I am angry, but I am also a survivor

Date: January 1, 1970
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He was perfect; he was my hero; my superstar; my everything. Whenever he was around, I felt safer, I felt loved. I thought nothing or no one could hurt me as long as my daddy was around. He loved me very much. I was his princess.

If anyone hit me, I would just keep quiet until he came home then I would start crying.  He would throw dangerous things at the person who hit me. At the time, I didn’t know that my father was abusive. I thought he was just protecting me.
When I was eight years old, we were playing house with my friends when an older man (a friend of my brothers) got into the bed with me and raped me. He told me not to cry or make a noise. At the time I did not know what was happening to me. I felt so afraid and guilty.
When I took a bath that night, my mother noticed the blood on my panties. She asked me to open my legs and checked me, but then said nothing. I have lived with this terrible guilt all my life. I have tried to block it out but when the same thing happened to my daughter several years later, it all started to come back. When I see this man, who is now a politician, I feel very angry. I have not yet had the courage to confront him, but when I do, the question I want to ask him is: why?  
As a child, it was only when my mother ended up unconscious in the hospital that I started questioning my father’s love for me. Then he started being abusive even towards me. I cried everyday wondering what happened to my loving, caring, protective father, what happened to my hero?
When they sent me to boarding school, I started to wonder if my parents still loved me. No one was there to protect me from the bullies in boarding school. I started to feel alone and longed for my father’s protectiveness. I went home for holidays. I could hardly recognize the man I found: an angry and abusive man; hardly the man I loved and worshipped as my father.
I didn’t know this man anymore. I wanted my father back. I so wanted the school holidays to be over because I could not stay in that house anymore. My younger sister would sit in the corner and cry when me and my older brother called the police. They would come and just tell my father to stop what he was doing and solve his family problems.
When the police left, my father started beating and swearing at us. I wanted my father back. I wanted my hero back because there was non one to protect me from this monster.
My older brother told my mother that if she did not move out of the house, he would kill my father. I was devastated because I loved my father so much. My mother moved out with me and my younger sister. When they divorced, I fell apart. I hated my father so much that when he died, I did not go to his funeral.
I grew up hating men. I would have a boyfriend for a short while then I would just break up with him.
One of the relationships I had was with a man who made me pregnant during my final year of matric. I wrote my exams while I was pregnant. When I gave birth to my first daughter the man denied being the father, saying that I had so many relationships he could not be sure that the child belonged to him. My mother raised my daughter. I could not bring myself to touch her even as a baby because of the anger that I felt towards her father. I kept remembering my father. Even today I have this anger towards all men.
I last saw my first daughter at the age of five. I have not been able to see her again because I am scared of how she would react. I don’t know what she knows about me or how she feels. I am scared of being rejected.
I met my husband about ten years after I had my first child. At the time he did not know about the child. He was so sweet and loving, he reminded me of my father.
At first, I thought he was protective of me because he loved me just like my dad. I did not see the signs. I think I missed my father so much that I did not notice the signs. It was as though my hero had come back to life again. He told me that he loved me just like my father did. I needed to hear that. I always felt safe in his arms and inside me; I felt my father’s love.
Then he started beating me and all the anger inside me started to surface. My daughter was eight months old when the abuse started.
The police would come to my house and tell us to solve our problems. Then they would leave me at the house for him to finish me off. The three court interdicts against my husband did not help me. He simply ignored them and the police seemed powerless to act. Ironically it was I and my daughter who ended up in the police cells. I have never been arrested but I have slept in police cells for more times than I can count so that I and my daughter would be safe.
My daughter was raped when she was six years old and my husband blamed me for it. I was so devastated I wanted to die. He used to tell my daughter that she was stupid that is why they raped her. Whenever he said those words, I felt a sharp pain piercing my heart. I thought of all the pain my father caused me and my mom.
I left my husband, stayed at People Against Women Abuse (POWA) for a month then I decided to return to my husband. As a born again Christian, I believed that God had changed him. But when he started abusing us again, I remembered what my mother told me: “you can scrub a leopard off his spots but it will remain a leopard”.
Soon after, I found out that I was HIV positive. I was so angry. I am so angry that I do not know how to deal with this anger.
I am angry at our justice system for not protecting women and children. I am angry at our courts for releasing these monsters back to our homes. I am angry at the man who raped me as a child and now walks the streets as a respected politician. I am angry at the man who made me pregnant and then walked away, leaving me so angry towards my first daughter (now twenty yeas old) with whom I have never been able to bond with her. 
I am angry at all men for treating us like door mats. I am angry at my father for not protecting me. Worst of all I am angry at me for not protecting my second daughter when the very same thing that happened to me happened to her.  
If I could be the president for just one day, I would bring back the death sentence for all the men who abuse women and children. I am angry but I will turn my anger into being a survivor because God made me a survivor. This is how I must direct my energy.
(This story is part of the I Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinión and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence). 

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