For Ruth (other names withheld), life is not a song worth singing; it’s a dirge, at best. A victim of ruthless circumstances, she had spent much of her 26 years on earth in pains, sorrows and tears. Today, her life is in turmoil even as she lives with the scars of the unkind blow life had dealt her.
“I have cried so much,” she told the reporter. “I cry but all these years I have learnt that tears won’t take me any further. Tears are for the weak. I have been wounded and I know that getting up will not be easy but I have to give it a try. I tried drinking, smoking, doing hemp. It doesn’t get me high as they said it does. So, I stopped. It only gave me momentary happiness and then disappears before you know it.”
Back of the book
Indeed, life has been ruthless to Ruth. She had witnessed disincentives to living. As an innocent girl, she was sexually molested at seven while living with people she regarded as family. She would speak out timidly though rather than looking into what she said, she was accused of trying to tear the family apart and was beaten and ill treated with greater intensity. At 17, when she was about taking the school certificate examinations, she was brutally raped. She learnt to keep all scary thoughts to herself since nobody would believe her. At 22, she had a child and was thrown out of the house. And, later the child was taken from her. Ever since, she has come to hate the dark, herself and, above all, developed phobia for living with people.
No longer innocent, she had grown wild, sleeping with all manner of men, with no feelings attached to them. And because it’s been hell with men, she sees men as beasts. According to her, the only reason she mingled with the man who got her pregnant was that she wanted a kind of escape. She thought he was real, thinking that she could be happy for the time at least but he too proved that he was not any different from the rest.
Inside the book
Telling the story of her life was not an easy task for Ruth. For her, talking about it reminds her of the ugly past which she could not forget. Her voice shook with emotion as she told her heart rending story:
“I was born on January 10, 1991. I left our house in Owerri at four years for Calabar and it was supposed to be a holiday. But the woman I went to live with wanted my stay to be permanent. That was how I started living with them. The woman in question is my father’s younger sister. Her husband was a medical doctor and he had his own clinic. I wasn’t sent to school and at that little age, I was the one taking her child to school. She told my people that I was going to school but there was no way to communicate with them. She seized all the clothes I came with, leaving just one for me. I was sent to the boys’ quarter to stay.
“I can’t say what I did to her but she was beating me all the time. My duties ranged from cleaning the house, fetching water from the well which was far from where we were living. I was expected to fill a big drum with water every day. I used to go and fetch the water with a – five litre can. Worst still, I won’t be given food. I was only served beans or cornmeal every day. I don’t know why she hated me so much; she beats me with that specie of flower that has thorns on it. Anytime she wants to enjoy herself, she would ask me to go and bring the flower and she will flog me until I start bleeding all over. You would ask me to undress before flogging me. And whenever the husband was about to return home, she would order me to go wash my face with water, threatening that if the husband found out that I was crying or if I ever complained to him I would regret the day I was born.”
“After sometime, the husband noticed. He would bring me into the room when I was seven and in the guise of comforting me, he started fiddling and inserting his fingers into my private part. At that age I could talk, so when I went out I complained to one woman. I fell into his trap because I saw him as the only person who cared about me. Sometimes, he would buy things for me, like abacha, a local delicacy. I didn’t understand until I started having pains around my waist and private part. So, I told her friend who comes to the house. The woman asked her about it and that doubled my punishment. She said that I came to destroy her marriage. I never left the house, I was like a prisoner. It was when another girl, Nnenna, came that we used to go to a rock that water runs from. That was the only place of solace; it used to have a comforting effect on me.
“But after I complained, the man stopped violating me. There was nothing my aunt didn’t do to me. While pregnant, she would put saliva into tissue paper and order me to pick it with my bare hands. At about 13, I came to my father and I said that I was not going back but at end of the day I was compelled to go back. When I entered secondary school, I still went back during holiday period to continue my slavery.”
If the doctor did it with his fingers, the brother did it with his dick. Consider this: “When I was 17, my aunt’s husband’s brother raped me and he told that since there was nothing I could do about the situation I should just relax and enjoy it. Only two of us were in the house and he had his way. When I went back to school, I told my matron. She called my father and sat him but he said that nothing like that happened. He said that I was looking for a way to get away from the training they were giving me. Even when they relocated to Abuja, I also went with them. I don’t know if they bought me or something like that.
“When I was 18, I said that I wouldn’t continue living with them because I was getting fed up with the whole thing. The doctor came back to me again, saying he was sorry for what happened and he felt guilty about lying against me. He said he wanted to make up for what he did and those things that men will always tell you if they want to sleep with you. He wanted to make me a sex toy, squeezing my buttocks and fondling my breasts at will. He said that if I gave him the chance again, he would be giving me loads of money.”
From frying pan to fire
One day, her aunt sent her to buy something and she ran away. But it was like running into an embrace of a masquerade. “I left their house and came back but my father said he had nothing to do with me again if I did not return to Abuja. Since my father rejected me, I stayed with a friend. I did not tell anybody anything because nobody believed me. Everybody said it was my fault, so I stopped talking.
“When my friend gained admission into Imo State University, I went to my grandmother whom I never saw in years. I told her my story and she wanted to make it a big issue but I told her to stop. I’m talking about my maternal grandmother; I have nothing to do with my paternal grandmother. Along the line, I went to Oko Polytechnic and finished my ND programme. A maternal aunt paid my fees in school.
“There was a time I travelled to an uncle’s place in Lagos, something happened and my father stopped talking with me. While going back to the east, we boarded the same bus but there was no way anyone would know that we had anything to do with each other. When we got to a place passengers were supposed to eat, he sent me a short message service (sms), saying that he wanted to eat. I also replied by sms, telling him that I didn’t want to eat. No one in the bus could have believed that he was my father except for the striking resemblance.
“My only happiness is that after having children and training them, the family is not at peace. I know it is not good to be happy when something is going wrong but if I say that I am not happy, I am a big liar.”
Asked about her mother and what she did while all these things were happening, Ruth replied: “She is around. She tried her possible best. The woman I call my mother is my mother because she trained me from infancy but she is not my biological mother. She speaks for me; you will never know the difference. It’s just that her husband’s sisters don’t allow her to talk. I don’t know my biological mother but I learnt she is dead.”
Impregnated and abandoned
“No one was taking care of me when I met the young man in question. He is a businessman. I thought he actually loved me, one thing led to another. At first, he was very keen about the pregnancy till about the sixth month. At a point, he suddenly changed from what he used to be. I don’t know what happened to him; one day he told me he was no longer interested. Initially, I thought he was joking but I knew something was terribly wrong with him. When I was crossing the road after that encounter, a truck nearly overran me. Perhaps, it would have been better if the vehicle had killed me, who knows?
“Although I was not living with him, but he was always coming to see me until he changed his mind after I was six months gone. My parents knew him. He was so real at the time; I don’t know what got into him. I don’t know what happened to him. Mind you, after my ND, I got direct entry admission to UNIZIK, Awka to study micro-biology. He was taking care of the bills. That was in 2013, I dropped out of school when he walked out on me.
“When the guy left me, my father sent back me back to the village. I gave birth to a baby girl in November 2013 and I stayed with the matron of the hospital. She said she won’t let me go because I was the only person in the house. She reasoned that someone should be taking care of me until I became stronger. When I was pregnant in the village, it was the same woman that was feeding me. After sometime, I became too sick and she sent somebody to call my father. So, my father came and took me away for treatment. The next thing I heard was that the baby died which I knew was not true. When I was brought to the hospital I was very sick. But when I became stronger, I started asking for my baby and I was told that she died. She was bouncing up to the time I became sick six days after delivery.
“I never wanted to believe it because my father can do anything at any time. And with the kind of sisters he has, anything can happen. I informed the matron as well as a confidant and after much talking, my father insisted that that was what happened. There was nothing else I could do. I tend not to believe it because she was healthy while I was sick.
Another thing was that I took pictures of her and I in the village but when I became better, the memory card in which the pictures were suddenly disappeared from my phone. All these kept me thinking. It was when I was disturbing about the whereabouts of my baby that I was told that the woman I had called mother for over 20 years was not my biological mother. They said that the thing that happened to me almost happened to her; that was why she died. That’s my story.
Sex, booze and more
Ruth said that with the way her baby was taken away and other things that happened to her, life became meaningless. So, she started sleeping with all manner of men, with no feelings attached to them. In fact, she sees men as beasts. She also took to drinking and smoking marijuana for the expected Dutch courage but she has stopped. She has equally done a few things with fellow girls.