Written by: Admin_SheEvo
When my husband announced that a young bachelor would be the one to occupy the vacant flat at the back of our house, I became angry. I was even angrier when I learned he was one of these “tech guys” working from home. His name is Pablo. I honestly did not expect such a tenant. I wanted someone like Ameena and Muiba; they were both sweet roommates who initially occupied the flat but had to leave after their youth service. I loved their influence on Sherifat, my daughter.
When he eventually moved in, my actions were conspicuous enough to show that I did not like him. I responded to his greetings with either a murmur or a nod, and I never looked his way. He knew better to ask my husband any question than to approach me. I didn’t like the fact that he brought in so many friends. They’d stay indoors all day, playing loud music and only go out at night. He brought in several ladies, too, especially on weekends. I was not pleased at all. I am not a hater of men; I only feared so much for Sherifat, my daughter. Sherifat was only 14. I wanted to protect her from what I had experienced.
You see, about two decades ago, when I was in my first year in senior secondary school, I came across the word “Pedophile” in one of the books my Auntie Tomi gave me. When I looked up the word’s meaning in the dictionary, I realized I had encountered one or two such people. I just did not know they were called “Pedophiles”. One was Baba, one of my father’s friends, who came around to discuss with him. He was almost like family. I would always run into the room I shared with the other girls whenever he came around. He would then call me out of the room, query me for running away on sighting him, call me a bad child, and then spank me on my back while extending his hands to my buttock. My parents believed he was training me. He would also make nasty jokes about my body and laugh at them. I was this “big girl” who developed quickly into physical maturation; maybe that was why he picked on me. One day he was saying something about me giving him beautiful babies; he called it a joke, as usual. My father simply laughed and told him to make sure he had worked hard enough before he could marry me. Then, something happened, and he stopped coming to our house again. I was relieved.
The other one, the most notorious, was Hakim. Hakim was a friend of the cobbler I always met on the way to Ummi’s shop. Ummi is my mother. I went to her shop every Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the week after school, I had to stay at home with my younger siblings and help Hajia, my father’s other wife, with the chores.
So each time I went to Ummi’s shop, I walked a lonely path passing the cobbler’s shop, where Hakim stayed, sometimes with the cobbler or under a tree nearby. My heart would skip heavily each time I saw him, and sometimes I ran. He would always stop me and try to make small talk. I didn’t know how to avoid going to him when he called me. Perhaps I feared that he would do something evil to me and I would not be able to shout because he was muscular. Sometimes when he stopped me and was trying to talk to me, he would run his hands through my hair and touch my cheeks. He said he wanted to be my friend and I should feel very comfortable with him and stop running each time I passed. He even said I should consider being his friend and someday marry him, as our spiritual belief and culture allows it. It was all very odd to me; how would I, barely 13 be friends and marry an older man? Ausubillahi! I still had a long way to go in life, and marriage was still very far. The funniest thing was that whenever Ummi and I returned from the shop late at night, he would greet Ummi very well and pretend not to see me.
One Saturday, on my way to Ummi’s shop, I ran into him urinating in a gutter near where I would pass. I had to run very fast away from the scene. I could hear him calling me to come and look at something as he laughed with the cobbler. I was terrified and could not look back. I felt as though he was running after me. But, unfortunately, there was no passer-by in sight. After that incident, when Ummi asked me to come to the shop, I always gave an excuse because I was scared of seeing Hakim.
Then one night, some months after I stopped going to shop, Ummi gave us the news of a teenager who was molested. She was said to have been lured into a one-room apartment by a man, where he forcefully had his way with her. The girl later confessed to her mother about the rape incident because she accused her of being promiscuous. It turned out that the rapist was Hakim. Ummi was so angry about the incident that she cursed and raved heavily that night. I wondered what she would have done if I was the victim. Perhaps she would have sent me to the village to have my baby or have me marry Hakim, just like the girl who was raped was forced to marry Hakim. Yes, she married him! I wondered if she would have felt the same way if Baba had molested me then too, when she and father were, by their actions, encouraging him.
This was something I did not want for my daughter, Sherifat. So I instructed her not to go home after school any longer but to come to my shop; when I closed, we went home together. In addition, I ensured she got involved in several outdoor activities so that whenever my husband and I went out on weekends, she would not stay home alone. Sometimes my younger sister, Zahra, stays over for the weekend.
One day, my husband called me and said I was overreacting by changing everything about Sherifat’s schedule. He explained that paedophiles were everywhere. They could be in her school, in the shop, in the mosque, and everywhere. He said that we have to play our parts as parents to protect our daughter. We must still equip her to face the world outside herself with bravery and pray for her too.
I wished it was that easy. He encouraged me to have a conversation with my daughter and even share Hakim and Baba’s stories with her because she does not understand why I am trying to guard her so closely. This would make me a better parent than Ummi. And for my own sanity, I needed to stop transferring my indignation to Pablo because of something I had experienced. As for Pablo, we would talk to him about the dangers of bringing so many strangers into the house.
After the talk with my husband, I called Sherifat and had a deep conversation with her. She later told me she’s always known Pablo, even before he became our tenant, because he was friends with some teachers and corners in her school. But since she got the clue that I did not like him, she had to pretend not to know him. They only exchanged pleasantries occasionally when they ran into each other outside the house. I could not believe it.
Nice piece. Keep it up!
It’s so sad that we share spaces with such people…
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for sharing. It’s so interesting how our past experiences impact our ways of parenting. It sounds like the conversation you had with your daughter was really important for both of you. We learn so much by sharing and speaking up about our experiences.
It is truly sad how as woman we have no choice but to aways be vigilant. We ALWAYS have to look twice, think twice and even react twice. Thank you once again for sharing your story.