Should I Tell My Parents That I Was Sexually Molested? Please Help Me Decide.
As the oldest and only daughter in my family, my parents were obsessed with me as a child. My mother kept a diary of my existence from birth, charting my progress, noting my extensive vocabulary and expressing her hopes and dreams for the child she perceived as a genius.
Thirty-three years later, she is haunted by the fact that her baby girl took a turn off the course for greatness at nine years old. The reason is straightforward, yet arrestingly complex and tragic. I know she’d think so, if she knew the truth.
Approximately a year after my family left America in 1981, relocating to Lagos, Nigeria, the teenaged boy my parents employed to help take care of my brother and I began to sexually abuse me.
After completing secondary school in Eastern Nigeria, my parents came to America to attend college, which was quite common during the 60s and 70s. They married, had two children, and after fulfilling their requirements, decided to move to Lagos, the then-capital of Nigeria — a sprawling metropolis brimming with promise and possibility.
My father secured stable employment and set us up in a government housing structure that boasted scenic views of the beach as well as every amenity you could hope for. It was heavenly. After my brother and I were enrolled in the proper schools, there was little doubt what the future would bring. But again, life happens.
Both my parents were highly ambitious, and with good reason. They had risked everything to seek an education abroad, and so it was only fair that they were reimbursed for their sacrifice. As my father toiled away at various Ministries — finance, housing, commerce, and so many others I can’t remember — my mother pursued a career as a TV writer. Her immediate success left her helplessly devoted to her career. Now that I’m flailing as an aspiring writer, I completely understand why she was fixated on her fledgling status.
But her ambition and my father’s never-ending quest for validation cost us everything. In the midst of their trajectories, I was abruptly sucked into a pact with the person they employed to make up for my mother’s absence. He was a village boy, plucked from a small town whose inhabitants are prone to daydreams of life in the Big City. I don’t know how this boy was chosen for the task but his arrival altered my universe forever.
My fragile mind cannot recall exactly when the sexual abuse began. All I know is that once our long-term guest arrived, he promptly began to overwhelm my space, assaulting me with his ravenous pursuits. He taught me to spread my legs wide enough to receive him, and he knocked my asshole out with his urgent thrusts.
He tried to present himself as a friend, and afterwards we would cuddle. I remember lying with my head against his chest, as it rose up and down. He would use that time to refuel, and once he noticed I was calm, he swiftly positioned me for another round.
These attacks lasted long enough to murder the person I was meant to be. I hate the fact that trauma creates an invisible protector who assumes the pain you are not equipped to bear, wiping your memory clean. It’s an amazing phenomenon, but it hinders my ability to accurately recall the events. Still, I’m glad I’m in the dark. The horrors of my repeated abuse appear in random spurts, but the side effects have crippled me all my life, leaving my relationship with my parents in tatters.
My mother in particular is maddened with grief for the child she lost the moment I turned nine. She tells me so every time she asks me to explain how a person with so much potential can end up with so little to show for it.
When the abuse stopped, I lashed out by feeding my appetite for dishonesty and disorder. I forged my report card to make it look like I was at the top of my class. I stole my mother’s bottles of perfume and sold them to my friends at boarding school. Even though these were not criminal acts, or even violent acts, they indicated a serious shift in my disposition. They were a warning that things were not heading in the right direction. I needed help — at least to give me a chance at emotional survival as an adult.
Unfortunately, growing up in Nigeria, you learn quickly that certain things are better left in the dark. You can’t shame yourself and your family in one fell swoop. And there are no resources for victims of abuse because even though it is a rampant epidemic in Nigerian households, it is swept under the rug. So I bore the infection of my wounds valiantly, expecting they would eventually heal.
They haven’t. I’m still nursing them. Having suffered sexual trauma at a tender age, there was no way to escape the roster of classically inclined consequences. Even now, I have a skewed relationship with men. I enjoy sex alone more than I do with a partner. I drink alone — way too much. I date mostly married men. I suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which I actually diagnosed myself after hours of scouring the Internet.
But the worst consequence is that I hate myself. I do everything possible to sabotage my ability to live “the good life.” I opt to wallow in self-pity while choosing a path that clearly leads to disaster. I’m obsessed with punishing that little girl who “willingly” allowed herself to be fucked by a boy in her parents’ bathroom. What a disgusting little cunt she was. Why didn’t she have the decency to ward him off and report him to mommy and daddy, who would have sent him packing and praised her for her bravery?
My inability to sufficiently answer that question is why I’m still in bondage. It’s also why I can’t divulge the facts to my parents, for fear that they will wonder the exact same thing. A part of me believes they will be relieved to finally understand why their once dazzling daughter failed to live up to her potential. But I also know they will not be strong enough to receive the play-by-play. And if I can’t be completely honest, why bother?
To save me? To save them? To save us all and end a period that has been rife with brutal astonishment that, at 42 years old, I am still grasping to find my place in this world? I have considered suicide because at times, I believe that perhaps there is a better place where I can escape my past and start over. But I’m not that cruel. I love my family way too much.
But as a middle-aged woman, I wonder if it’s fair to allow my elderly parents to leave me forever, or vice versa, without fully understanding why back in 1982, all our hopes and dreams came crashing down. I struggle with the realization that maybe they do deserve the truth — even if they can’t handle it.
What do you think?