My story begins before I was born. My grandmother had eight children. She struggled to take care of them because she was in an abusive relationship. From what I have gathered from family and my mother, my grandfather used to drag her into the bushes and assault her so badly that he would leave her for dead. But she always pulled through.
There were times when my mom and her siblings were so hungry they had to scrounge in bins for something to eat. They were taken to children’s homes. As soon as she left the home my mother found a job working in Protea Hotel in Cape Town as a cleaner. This was when she met my dad. After a short courtship she fell pregnant with me. But my dad no longer wanted to be with my mom because he was already married. After I was born my dad had to appear in court to pay my mom maintenance. He came with his wife and denied being my father. It was 1994 and at that time my mother was not aware of DNA testing.
My mom finally gave up hope of getting my dad to acknowledge me. She went on with her life. She met my stepdad and he finally adopted me. By this time my grandmother had died and my mom suddenly had to take care of my young aunt.
Not long after marrying my stepfather the abuse started. My mom was beaten black and blue and when everybody else was looking forward to the weekend, we dreaded it. My stepdad had a substance abuse problem and with every glass he drank he became more violent. I wished that I were anywhere else but there. I wished for some ‘abnormality’ because as far as I knew this life I led was ‘normal’. It wasn’t long after my aunt came to live with us that my stepdad started sexually abusing her. She finally fell pregnant and had his child, but the baby was stillborn. My aunt never returned but my mom stayed.
I was seven years old when my stepdad set his sights on me. It started with a touch, he would brush past me and subtly rub himself against me. Sometimes I would catch him staring at me in a way that a father shouldn’t. By then we had moved. My half-sister lived with my step-grandparents (biological to her) during the week because my mom and stepfather worked and there was nobody to take care of her during the day. This left me to go through the everyday happenings at home. Every day was a battle. I learned not to bring attention to myself for fear of my stepdad. Most times he didn’t go to work because of a hangover or because he just didn’t care.
I remember one day coming home early from school because I felt ill. When I arrived at the house the door was open and there were black takkies on the stoep. I could hear the moaning and grunting coming from my mom’s room. I went around the house and hid in the trees and waited. A while later a woman came out of the house.
I remember the time he put his hand under my dress, and the time he barged into the bathroom without knocking and just stood staring at me. I remember the time he was so drunk and I came at him with a crow bar while he was hitting my mom. His crow bar weighed more than me. God knows where I got the strength to hit him with it. I screamed “Don’t hit mommy, leave my mommy alone!” I was only ten years old.
I can’t remember how many times we sought refuge at my aunt’s house. But all he had to do was come with a sob story, promising my mom that he wouldn’t do it again, and she would go back. My school work suffered and I couldn’t concentrate in class.
My stepdad was eventually murdered. I remember crying in the garden that he used to tend, wondering how a man who was so consumed by hate and evil could tend to something so beautiful. People saw me sobbing, and as far as they were concerned I was crying because I was sad that he was killed. But that wasn’t the reason, I was angry and I felt cheated for not being given the chance to ask him: “Why?”
Why did he sexually abuse my aunt when she was only a child? Why did he ‘love’ my mother so much to think that she deserved a beating? Why did he think it was okay to do those things to me?
I fell pregnant when I turned fifteen and my mom offered to take care of the baby. I searched for love in all the wrong places because I didn’t know what it looked or felt like.
I am now seventeen years old. I’m a mother and I’m still at school. I’ve got loads of dreams and I’ll work very hard for all of them to come true.
I am learning to give love back every day because I finally know what it feels like to be loved.
FunDza is working to develop young South African writers and provide them with a platform to publish their work.