Surviving Him: My Story of Surviving Trauma
Sometimes I feel guilty for smiling, for laughing and for trying to live life to the fullest each day. It’s hard but I am facing it, it is gut wrenching but I am stepping up and stepping in. It’s work but it’s worth the work. It’s worth the fight, let me tell you my story. I thought about writing a lengthy book and selling it to the world but then I changed my mind. I thought about creating a blockbuster movie to let the world know, but I decided against that. I just wanted to write, and I just wanted to release, so here I am.
It is exactly 10:49 in the morning, it is a Monday and I am supposed to be working. Doing client work, creating content for clients in California but instead I am sitting in my air conditioned living room, my clean, minimal home in Ghana. I am in the perfect space, the perfect space to cleanse. The perfect space to release, the perfect space to let go and live free. I just feel like delving, giving, sharing, so that is exactly what I am going to do.
Everything changed in September 1998, I went from sweet to angry, to closed, to dark, I slipped into another room that month, and nothing has been the same since that sunny afternoon. I even remember the clothes that I was wearing. In fact, my parents have a picture of me framed on their centre table, just a couple of hours after it happened, I took that picture. I smiled with my short, relaxed hair and my recently acquired African wear. I looked happy, but it was a mask that I wore to protect myself. A mask that I have been wearing ever since that day, ever since, ever since.
The summer of 1998 was probably the best summer of my life, I had finished my GCSE examinations and my mum took me to Ghana for the first time in 13 years. I spent more than 6 weeks with my family in Accra, Ghana. It was dreamy, surreal, felt like I was an actor on the set of a movie most days. When it was time to leave, I was afraid, I wanted to stay in Ghana permanently however, I had enrolled in sixth form college so I had to go back to London.
The day I arrived, I felt miserable, in some way fed up and lost. However, I was ready to face a new challenge, two years of sixth form college. I had chosen to study, English literature, Theology and History. I was terrified, but I felt like I had no choice, it was just the norm. Finish high school and head off to college and the University, get a job and start a family. The thought of going to University and getting a job actually scared me but, like everybody else, I put on a brave face and just got on with it.
Anyway, it was around 12pm and my friend from school called my house phone, she knew I had arrived and she was eager to receive her gifts from the Motherhland. I asked my parents if it was ok to go and see her. They agreed but I was on a strict curfew, home by 6pm. I quickly gathered her gifts and I walked to the nearby bus stop to board a bus to Woolwich, where I would pick up another bus to her house. Upon alighting the first bus, I noticed an old male friend of mine standing at the bus stop. I was kind of nervous because I was generally pretty shy around boys. I had also tried to kiss me a few times in the past and I had declined or pushed him off me.
I nervously walked to the bus stop and started rumaging through my bag to avoid eye contact with him. He pulled my arm and told me that his mum was out of town and that it would be the perfect time for me to come and spend some time with him at his house. I quickly declined his offer and stepped forward to get on the bus, he followed behind me. I boarded the 161 bus to Chislehurst and climbed to the top deck of the bus. Again, he followed, I sat in the middle row next to the window. He sat next to me, I stared out of the window praying for him to get off the bus before me. He kept trying to touch my bare legs, I began to regret wearing my short African print skirt that my mum had made for me in Ghana.
As I sat there in the middle row of the top deck of the 161 bus to Chiselhurst, I trembled inside. For some reason, I felt this overwhelming sense of fear. I could feel him staring at me as I fixed my eyes on passing traffic and trees.
It all happened so fast, he grabbed my bag and ran off the bus, I instinctively chased him because the bag contained my friends gifts, money and my bus pass. I ran into the nearby woods, I continued chasing him until I lost track of him. Heart pounding and palms sweaty, I stood there in the heart of the woods terrified. I felt a rough, large hand cup my mouth and whisper into my ear, “shut up and don’t make a sound he whispered.” I just froze, he grabbed my neck and pulled me to the ground. Then, he proceeded to climb on top of me, tugging at my underwear he quickly unzipped his trousers as he held my throat with his other hand. I could feel the whole weight of his body on top of me, crushing me, I couldn’t breathe.
I kicked and screamed and screamed and screamed, somehow, I found some super human strength to push him off me. I grabbed my bag and ran for my life, I am not sure if he chased me because I didn’t look back. All I know is, I ran for miles and miles to my friends house. I eventually reached my friend's place but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her or her parents. I felt this sickening sense of shame. Like it was my fault, like my short African print skirt and my somewhat tight African print top had enticed him to force himself on me.
That afternoon, we had the time of our lives, we set up a makeshift photoshoot in her backyard, we made homemade burgers and watched video tapes and ate popcorn until we felt sick. I have no idea how I got home, but I woke up the next morning in my bed feeling like the old me had been stripped away and this new angrier, less loving, more suspicious version of myself had emerged.
That dark, dark Saturday afternoon changed my life forever, but today I use that experience to propel me forward instead of hold me back. I never use the word victim, I am a survivor and I will continue to fight through life with my head held high.