Kathlyn Eyitemi was sexually assaulted at the age of four, endured physical and verbal abuse from her dad and was raped few months to her wedding. Her mother committed suicide when she was fifteen ..She was engulfed in self-denial and condemnation and was silent about it for years till she got healed .Today, she is the president of Sisters Interact Network, an interactive NGO for hurting women, providing emotional healing to victims of rape and abuse. She shares her story in this interview.
This is my story!
My story began at age four when I found myself in an abusive situation while I was living with my grandmother in the village. I cannot say for sure when the abuse started but by age four I could identify that my older cousin was having sex with me in my grandmother’s house. At age five, I moved on to begin living with my father in port Harcourt and he turned out to be verbally and physically abusive. I endured verbal and physical abuse till I was in my mid-twenties.
Raped few months to my wedding
While I was a student in the university, a few months to my wedding, armed robbers burst into my room at night. They yanked part off part of my hair off my scalp, beat me mercilessly and and two of them raped me. I momentarily lost my mind and stayed numb for a long time. In the morning I went to the hospital to get help. My fiance understood when I called him to tell him. He immediately came to pick me from school. Haunted by the memory and the pain, I lost confidence in myself and lived in fear for a long time.
Six years later, I found healing in God. And when social media came I figured I needed to create a platform where women could open up and talk about their pain and their issues and they could seek help as well. I also wanted to provide an opportunity to reach teenagers and make counseling available to them because as a teenager I was in a lot of pain and confusion.
Breaking the silence
I decided to break the silence on my rape experience about five years after the incidence when it dawned on me that several women had been through the same ordeal but they couldn’t talk about it for fear of being singled out and stigmatised. They were just hurting in secret. I knew if i spoke out, it would help many of these hurting women because then, they would know that it happens to other everyday women. When I founded Sisters Interact Group on Facebook five years ago, I wanted it to be like a therapeutic space where women could frankly speak out about their deepest hurts. At the time I was hurting so badly from all the pain I had been through. I hadn’t gotten over the shock of my mother committing suicide when I was just fifteen. I had been verbally and physically battered in the home where I grew up with my dad and step mum. I just finally wanted to let out my pain but I wanted it to be rewarding. I wanted someone to glean something right from it and find succor from knowing that we could pray for each other and be there for each other. I figured I would impact more women if I just told them my story on the group wall so everyone could read. When I did that, the responses were just amazing. Those who had been rape victims began to talk and others were just so supportive.
From being a rape victim to being a survivor
It was hard to get over the humiliation and the pain. The feeling of being violated had lingered for years. Many times I felt dirty and worthless. There were times I blamed myself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guilt always surrendered to anger
Because absolution never came. I never felt free of the need to want some kind of revenge. I felt like I would kill my attackers if I ever had the opportunity. But God began to do a work in me a few years after the experience.
Engulfed by self -condemnation
Stigma? Not quite but the self condemnation i felt was worse than any label that anyone could have put on me. I hated myself so much. I felt suicidal. One reason why i didn’t take my life was because i kept telling myself that i didnt want to end up like my mum. I didn’t think it was right for me to take my own life. It just didn’t feel right. But i really didnt feel like i had much to live for. I was by myself a lot. After I got raped, When the incidence happened, in the morning neighbors who knew robbers had attacked me came in and they sensed that I had been violated so they asked me, “did they rape you? I said “no they didn’t”. I felt so ashamed. And I felt like they were not the people I could tell stuff like that to. When i went home from school, I spoke to my sisters about it. But they had no words for me. They just starred at me in shock. And that made me feel like I ought to shut up about it. Although my fiance at the time who is my husband now was very supportive. He just stayed and made me feel like I could pull through it.
Bishop TD Jakes Impact
The person who has impacted me the most in this my journey is Bishop T.D Jakes. He has a word for hurting women like no other preacher does in this time. I feel power flow through my veins just hearing him articulate the sermons that are crafted by the Holy Spirit for hurting women.
The Next Generation Project
The inspiration for the Next Generation Project came shortly after I left secondary school. I was a young adult then. I started thinking to myself that there are a lot of teenage girls who may have been subjected to abuse the way I had. Because for me as a teenager in secondary school, my self esteem was very fragile. One thing that really affected me was my inability to relate with the fact that I had lost my virginity. I didn’t know when I lost it, didn’t have the power to make that choice, someone had ripped that power of choice from me. I often wondered at the possibility of my being a virgin when someone had obviously broken my hymen long before I was five years old. So when girls talked about their virginity and stuff like that, I felt uncomfortable and confused and tongue tied. The worst part was if they asked me if I was a virgin. I felt really tormented by the memories from childhood about the episodes of me being molested.
Yes. Absolutely. You know every vision will be tested by the firewood of life and my vision has been tested on many fronts. I deal with women. My business is women and women are very complex and delicate people to manage. So there are all kinds of discouragement coming from them. The same people you set out to help betray you and hurt you so bad. I think it’s part of life because in the end they are still human too and like most humans their weaknesses can become venomous. But in all, I love these women because inspite of some bad episodes, the majority of them have been my biggest support and inspiration. Of course there have also been monetary challenges too because I didn’t start out with sponsorship, we have funded our programs from our personal pockets through the years and it can be quite challenging when you see the pile of bills to pay and you just don’t know how you will pull through.
My greatest reward is seeing the faces of the girls that we are able to reach through the Next Generation Project and our Eve Care Programs. Sometimes women cry in my arms. They spill out all the bottled pain and i just hold them close and let them cry rivers. Its part of the healing process for them. When we go for teenage counseling in secondary schools and higher institutions, hearing their stories of incest, rape and domestic abuse, I know we did the right thing by embarking on the project. Apart from providing toiletries and school materials for these girls, One of the things we do is to provide medical care for girls infected with STDs.
The advice I have for rape victims is to first of all, get medical help, seeking counseling and talking to people who can help you. Bottling everything up causes more psychological damage. Because the more the incidence keeps playing out in your mind, the more insane you become with pain and anger. But talking to someone lets off steam and if you get professional and godly counseling, you get clarity about what has happened to you and you are better equipped to deal with it through therapy. I also think society should be more open and sincere about dealing with the menace of rape.
Why I am a woman of rubies
I am a woman of rubies because I have been cut out of difficult circumstances and in the end I have emerged stronger like fine stone. What the devil meant for evil, God has turned it around for good and he is using me as a battle axe against the forces of evil today. My story has become an inspiration to hurting women.