Earlier this year, I watched a certain television show on SABC 3. I was glued to it from start to finish because what I heard there just boggled my mind. But what kept me watching even more was the strength and honesty of the lady being interviewed.
I knew I just had to be in contact with her no matter what. She is the author of a book titled “My Father Took Away My Innocence: Purified and Sanctified at Last.” She narrated to The Weight She Carries how God has taught her forgiveness after her innocence was taken away by her father. This is her story in her own words...
My name Zizo Izabelo zam Apleni, which means “These are my shares”, given to me by my maternal grandmother. My mum had me when she was in university, but my father denied the pregnancy, and so I became my maternal grandparents’ child. It is a very loving family: secure, warm and loving. At Christmas, everyone gathers at home for a big celebration where we share our dreams and aspirations and what the year has been like.
After matric, I studied for a diploma in civil engineering, but [I’m] currently following the path that God has designed for me. I founded an organisation called Rise Black Girl and have authored a book titled “My Father Took Away My Innocence.”
My father denied the pregnancy, but later on [he] and my mom decided to coparent. During weekends or holidays, I would visit with him, and that’s how we developed the father-and-daughter relationship. He would buy me stuff, and everything was okay.
When I was 7 years old, my father requested that I live with him because he did not like the fact that I was learning in the rural area. And so that’s how I moved in with him and my stepmom. In my father’s absence, she was not a nice person at all and the complete opposite in his presence.
Things went downhill when physical altercations between them began. When I say my father took away my innocence, I not only mean my virginity but also the exposure to violence which I had never experienced before in my life.
One fateful day, after another one of their fights, my stepmother packed her bags and left, and that’s when he raped me for the first time. I did not know what was happening. I was just 7 years old, and no one had ever talked to me about it. I was clueless as to what was happening and thought it was normal for everyone, including my friends at school, so I just kept quiet about it because I thought they too were quiet about it.
Whenever my father and stepmother had a fight and [she left], he would rape me. Afterwards, he would care for me: clean me up, wrap me in blankets and give me medication to ease the pain. And so it continued like that for years.
In 2002, a year after my father took me in, my mother came to visit me and found me in bad shape. She says I had lost weight and was just not looking well, so the plan was that she would take me back the following year. Because I would still visit my father for weekends and holidays, the rape continued, and still I kept quiet since I thought it was normal.
When I was 13 years old, I fell pregnant, which came as a complete shock to everyone. When my mother explained to me how one fell pregnant, that’s when it dawned on her as to what had actually happened to me.
I was completely shocked that what had happened was actually incest and rape! I had to find out from the internet as to what this meant. I was completely shocked and blamed myself for not saying anything. At the same time, I blamed my family for not saying anything about this. I was shielded from it.
I became angry and would snap at everyone. How come they did not realise that this was happening to me? So many emotions went through me, and I was just beginning puberty at this point. My family did not know how to deal with it. Meetings concerning me were being held behind my back. My mum stopped taking me to places because I would just snap.
Upon being taken to court, my father denied everything. And because he was well-known in the community, everyone said that I was coerced by my mum to lie about my father. This took a toll on me because I just wanted him to confess. At this point, it seemed things were going on well for him because he retired and got his pension pay-outs, and the community was in support of him.
It is only by God’s grace that I learnt that I had to forgive him because forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person but everything to do with you. I just wanted to offload the weight of it all. When we as a family decided to forgive him, that is when I received [news] that he had been jailed. I was shocked but realised how forgiveness had power to work things out.
The book for me became easier to write because l had dealt with the part on forgiveness. It ultimately became a healing process for me as I had to walk the reader through every detail of what had occurred.
What I have learnt is that forgiveness is paramount. It helps one move on because dwelling on the past is never good for anyone. At some point, one will have to move on. The prevalence of rape and gender-based violence constantly reminds one of what happened to them. The crime is difficult to understand, but with time and working on forgiveness, it does get better. The person I was seven years ago is a totally different to the one I have become through working out my healing journey.
Rise Black Girl Foundation seeks to empower the marginalised black child and rape victims. To encourage survivors to not let what happened to them define them but to help them find healing and eventually walk in their God-ordained journeys. Through Christ who strengthens us, it possible.