was like an unquenchable fire.  It was written all over his flushed face.

She closed her eyes in despair as she felt her body respond to him.  He was right.  He filled her with a longing she couldn’t fight and even now as he pulled her towards him, she didn’t resist.  She couldn’t resist, although her mind screamed at her that this was wrong.  He was a man of the cloth.  She knew she ought to stop what was about to happen but when she felt his lips on hers, it was her undoing.  Blindly, she reached up and clutched his head, her nails digging into his scalp as she kissed him back.

Anesu never made her feel this way.  She knew that in the morning she was going to hate herself for what she was doing to him.  What she had been doing to him ever since she met Father O’Reilly and the first night he came to her room.  Now as he disrobed them both and then carried her over to the bed, all thoughts of Anesu fled from her mind.

Meanwhile, Anesu drove back into town, his mind in turmoil.  Something wasn’t right.  He knew Zendaya as well as he knew himself and it didn’t make sense that she would just disappear like that.   He decided that he would go to the police station in the morning and make some inquiries before driving all the way back to Johannesburg.

Next is The Visitor.

Source:  Skyscanner

Naomi’s Story

246f1a5e7c97bb2aac484e131cb6103cMy name is Naomi.  Like my namesake, I have been tempted to change my name to Mara which means “bitterness”.  I have a lot to be bitter about.  All of my life I have been bullied and mistreated due to the color of my skin.  I have black skin.  I’m the darkest in my family.  Even they have a big problem with my complexion.  I was the black sheep of the family.  I never felt loved or accepted by them.

I once overheard one of my aunts, ask my mother, “Are you sure she’s yours?  She’s so black.  We don’t have anyone in our entire family that is black like that.”

And my mother’s response still hurts me to this day.  “If I had known that she would be so black I wouldn’t have named her Naomi, which means ‘my delight’ and if I weren’t a Christian I would have aborted her.  I couldn’t give her up for adoption.  Who would want her?”

None of them believed that any man would want to marry me.  All of my sisters, including the youngest one got married.  I was in my thirties and still single.  I didn’t have any boyfriends.  The boys at school shunned me.  None of the girls didn’t want to be friends with me.  The girl I thought was my friend only acknowledged me when we were outside of school.  After a while I stopped being friends with her.  I would rather be friendless than to have a fake friend like her.  It hurt, though.  And being friendless meant that I was lonely.

I was very smart, though and did exceptionally well in school.  Some of my teachers were kind to me and encouraged me but there were some who weren’t.  And I got bullied a lot at school by the other kids.  They called me “tar baby” and told me that I looked dirty.  Some of them rubbed my arms to see if the “dirt” would come off.  Many times, I ran off to a quiet place where I broke down and cried.  I got no comfort at home.  I hated my life and I began to wish that I had never been born.

I was about to commit suicide when I was 16 but was stopped by a voice which told me, “Lay down the knife; don’t hurt yourself in any way.”  The voice frightened me but I obeyed it.  I never tried to kill myself again after that.  Instead, I continued to work hard in school and went to university.  Life on campus hadn’t changed.  I was still treated like an anomaly.  I tried to ignore the stares and the remarks.  I remember one guy asking his friend, “How could you tell under that blackness that she’s pretty?”

Graduation was fast approaching and I wondered what I was going to do after I left university.  I didn’t want to go back home and I was sure they didn’t want me to either.  One afternoon, when I was in my dorm flipping through a magazine to see if they had any jobs posted and I came across photos of various models.  One of them was as black as me.  I couldn’t believe it.  She was a model!  Someone had hired her.  I began to consider modeling.  I was tall and slender.

I looked for the contact information and I called them.  I was told go in which I did.  I wore my best dress and a little makeup.  The receptionist told me to have a seat.  About twenty minutes later, a man walked in and asked me to stand.  I did.  He told me to walk about for a bit which I did.  Then, he turned to the receptionist and instructed her to book me for a test and photo shoot.  He nodded in my direction and then quickly walked away.  The receptionist gave me a form to fill out which I did.  She told me when and where to go for the shoot.  I was very excited when I left the agency.

After I graduated, I became a model.  I got lots of jobs and I soon realized that in the modeling world, it doesn’t matter how pale or how dark you are and that you don’t even have to be beautiful or pretty as long as you photograph and model well.  My unconventional look got me noticed.  Pretty soon, I was getting a lot of jobs.  I loved modelling and working with different clients.  I met terrific people and traveled to so many places.  I especially enjoyed going to Paris.  It was there I met Dathan, the photographer I was going to work with.  His mother was German and his father was Nigerian.  We did a photo session together and it was a blast.  Afterwards, we went for lunch and right after that, we began dating.

male-model-lacy-testimonial-1I don’t exactly know when it happened but I fell in love with him and I thought he felt the same way.  Once while we were making love, he whispered, “I love you,” in my ear and I clung to him and whispered it back to him.  I always imagined that one of these days, we would end up getting married and raising a family.

Well, I got pregnant and when I told him, I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for.  He became very reserved and when I mentioned marriage, he told me flatly that he couldn’t marry me.  I was stunned and hurt.  I was willing to give up modeling to be his wife and raise our child.  It didn’t matter where we ended up living.  I would have followed him to the ends of the earth if he asked me to.  “I thought you loved me,” I cried.

“I do, Naomi.  I love you so much…”

“Then, why won’t you marry me?” I demanded, frustrated and very close to tears.  “Is it your family?  Are you afraid that they wouldn’t accept me because of my dark skin?”

He closed his eyes and sighed heavily.  “I can’t marry you because I’m already married.”

I stared at him.  I couldn’t believe what he just said.  He was married?  All this time I have been involved with a married man?  I had to sit down or I could have collapsed.  I began to cry uncontrollably.

He rushed over and pulled me into his arms.  “I’m so sorry, Naomi.  I know that I should have told you that I was married but I was afraid to.  I wanted to be with you so badly.”

I let him hold me until the sobs subsided and then I pushed him away.  “Please leave me alone,” I said.

“Naomi…”

“Leave me alone!”

He stood up and quietly left the room.  After he was gone, I got up from the chair and went into the bedroom.  I lay down on the bed and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.  The next day, I flew to New York where my next assignment was.  I somehow managed to get through that photo shoot and the others which followed.  I told the agency that I was pregnant but I didn’t tell them who the father was.  They weren’t upset or anything.  They let me continuing modeling until I began to show and then they had me do jobs which didn’t require any physical exertion.  I modeled until I couldn’t anymore.

I stopped modeling after I had Alia.  She was beautiful.  She had Dathan’s complexion.  I had enough money from my modeling to last us for a long time.  I doted on her.  She was a happy baby and filled me heart with so much joy.  Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about Dathan.  I was still very much in love with him.  I wanted to call him or send him photos of our daughter but I couldn’t.  I have to keep reminding myself that we have two separate lives.

I don’t feel any bitterness toward Dathan or my family or my classmates from school and university.  It has no place in my life now that I have started reading my Bible again.  I know now that it was God’s voice I heard that day when I tried to commit suicide.  He saved my life and I’m very thankful.  If He hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met Dathan or had Alia.  My only regret is that Alia isn’t going to be raised by both of her parents.  When she is older, I will tell her about her father and it’s up to her if she wants to get in touch with him or not.  Right now, I am raising her the best I can with God’s help.

I was inspired to write this fictional story because of Nyakim Gatwech, the South Sudanese descent African American model who is teaching people not to be afraid of the dark.   She has been dubbed the “Queen of darkness” and had an Uber driver suggest that she bleached her skin.  She’s proud of her black skin. “Black is bold, black is beautiful, black is gold… Don’t let American standards damage your African soul.” 11 year old Kheris Rogers started a clothing line, “Flexin’ In My Complexion” with her sister after she was bullied at school.  She recalled when the students had to draw themselves for an assignment, the teacher handed her a black crayon instead of a brown one.  All of her classmates were African American but she was the darkest.

Kudos to Nyakim for breaking down the barriers of conventional beauty and encouraging others to do the same.  And way to go, Kheris, for creating a fashion line in the hopes of instilling confidence in other young girls who face bullying because of their dark skin.  There are many shades of beauty and black is one of them.

Source:  Modeling Wisdom

In Sanaya’s Memory

Web1It was love at first sight for me when I saw her walking towards me.  It was a blind date.  I don’t usually go on blind dates, mind you, but for some inexplicable reason, I went on this one and man, was I glad I did.

She had to be the most beautiful girl on the entire planet.  Those eyes did things to my heart and those Angelina Jolie lips–my, my, my.  Up to that point, I’ve only dated African American women but this girl was Pakistani.  I could tell from the way she was looking at me that she liked what she saw.

Needless to say, we really hit it off and that first date turned into other dates and before I knew it, I was telling Raj, the friend who set us up, that I wanted to marry this girl.  Raj was blown away and quite pleased with himself.  “I told you that you were going to love her.  If I weren’t already married, and happily married, I would have dated her myself.  I’m thrilled for you, Man.  So, have you popped the question as yet?”

“No, but I’m going to tonight when we’re having dinner at my place.”  And I did.  She was so moved by tears that for several minutes she couldn’t say anything.  After I slipped the ring on her finger, we stood and hugged.  She ended up spending the night.

We got married in an elegant but intimate ceremony.  Raj, of course, was my best man.  My family were all there but none of hers was–only friends and co-workers.  I knew that they didn’t approve of me because I wasn’t Pakistani.  I later found out that they wanted her to marry a friend of the family who was rich but old enough to be her father and she refused.  She moved out of her parents’ house and moved in with a friend.  b2052d4a374f85a4821cc75859f32472--full-lips-beautiful-eyes

When her family found out about me, they were livid.  They tried to get her to end our relationship but she refused.  She told them that she loved me and planned to spend the rest of her life with me.  Her father was especially opposed to this and told her that she was a disgrace to her family. Even there in America, she had respect their family’s caste, religion and customs.  He warned her that if she didn’t stop dating me and agree to the marriage they had arranged for her, she would be very sorry.

I didn’t know that she was afraid that something dad would happen to her.  If I had, I would have packed up everything and taken her far away.  It never once occurred to me that my father-in-law, whom I never met, would take my wife’s life.  Even now, I still can’t believe that a father would kill his own daughter because she chose to marry a man she loved instead of the man they wanted her to marry.

It happened a couple of months after she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Alaya.  She was on her way home from the supermarket when she was struck by a car driven by her father.  She was rushed to the hospital.  Her condition was very critical.  She suffered multiple vertebrae fractures, an ankle fracture, a severe closed head injury and multiple soft tissue injuries from head to toe.  To say that I was devastated would be a gross understatement.  I was beside myself.  I cried and prayed for her to pull through but she slipped into a coma and never woke up.  My family and friends rallied around me, supporting me.  I had lost the love of my life and the mother of our child.  How on earth was I going to get through that?

Her father was charged with murder.  He’s still serving time.  I don’t hate him anymore.  I have channeled the negative feelings into something positive.  I have created a foundation in my wife’s honor.  It’s called Sanaya after her.  The organization is geared towards preventing honor killings in America.  This is America.  It’s supposed to be the land of the free.  What about the message at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty which says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Yet, honor killings are no longer happening in other parts of the world.  They are happening right here in our own backyard.  And it has to stop.  It is an issue that cannot be ignored.  Right now, I am working to expose the issue and help train front line responders, victim service providers, and counselors.  I have to do this for Sanaya, our daughter Ayala and other women.  There is no honor in killing and women are not objects or possessions.  They, like Sanaya, should have the right to marry the men of their choice and not be murdered for it.  It is my hope and prayer that honor killing will be a thing of the past.  Until that time, I will continue to honor Sanaya’s memory by fighting to “end the practice of Honor Killings and shift the mindset of Pakistani society to one of gender equality.” 

This story is fiction but it was written for National Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is today, November 25, 2019.  This story was inspired by the true tragic killing of Noor, a young Iraqi woman who was run over by her father in Arizona.  She was killed to preserve the family honor.  In her father’s eyes, she was engaging in behavior that could taint her family’s status.

Noor told a friend that her father disapproved of everything she did — from the way she dressed to her choice of friends. According to Noor’s friend, Pesta, “She had a foot in two worlds. She had one foot in suburban America and one foot in Middle Eastern tradition.  In public she tried to put on a brave face…and tried to live her life and enjoy the freedoms that American offered her. In private, she fought with her father all the time.”

Honor killing has been around for such a long time and was thought to happen only in certain countries but it is happening in North America.  According to Aruna Papp, an internationally recognized educator and a survivor, after being raised in an honour-based family structure in India, honor killings are happening here in Canada.  “It’s an epidemic. We have had 19 honour killings in Canada in the last decade. In all developed countries, the highest rate of suicide is among South Asians—why do they come to developed countries and kill themselves? Because we are trained from birth to be self sacrificing…it’s so much easier to kill yourself then to humiliate the family.” 

The issue of honour killing was thrust into the Canadian spotlight back in 2009, after four female members of the Shafia family were found dead in a canal in Ontario.

Honor killing and violence against women are real issues and we must continue to raise awareness and take action.  Girls and women deserve to live quality lives, free of violence, oppression and free.  It is believed that at least 5,000 honour killings are reported around the world each year, but most likely the actual number is far higher since many go unreported.

If you are interested in learning more about honor killing and/or how you can help in the fight to end it, here is a list of organizations you can check out:

 

Violence against women is not just a problem in countries like Afghanistan and Somalia. It’s happening in the U.S. too

Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated that most Americans refuse to accept that honor violence happens there and this is the biggest obstacle to providing effective assistance.  Her foundation receives requests for help from women and girls in crisis.  She mentioned in her editorial, “There is the young woman, an American citizen, who was taken to her family’s native country in the Middle East to marry a complete stranger against her will because her parents feared she was becoming too “Americanized.” There is the college student who fears for her life should her father discover that she is dating someone outside her family’s faith. There is the teenage girl who discovers she is pregnant and is threatened with murder by her family for bringing shame upon them.” 

Refusing to believe that this type of violence is in our country wouldn’t make it go away.  It exists and women and girls need our help.  We must do something.  No more burying our heads in the sand.  We MUST take action.

Honor killings are not honorable by God. They are driven by ignorance and ego and nothing more. The Creator favors the man who loves over the man who hates. If you think God will punish you or your child for allowing them to marry outside of your tribe or faith, then you do not know God. Love is his religion and the light of love sees no walls. Anybody who unconditionally loves another human being for the goodness of their heart and nothing more is already on the right side of God.
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Sources:  Amnesty International; CBS; The Guardian; Global News; Humanity Healing

Unequally Yoked

Falling in love with William wasn’t something I expected to happen. Why not? Well, he’s younger than me, he’s not African American and he’s a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. They don’t believe in wearing jewelry and I love jewelry. I love wearing big gold and silver earrings, rings and bangles. They frown on makeup too. I don’t wear any but it’s not because of religious reasons. I’m allergic to it. So, all I wear is a tinted lip balm. Fortunately for me I have naturally long eyelashes so I don’t need Mascara to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define them.

Anyway, makeup aside, I was happily single, dating on and off when it suited me. Most of the men I dated were Christians but on a few occasions I dated non-Christians or men of other faiths. Well, that got my Christian friends talking. I was scolded. My friends Shirley shook her head and wagged her finger in my face. “Girl, don’t you know you’re not supposed to be dating any man outside of the church? Do you want to be unequally yoked?”

“And why would you want to date men outside the church when you have so many fine looking brothers in the church?” Rochelle piped in. “Did you see that visitor we had last week Sunday? I first thing I did when I was introduced to him was to check to see if he was wearing a wedding ring.”

Whenever they carried on like that, I would just look at them and smile. They meant well and I loved them dearly but friend or not, they had no business telling me who I should or shouldn’t date. After all, didn’t Moses marry an Ethiopian woman and Joseph the daughter of an Egyptian priest? I didn’t marry any of those men–I just dated them.

Anyway, we were out at a bowling alley one evening and having a blast when I noticed that this really good looking Asian guy kept staring at me. He was with a group of friends. He was well dressed in a crisp white shirt and black jeans. He had a really nice physique. As I waited my turn to bowl, I allowed my eyes to drink in every detail of him. Finally, I walked up to him and holding out my hand, I said, “Hi, my name’s Monique.”

He looked a bit startled. I guess he wasn’t used to being approached. “William,” he replied after a few seconds and shook my hand. His fingers were long and I could see that they were well manicured. This guy took self grooming very seriously. I like that in a man.

“Is this your first time here?” It wasn’t my first time. I had been there numerous times.

“Yes, it is. What about you?”

“No, I come here often with my friends.”

He glanced over my shoulder. “I think your friends are trying to get your attention,” he said, releasing my hand.

I turned to see Shirley and Rochelle waving wildly. I turned back to William, an apologetic expression on my face. “Excuse me.” I turned and walked over to my friends. I could feel him watching me. I knew I looked great in the red shirt and the jeans which hugged me in all of the right places. Being a Christian didn’t mean that I had to dress like a nun. I bowled and got a strike. My third in the game. Pleased, I returned to William who was up. I watched as he too made a strike. “How many have you had so far?” I asked.

“Four.”

“Good for you.”

“After we have finished our games, would you like to grab something to eat?”

“Here or somewhere else?”

“Here is fine.”

“Sure. If your friends won’t mind.”

“They won’t. What about yours?”

“They won’t mind either.” Of course they would but that was their problem. “I’ll go and finish my game and meet you right here.”

He smiled. “Okay.”

I rejoined my friends who were watching me very closely. After we finished our second game which I won, I told them that I had a date. I indicated with whom the date was and I could just hear the lectures. “Sorry, Ladies but I don’t have time right now to listen to why I shouldn’t grab a bite to eat with a guy I just met.”

Rochelle shook her head. “You really need to be careful when it comes to men,” she said. “The guy is a perfect stranger and you’re going out with him?”

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to have something to eat right here. And when we’re done, I’m going home–alone.”

“Well, I should hope so,” Shirley said. “You’re a Christian, remember? You shouldn’t be taking men back to your place and you should never go to theirs.”

I wonder what they would say if they knew that years ago I had slept with one of the brothers in the church. We hadn’t planned to, of course, but it happened. The following week at church we avoided each other like the plague. I just go out with men and have a good time but at the end of the evening, we part company. I try to be celibate but it isn’t always easy. I’m not a robot. I have needs.

“Don’t worry, ladies,” I said to my friends. “I’ll be good. Now, run along. I’ll see you in church on Sunday.” Then, I turned and walked over to William who was alone. I guess his friends had left. “Do you mind if we ate here?”

“No, I don’t mind at all.”

“Good.” We both order burgers–his was a veggie and mine was a cheesy cheeseburger with fries and milkshakes. We sat at a table and as we ate, we talked about all sorts of things. “Do you have a girlfriend?” I asked. He wouldn’t be the first guy to step out on his woman.

“No. What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’m single. How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“I’m thirty-six.” I figured that he was younger than me. “Have you ever dated an older woman?”

He shook his head. “No. Have you ever dated a younger man?”

“No, but there’s a first time for everything.” Did I just say that? Was I seriously thinking about dating him? I must be out of my mind. He was younger than me, for Pete’s sake and he wasn’t a brother. Yet, I couldn’t deny that I was extremely attracted to him. I kept having all sorts of thoughts that a Christian woman shouldn’t be having. And it didn’t help that the first button of his shirt was undone. I tried to keep my eyes on his face. He had the most amazing brown eyes. I could drown in them. I realized that I was staring and I turned my attention to my fries.

“So, what else do you like to do besides bowling with your friends on a Friday night?”

“I like to read, go for long walks, shopping and travel. What about you?”

“I enjoy a good game of tennis, cycling, swimming and long walks.”

“What do you do for entertainment?”

“I’m not really into any type of entertainment except maybe a gospel concert or maybe an opera or a ballet or a classical music performance.”

“Really? So, you won’t go to a nightclub or a bar, then?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Those are not the sort of places that a Christian should go to.”

“So, you’re a Christian?”

“Yes.”

“So am I.” I could see the surprise on his face. “I guess it’s hard to believe that because of the jewelry.”

“Well, the women at my church don’t wear jewelry or makeup.”

“Let me guess. You’re a Seventh-day Adventist.”

“Yes. Are you familiar with our beliefs?”

“Yes. You are what I would call legalistic because of all your dos and Sony’s.  You don’t believe in having fun, do you?

“I believe in having fun, yes, as long as it is done responsibly and it doesn’t conflict with my beliefs.”

“What about being with me, a non-Adventist? Wouldn’t the members of your church have a problem with that?”

He smiled.  “Some of them might but I’m not answerable to them but to the Lord who welcomed all who came to Him.”

“I think all churches have the same problem.  They say they are the body of Christ but they have a problem with us associating with people of other faiths.  Adventists don’t seem to like being around non-Christians and non-Adventists.  My grandmother was an Adventist and when I visited her church, I felt uncomfortable.  Some of the members couldn’t hide their disapproval of me because I wore jewelry.  After my grandmother’s funeral, I never went back to that church.”

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience.  Does this mean that you wouldn’t go out with me because I’m an Adventist?”

“Are you asking me out, William?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, I’ll go out with you.”

“Have your ever been  to a circus?”

“No.”

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll take you to one on Sunday and then we will go for dinner afterwards.”

“Sounds good to me.” I glanced at my watch.  It was getting late and I had had a long day.  “Well, it’s time for me to head home.”  

He looked disappointed.  “Do you have ride?”

I nodded as I stood up.  “Yes, I drove here.”

He stood up.  “I’ll walk you to your car.”

We walked to my car and before we parted company, I gave him my address and number.  “See you on Sunday,” I said as I got behind the wheel.”

“See you on Sunday.”  He waved as I drove off.

Sunday came and we went to the circus where we had a blast.  Afterwards, we went to a Thai restaurant.  Over mouth watering food, we made plans to see each other again.  Then, we started dating.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I was falling for him.  That scared me.  I have been in love before but this was different.  I was actually thinking of marriage.  Marriage!  Me.  The woman who liked being single.  I wasn’t sure how he felt about me.  I knew he wanted me–the kiss we shared the other night made that crystal clear to me.  If I didn’t break off the kiss, grab my jacket and hightailed it out of his apartment, who knows how things would have progressed.

We are walking in the park now, holding hands.  We draw a few stares but I’m used to it.  We come to a quiet, secluded spot where we stop.  We face each other.  He has a very serious expression on his face.  I swallowed hard, my heart racing.  Is he about to break up with me?  The thought terrifies me.  I’m so crazy about this guy.

“Monique, we have been seeing each other for a while now.  You must know by now how I feel about you.”

“How do you feel about me?”  I wanted him to come right out and tell me.

“I love you.”

Relief washed over me and I smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I know that we come from two different denominations but I can’t give up on you, on us because of that.  I want to marry you, Monique.”

“Marry me?  Are you sure?” I wanted to be sure that was what he really wanted.

“Yes.”  He released my hand and getting down on one knee, he reached into the breast-pocket of his jacket and took out a little red box.  He opened it and removed a beautiful diamond ring.  “Monique Charles, will you marry me?”

Tears sprang to my eyes and for a moment I was too choked up to say anything.  “Yes!” I managed to gasp and he sprang to his feet and pulled me into his arms.  He hugged me tightly about my waist before he leaned down and kissed me.  When we finally broke apart, we went to our favorite place to celebrate–the bowling alley where we met.

Two years have passed.  William and I have moved into a nice, residential area just outside of the city because we have a son and another one is on the way.  I’m no longer a Pentecostal Christian.  My friends, Rochelle and Shirley were upset at first but they decided that it was my life to do what I wished with it and besides, they could see how happy I am.  While we were dating, I began attending William’s church and after a lot of prayer and fasting, I got baptized and became a member.  This means that I’m no longer wearing jewelry and believe it or not, I don’t miss it.  I love my new life with William and I’m thankful to God for bringing us together.  We are equally yoked in every way now.

Source: Pinchasers

Matt’s Story

large-1531167473-1c546e4b85f6c127d98bd3212423c485A couple of years ago, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was 17 and at my cousin, Rose’s wedding.  At the reception, a relative who had way too much to drink, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t know about the rest of the family but I’m sure glad that your Mama didn’t abort you ’cause you turned out to be a fine lad.  Yes, a fine lad.  You’re not at all like your Daddy.”

I stared at him, shocked and shaken.  What was he talking about?  Why would my mother have considered aborting me and what about my father?  Did he know who my father was?  Was he for real or was it the liquor.

I politely removed his arm from around my shoulders and excused myself.  I went out on the terrace to get a breath of fresh air.  My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.  A feeling of dread came over me.  My mother died a year ago from pneumonia.  She never told me who my father was and whenever I asked about him, she would say, “the only father you have is God Almighty.  He takes care of you better than any earthly father can.”  After a while, I stopped asking her.   On my birth certificate it said “unknown” where my father’s name should have been.  I hoped that one day I would find out who and where he was.

My mother never married.  She was a single, hardworking mother who raised me as best as she could.  I know she loved me and that she wanted me to have a good life.  At night after she read to me, she got down on her knees and prayed.  She was always praying for me.  I loved my mother very much and I was devastated when she died.  After she died, I moved in with my grandmother.

After what the relative told me I couldn’t enjoy the wedding.  I kept playing his words over and over in my mind.  I couldn’t wait for the morning to come when I would talk to my grandmother about it.  I know that if anyone could give me answers, it would be her.  So, when we were sitting around the table having breakfast, I asked her, “Grandma, did Mama want to abort me?”  I knew I should have broached this in a more delicate way but I was desperate for answers.

Her face went pale and she dropped her fork.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“Some distant relative, I don’t remember his name, said that he was glad that Mama didn’t abort me.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Is it true, Grandma?  Was Mama going to abort me?”

“No!  Your Mama was a godly woman.  She would never have agreed to an abortion even though her father and other people were trying to talk her into it.”

“Grandpa wanted her to have an abortion?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I adored my grandfather.  He was like a father to me.  His death five years ago really hit me hard.

“Yes.  He thought it would have been thing for her.”

“But why?”

“Matt, what does it matter?  You’re here, aren’t you?  Why don’t we forget about the past and move on?”

“Grandma, I need to know.  Please!”

My grandmother buried her face in her hands which were trembling slightly.  “Oh, Matt, I wish you didn’t have to know the truth.”

I was getting scared now.  Part of me was afraid to hear the truth and the other part had to.  “Please tell me, Grandma.  Was it to do with my father?”

She dropped her hands and I saw the anger and rage on her face.  “Your father was a monster!” she cried.

“Who was he?  Is he still alive?”

“Yes, he’s still alive and still rotting in prison.”

“Prison!  Why is he in prison?”

“Matt…”

“Grandma, I need to know.”

“He’s serving 30 years in prison for…rape and incest.”

“I–I don’t understand

“Matt, your mother got pregnant when she was raped by her brother.”

The color drained from my face.  I felt sick.  I got up from the table and dashed into the washroom where I threw up.  When I was done, I flushed the toilet, rinsed my mouth and washed my face with cold water.  My hands were shaking.  My grandmother was standing behind me.  I turned to face her and she put her arms around me and hugged me tightly.  We were both crying.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” she said after a while.  “It’s a shameful thing that this family has had to deal with and that is why some of us, excluding me, wanted your mother to have an abortion.  They were thinking about her well-being but once your mother insisted that she was going to have you, we all tried to protect you from the truth.  It was your grandfather’s idea that she put “unknown” for the father’s name.”

“Why did she keep me? Wasn’t I a painful reminder of what happened to her?”

“She kept you because she loved you and she didn’t see a painful reminder of what your father did to her.  She saw a beautiful and precious gift from God.”

The rest of that day was a blur.  I was so overcome with pain and guilt that I became withdrawn and depressed.  My grandmother was very concerned about me and she tried to get me counseling.  It helped–somewhat.  And after I graduated from high-school, she sent me away to South Africa to study and live at the university there.  She would take care of my tuition and anything else I needed.  “It would do you good to get far away from here,” she said.  “You’ll be in a new country and meet new people.  Forget about the ugly past.  Live your life the best you know how for your mother’s sake.  Write me.  Don’t come back here.  When I can, I will come and visit you.”

So, at her insistence, I left Virginia and moved to South Africa.  I asked my grandmother why she choice South Africa of all countries to send me and she told me it was where she met my grandfather.   When I arrived in Cape Town, I knew that I was going to love living there.  Life on campus was a great experience for me.  I met diverse students and forged several life-long friendships.  I enjoyed my studies and had a relatively active social life.  There were lots of pretty girls but I wasn’t interested in dating at that time.  I wanted to focus on my studies.

Then, in my third year at the university, I met Joycelin, a girl from Namibia and a 765full-sydney-nelsonfreshman.   I remember the first time she smiled at me, I felt as if my heart had stopped.  A mutual friend introduced us when a group of us went on a Saturday morning to visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach.  Joycelin and I immediately hit it off and we spent most of the time together, getting to know each other.  By the time we were on our way back to campus, I knew that I wanted to date this girl.  And I did.  Our friends, especially the one who introduced us, were thrilled.

I wrote my grandmother about Joycelin and sent her photos of us.  She was happy for me.  I was relieved that she didn’t have a problem with me dating an African girl.  I know that other members of my family would, however, including the relative who made that careless remark about my mother at my cousin’s wedding.

Things were going well for me and after I graduated from university, I moved into a waterfront apartment which wasn’t far from where I worked.  Joycelin was still living on campus but we phoned each other during the week and saw each other on the weekends.  I was getting pretty serious about her but always at the back of my mind I asked myself how she would feel about me if she were to find out about my father.  I found out one day.

Joycelin and I were in De Waal Park on a Saturday afternoon when the subject of abortion came up.  “How do you feel about abortion?” she asked me.

Her question startled me.  “I don’t know.”

“I’m against it,” she said.

“Even–even in cases of rape and incest?” I asked, my heart pounding.

She nodded.  “Yes.  The life of a child born of rape or incest is just as valuable as a child born under normal circumstances.  Ending the life of the child of a person who has committed rape or incest isn’t the solution. The law should punish the criminal, not kill his child.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.  And the Bible says that ‘a child won’t bear a parent’s guilt, and a parent won’t bear a child’s guilt.'”  She looked at me closely, frowning and there was concerned expression on her sweet face.  “Matt, are you okay?  You look pale.”

“Joycelin, I have something to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in mind.  “What is it?” she asked.  “You can tell me anything.”

I closed my eyes and told her the awful truth about my birth.  I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt her fingers brush against my cheeks.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring into her tearful face.  “That’s why I said I didn’t know how I feel about abortion.  There were times when I felt it might have been better if my mother had aborted me because I was a reminder of what happened to her.”

“Matt, you’re not to blame for what happened.  Your mother chose to keep you because she loved you.  She saw you as a beautiful and precious gift not a horrible and painful reminder of what happened to her.  She chose to give you life and the best way to honor that choice, is to live your life to the fullest.”

I held her face between my hands and whispered brokenly, “I love you.”

She smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I wish my mother could have met you,”

“I wish I could have met her.  She sounds like a remarkable woman.  I believe you are the way you are because of her.  She was a godly woman.  God heard her prayers for you and He answered them.  She would be extremely proud of how you’ve turned out.”

“That’s what my grandmother said.  Her, you will get to meet when she visits me in December.  She’s coming for Christmas.”

“That’s great.  Speaking of Christmas, my family are flying over too.  I can’t wait for them to meet you.”

“Good.  It will give me a chance to ask your father permission to marry you.”

She stared at me, her eyes and mouth wide open.  “Are you serious?”

I nodded and replied,  “Yes, I’m very serious”  before I lowered my head and kissed her.

Ten years have passed since I learned the truth about my the circumstances of my birth.  The guilt and shame I felt all these years are gone now.  I have accepted that I have done nothing deserving of death and I will live the life I have been given to its fullest.    Joycelin and I are engaged.  The wedding is next year Spring.  She’s teaching me about God and like my mother, she prays for me regularly.   I’m thankful that God blessed me with three phenomenal women–my mother, Joycelin and my grandmother.  The life He has given me I will live worthily for Him and for them.

A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, any more than a child conceived in a loving marriage – Human Life International

The solution to incest is not abortion, but prosecution of the criminal so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing – Human Life International

Matt is a fictional character, but there are real men and women out there who were conceived in rape.  Read their stories.

It takes courage for a woman who chooses to go through with an unplanned pregnancy but it takes far greater courage for the one whose child was conceived by rape or incest.

Sources:   University of Cape TownWikipediaStudent World Online;

Folani’s Story

photo-1553394951-efd4b4aadd2bMy name is Folani.  At the age of 16, I was forced to marry the man who raped me so that I wouldn’t bring shame on my family.  He wanted to marry me but after I rejected him, he raped me.  I told my my mother what he had done to me and she insisted that if he still wanted to marry me that I should consent.  “No other man is going to want you,” she told me.  “Be grateful if Mr. Adebayo still does.”

“But, Mama, he raped me.”

“And whose fault is that?”

I couldn’t believe how unfeeling and uncaring she was.  I wished my father were still alive.  He would have had Mr. Adebayo arrested and charged.  I wished I had older brothers who would make Mr. Adebayo pay for what he did to me.  I wouldn’t want them to kill him, of course.  There are other ways to make a person pay for what they have done without taking their life.

I got no sympathy from my mother or my step-father and when Mr. Adebayo asked their permission to marry me, they consented.  I know he wanted to marry me because he wanted to avoid punishment and prosecution.  He was a government official and he had his “reputation” to think about.  I had no choice but to go along with this.  I had brought my family into disrepute and the only way to preserve my family name and avoid a life of sexual shame was to marry the man who raped me.  This was the only way to prevent the social stigma of pre-marital sex.

The night before the wedding, I cried bitterly.  I didn’t want to marry this man.  I didn’t want to stop going to school.  I had dreams of becoming a doctor but now those dreams were squashed.  I lay in my bed curled up, wishing I could die.  Death would be better than the future.

I married Mr. Adebayo and we lived in his big house on the hill.  He was abusive to me, demanding his rights as my husband.  He struck me when he tried to touch me and I pulled away.  Night after night, I was raped.  I became pregnant but I miscarried because of repeated domestic violence.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of the physical and sexual abuse, my husband suddenly died.  I could have run away and left him there in the floor but I called the police.

It turned out that he died from cardiac arrest.  After the funeral, his sister and mother threw me out of the house.  I didn’t return home to my mother and step-father.  I went to my paternal grandmother who let me stay with her.  When I told her all that had happened to me, she cried and prayed over me.

While I stayed with her, she read the Bible to me and told me about God and Jesus.  I listened.  I missed going to school but my grandmother couldn’t afford to send me.  One night, I got down on my knees and asked God to help me.  I couldn’t give up my dream of becoming a doctor one day.  The next day, someone from Camfed came to my grandmother’s house.  They had heard about my situation through its network of former students who had been supported through their education program.  The charity offered to pay my school fees, and provides books, uniforms and sanitary protection.  As my grandmother and I listened, I knew that God had answered my prayers.  Thanks for Camfed has enabled more than two million girls like me to go to school has made my dream of becoming a doctor a reality.

After I graduated from school, I went on to university.  I chose to live on campus but visited my grandmother every weekend.  I thank her for telling me about God and I thank God for coming through for me.  I wish I had run away from home and gone to live with my grandmother instead of marrying Mr. Adebayo but I was afraid that I would bring shame on her.

When I told her this, she reached for my hand and gently squeezed it.  “You wouldn’t have brought any shame to me, Folani child.  What happened to you wasn’t your fault.  A wicked and evil man violated you and to avoid what was due him, he, your mother and step-father forced you to marry him.  You’re free of him now that he’s dead and you are free to live the life God has planned for you.  Now you can become a doctor–the first in your community and family.  Your father would be very proud of you.”

With tears in my eyes, I hugged her tightly.  “Kutenda, Ambuya.”

Folani’s story is fiction but there are true stories of girls who have been forced into marriages because of poverty, economic hardships, difficult circumstances and protection from sexual violence.  Advocates for rape-marriage laws argue that they shield the victim and her family from the shame of rape.  This isn’t true.  This law benefits the rapist and the girl’s family.  The girl has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the man who violated her.  She is forced to drop out of school and forsake her future which only education could make possible and be in a marriage which more often than not is abusive.

I urge you to help Camfed which is changing the lives of girls through education; Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential; Girl UP which believes that Girls are powerful. Girls have limitless potential. Girls can change the world. And yet in certain places around the world, girls continue to lack access to opportunities; CARE which is working towards gender equality, women’s empowerment, champions among men and boys, and an end to violence against women and Forward, the African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls.

Marriage is a choice not something to be coerced into.  Education not marriage should be a girl’s priority.  Marriage is between an adult man and woman not between an adult and a child.  And girls who are raped should be protected by the law and their families and not forced to marry their rapists to save him persecution and jail time or to safe the family face.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.

Take action to help girls like Gloria, who was forced into marriage at 12 and a widow twice by the time she was 17, to have an education and a future.  Help them to fulfill their dreams.

Sources:  Wikipedia; UN Women; BBC News; UNFPA

Sophia’s Secret

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Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Getty Images

My name is Sophia.  I have been living with a secret since I was eight.  It’s a shameful thing and every-time I think about it, I feel sick and I wish I could curl up and just die.  No one at school knows but I keep wondering if they could tell just by looking at me.  Do I look different?  They don’t treat me like I am but I feel different.  I feel that there is something wrong with me because of what’s happening to me.  Maybe if I were ugly or fat, he wouldn’t trouble me.  Every-time we are together, he tells me how pretty I am.  I don’t want to be pretty.  I don’t want him to notice me.  I wish I were invisible.

I wish I could tell somebody but who would believe me?  He keeps telling me that this is our little secret and not to tell anyone.  He warned me that no one would believe me anyway.  So, I keep quiet.  I lie there, staring up at the ceiling and let him do things to me.  I hate it but what can I do?  He’s my uncle.  He was my favorite uncle until he started violating me.  It happens whenever we are alone in my grandparents’ house.

During the day, I try to keep busy so as not to think about it and at night, I cry myself to sleep.  Whenever I visit my friends’ homes, I envy them.  They seem so happy.  They are not orphans like my little brother, Tony and me.  Our parents died in a car crash ten years ago.  We are living with our paternal grandparents.  I love my grandfather because he reminds me of my Dad whom I loved very, very much.  My grandmother and I aren’t very close.  She complains that I’m too much like my mother whom she never accepted.  She had wanted my Dad to marry an Italian woman.  My mother was Puerto Rican.  My grandmother is more partial to Tony because he looks more Italian and a lot like my father.

I wonder what she would say if she knew what her favorite son was doing to me.  One evening, I found out.  My grandfather and Tony had gone to a Baseball game and my grandmother had gone to visit a friend.  It was after seven when she got home.  She was at the end of the corridor when she saw Uncle Matteo coming out of my bedroom.  He froze when he saw her.  Then, he recovered, smiled and said, “Hi, Mama.  Sophia was just showing me the school project she’s working on for school.  She needed my input.”

My grandmother believed him.  She smiled as he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  “Have you eaten?” she asked.  “I can fix you a nice bowl of Tuscan Soup.”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I have to go.  I have Maybe next time?”

She looked disappointed.  “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” she demanded.

“I have a date.”

“Who is she?  Do I know her?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  One of these days, I will bring her here and she can have you delicious Tuscan Soup.”

“All right.  Run along.  Whoever she is, she must be special for you to pass up my soup.”

He kissed her on the cheek again.  “Ciao, Mama.”  He turned and hurried down the hall.  “Ciao, Sophia.”

I didn’t answer.  I stood there, happy to see him go.  I wrapped my arms around me, feeling dirty.  I felt so ashamed.  I wanted to run away and go where he couldn’t hurt me anymore.  I thought of my mother’s sister, Aunt Teresa.  I’m sure she would let me live with her.  Taking a deep breath, I turned to face my grandmother.  “Nonna,  I want to go and live with my Aunt Teresa.”

She stared at me.  “Why?” she asked.  “Aren’t your grandfather and I taking good care of you?

“I’m not happy here.”

“What do you mean?” she demanded crossly.  “We feed you, put a roof over your head and we let you do what you like as long you follow the house rules.  Do you think your Aunt Teresa can do a better job raising you?”

“Nonna, I’m not leaving because Nonno and you.”

“Well, it’s up to you.  I wouldn’t stop you.”  She turned and walked away.  I could tell that she was upset and I was sorry but I had to leave.   And I did that weekend.  My grandfather dropped me off at Aunt Teresa’s house.  He was sorry that I left because he would miss having me around but I think he understood.  He knew that my relationship with my grandmother was strained.  He promised that he would visit me with Tony every other Sunday.

My Aunt Teresa was more than happy to have me.  Her daughter, my cousin Natalia had moved out and into her own place so I got her room which was much nicer than the one I had at my grandparents’ house.  I settled in very quickly.  I helped with chores as I did at my grandparents’ house and I did some of the cooking too.  I wasn’t as good as my grandmother but I was improving.

One night, I had a nightmare.   I dreamed that I was back in my grandparents’ house and Uncle Matteo was in my bed.  His mouth and hands were all over me.  I woke up, sweating and shaking like a leaf.  The next morning when my Aunt Teresa and I were alone, sorting the laundry, I told her about the abuse.  She was visibly upset.  She hugged me tightly and I began to cry.  It felt so good telling someone.  I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off me.  When she drew back to look at me, she said, “The Bible clearly says,  that no one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations.  What your uncle did to you is criminal and he should be reported.”  And she reported him.

My Aunt Teresa had a friend who was a social worker come and see me.  She told me that I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me and that I did the right thing telling someone.  That made me feel better.  I started to live again and I began to read the Bible my Aunt Teresa gave me.  I started to go to church with her and I loved it.  I met wonderful people and made new friends.

My grandmother was angry with me and doesn’t want me over at the house anymore.  It’s on account of me that her son is in jail.  My grandfather was broken up about it and he apologized to me for not being there to protect me.  He swore that if he had known, he would have reported the abuse himself.  He and my grandmother are no longer together.  Tony has moved in with Aunt Teresa and me and my grandfather is living with Uncle Alberto and his family.

It wasn’t my intention to cause any trouble for my grandparents but I had to tell someone my secret.  And now I’m a part of a Youth Program called Give Voice.  It encourages teenagers and youth to break the silence about their own abuse or to report to someone they trust when they suspect that someone they know is being abused.  It’s a support group where we feel safe talking about our experiences and there’s also a mixture of fun and other activities.

I created a pamphlet for Give Voice which we hand out at schools, colleges, universities, libraries, shopping malls, on the streets, subways, bus stations, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, hairdressing salons, barber shops and other public places.  We want to get the word out that there is help out there.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Tell someone you trust.  Put your abuser where he or she belongs:  behind bars.

When it comes to any type of abuse, silence is not golden.  Tell, cry, yell, do whatever you have to but don’t keep silent.  Abuse should never be kept a secret.

Sources:  Government of Canada; Bible Info; Bible Gateway