Updated: Oct 25
By Lydia Mwansa
Ever since I was a little girl, I remember being very courageous, confident and outspoken. This all changed a month after I turned seven years old. My dad passed on and barely four months after he died, I was sexually abused by my cousin. There are no words that can ever describe how this affected me emotionally because I was trying to heal from the death of my dad and boom! This traumatic experience. It was like piercing a knife into a wound that had already existed. I completely lost touch with myself, I never believed that I was beautiful, or worth anything in this world. The girl who used to be so talkative suddenly lost touch with herself, the child in me completely died that day.
Life is very funny and as though that was not enough, on my journey towards healing, I faced five attempts of sexual abuse, and in all these attempts what was heartbreaking is that the perpetrators were not even people from afar but rather very close. I became a very bitter-tempered, anger-filled and very silent young lady. I reached a point in my life where I did not trust anyone. For example, each time I would want to go and sleep no matter how hot it could get I would never sleep in a night dress. If I wore a night dress, I would always have to put trousers inside. I developed insomnia because each time I would try to sleep my dreams would always be nightmares of that ill fated day.
Since I was unable to express how I was feeling to anyone, writing became a way in which I would describe how I was feeling and each time I finished writing I felt like part of the pain had been lifted off. How I related with others was affected, my academics were affected , in fact almost all areas of my life were affected. Fast forward to 2016, I turned fourteen years old and I was in the eighth grade. This was a season in which I broke down completely. In the early months of grade eight a lady who was working at our place as a maid would come into my room and would sexually abuse me. Then in that period a friend from school also attempted to rape me but with a great struggle, I survived. Being sexually abused when I was seven years old by a 14-year-old family member and along the way experiencing other sexual abuse attempts was disturbing, but the experiences I encountered in grade eight caused me to break down so much that the little esteem I had left in me completely faded away. The lady who would sexually abuse me would tell me things like “Don’t tell anyone if you do, I will lie and no one will believe you.” at this point, I was filled with so much fear and I never felt secure anymore. I reached a point where each time I would get stressed out a lot I would begin to become afraid, I would faint and wake up in the hospital, where they would always say my sugar was low and at times when my sugar was just normal, they did some tests but would say physically everything was just ok.
In grade eight, I moved from Ndola to Lusaka to stay with my dad (my biological dad’s younger brother) and mum (his wife). In 2017 which is the year I went into depression because my situation just became so tense, I completely withdrew from everything. My dad (my biological father's young brother) and his wife came to my room one day and as I was lying on the bed, they asked me if I had received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I refused, that’s how they asked me if I would like to receive him and I accepted. At that moment I did not even know what they meant, all I knew was I just wanted to find the girl I lost when I was seven years old, I wanted to live, dream and laugh again. They led me in praying the prayer of salvation. When I prayed that prayer on that day, I just thought it was one of those things, but little did I know it was the beginning of a new phase in my life. I only got to realize the importance of what had happened that day the following year.
In 2018, we had a lady who visited our school from an organisation called Dreams. All the girls in my class were told to gather at the school grounds where we played games after which, the lady started addressing us. One of the topics she spoke to us about was sexual abuse. She encouraged us to reach out to her if any of us had ever been sexually abused. For the first time, I felt a need to open up to someone. I spoke to her and she encouraged me. That day when I got home I decided to take a bath. I kept scrubbing the sponge all over my body. I kept on bathing and at that moment all I wanted to do was commit suicide. When I eventually came out of the bathroom, because I had taken longer than usual and my eyes at this point were red as fire because I was just crying, my mum asked me what was wrong. I said nothing, but because she had noticed that I had something bothering me she tried reaching out to me but to no avail. On this day she was persistent and I eventually opened up to her. After that day I made a decision that I didn’t want to be a sexual abuse victim but I wanted to be a survivor, it was at this point I started gaining back my courage and confidence, and that little girl in me became alive once again.
The Bible helped me believe that I am beautiful and I find beauty in my scars. I began to work on my relationship with God, and eventually, my academics began to shine. I received awards in two subjects, Civic Education and Accounts. How I related to people also began to change gradually. My passion for writing and studying Law even grew stronger. In 2020 I was chosen as the Vice Head girl for the morning session at my former school Chilenje South Secondary School. Everyone who knew me before 2017 saw a difference in me and each time they saw me, all they said was “Miracles do happen”. In 2021 I completed my grade twelve with 11 points. I am studying Law in my second year at the University of Zambia.
I have come to learn that in Zambia, Africa and the world at large, many women have either been sexually abused or have experienced sexual abuse attempts. They have kept quiet because an environment to open up has not been created, hence we end up having women, leaders daughters and mothers who are filled with so much bitterness and they don’t heal. The reason is that the first step to healing is opening up and understanding that whatever might have happened was not your fault and that you are loved, beautiful and wanted. It’s time to break the silence and begin to embark on a journey to healing as we all hold each other’s hands, there is power in unity.
Lydia is a Sunday school teacher who loves spending time with children and enjoys serving God as well as spending time in his presence. She loves reading books and writing. She hopes to publish her books by 2024. She enjoys activities that enforce human rights. Connect with her on Facebook: Lydia Q Mwansa, Building Godly Relationships and Overcoming Suicide.
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Edited by Bwalya M Mphuka
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