Twice Bitten : Of Shame, Incest and an Age Old Cleansing Ritual In 656 words #HearMeToo

Image Credit: Ashamed by Carlos Arthur unsplash


It was shame that escorted me to my uncles house in Orlu during my mock exams at age fifteen. Shame dragged my family name before my eyes as my mother mopped soiled wrappers full of my blood from her bedroom floor after a rape and abortion gone sour. What I desperately tried to hide.

Me, a girl in school, it was shame that made me swear before God and man that the reason why I was using sanitary pads from June to July, face flushed from excess bleeding was because of my monthly period. Yes, it was my period and anybody who dared to whisper or even think otherwise was deluded, such a person was simply begging for it, ohh I had lots of burning rage to give on the matter. So when my aunt in Owerri got tired of asking me if I was pregnant or plagued by an unknown sickness that was draining color from my face down to my finger tips, and I would impulsively show her the evidence of my innocence in a soaked up pad I had changed five times already that day, she spoke to her husband in hushed tones and sent me home to my parents. Shame oh shame followed me home. Watched me beg my mother to beg my father who sat silently at my hospital bed starring into the distance. ‘’mommy i’m so sorry, please tell daddy to forgive me”.

So after all that drama, after crying my eyes sore, and reliving the rape on the abortion table over and over again. Yes a rape on the abortion table, I had resolved that I would stab the bastard right there and then but I figured that if I killed him, I would still be pregnant. So I stayed. “You’re too tight...’ he said, ‘Let me help you’. Were the last words I heard before I blacked out on that table and now, I cant even settle down and write my exams without people starring at my stained uniform. Two wet spots on my chest! No that was shame two times! Two times in a space of three months, no way. I wasn't going to have that, not again. So after my last paper, I went to Orlu instead. To meet my uncle, the one who loves me, I explained to him what had happened to me in the village. I told him how the bleeding had stopped but now I was lactating and I could not go home to my parents leaking like this. He was sympathetic, took me in. He told me his wife was not around but I could stay in the guest room for as long as I needed to be there.

I was in a safe space, or so I thought. For two days I ate, and washed my clothes regularly. For two days I finally had a semblance of sanity, away from the eyes, for two days shame was far away. Or was it? On the third night my my bed was creaking. I shut my eyes tight. Maybe if I did that consistently he would disappear, I would disappear and wake up in another place. Somewhere far far away, but not here. Night after night my uncle came. ‘it is because I love you so much nne, I love you to a fault he would say in between heaving grunts and tears.

Twenty years later I am standing in a bush not too far from my family house. The entire umunna has gathered for the cleansing ritual. They say my uncle ran mad and confessed that he had raped me when I was fifteen. So here I was a married woman who has failed miserably to run away from shame. Standing here, stark naked in front of all these old men. For a cleansing ritual I did not consent to. My mind has sojourned far. Far away in search of home.


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Lets Talk About it (Think, Reflect and Resolve to Act)

1. Shame culture does more harm than good to the girl child? True/ False -(Discuss your answers with the group)

2. Do you think parents have a part to play in ensuring the overall health and safety of the girl child? Explain

3. Do you know of any other cultural practices that encourage Gender based Violence?

4. Can you suggest better ways of  handling cases of rape at home?



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