I grew up with a stepmother, my dad and siblings both older and younger. The house was never short of people, which was really great. My older sisters would bake cakes and cupcakes as well as sew. Being in a house full of people was wonderful for me.
My parents never married, my father was a polygamist. I was a toddler when my stepmother came into my life.
These were the darkest days of my life, and up to now, l shudder when l think of the hell l went through emotionally, physically and sexually at the hands of my stepmother.
I do not recall how and when it started, but I remember there was a lot of beating and cussing out involved. The sexual abuse drives me mad to this day. My father travelled a lot, so on the nights when he would be away, my stepmother would tell me that l was to sleep in their room and would order me to bring sugar. She would put the sugar on her private parts and tell me to lick it off her!
This went on for l don’t know how long, although it eventually stopped maybe because l was a little older or l had said something…l do not know.
The beatings and verbal abuse were a constant reality. My biological mother would visit sometimes and that would bring some joy into my miserable life.
We moved to a new house. It was a farm, actually, and that’s when the beatings became worse.
l recall a time when l stole money after l had begged and begged to be enrolled in the milk program at school. My stepmother beat me with the heel of her shoe until blood squirted out from my knee. l limped for days. Another day l was struck on the knee again with a knobekerrie (wooden club). I do not remember what l had done.
I remember she would ask me to tie her shoelaces, but out of fear, l would fail to tie them up properly and she would kick me in the mouth. That happened several times.
My father knew about the beatings and her dislike of me. They would fight about it and he would tell her to stop hitting me, but she would declare that she would never stop. He never actually did anything to stop the abuse.
My biological mother did not know about the abuse. l saw her a few times when l was really young. She would visit and bring me stuff, but only stayed for a few hours at a time.
My mother passed away in 1997. I was nine. No one officially told me she had died. l would always hear people talk about her death, but l secretly hoped it was a lie and that she would come and rescue me.
The day that stands out the most for me was the day my stepmother accused me of doing something l know l did not do. She dragged me into the bathroom, pushed me to the floor, and whilst pressing me down, got ahold of a huge shifting spanner and was about to strike me on the side of the head. l saw death that day, but l managed to bite her calf. That’s when she let go of me. As to how l thought of biting her, l do not know, but that’s how l was saved from being murdered that day. l lived in constant fear.
To cope, l would go into the toilet and speak to an invisible person through the window.
Being in school was the happiest part of my day. Just being away from her, period. Sometimes l would wish she would be dead when l got back from school.
I finally got relief when l moved to the rural areas to live with my grandfather. I was so happy.
Unfortunately, my stepmother died in 2008.
Before she died, I wanted nothing to do with her. But as her health deteriorated, people would tell me that my name was always on her lips. My aunt forced me to go and visit her, but because of her condition, l did not manage to pour out my heart concerning the abuse. So l waited for her to recover, but she never did.
Forgiveness has been the most difficult part of my journey. “How do I forgive dead people?” was the question I always asked myself. I couldn’t forgive my mother for leaving me in the hands of a woman who found pleasure in torturing me, and how could I forgive the woman who violated me in ways that still bring tears to my eyes?
God has helped me understand how important it is to forgive and find healing despite my stepmother wanting to poison at one time. l am still in the process of forgiving and letting go of the hurt. It’s a process. l take it one day at a time and one memory at a time.
I am much better now, but still pressing on towards finding the meaning of true forgiveness by the grace of God.
It pains me to see and hear of all the abuse that is going on in this world because l am a statistic, too. It leaves huge dents in one’s life – dents that forever remain ingrained in memory. So my advice to other survivors is that you lived to tell the tale, so that means you have work to do to be an inspiration to others who have gone through and are still going through abuse.
I also advise victims to report abuse, which is one thing l regret not doing. l did not know l could tell a teacher or anyone else.
I am now happily married with two children. My in-laws are amazing, and my husband always encourages me to be the best that l can be. I plan to further my studies next year in civil engineering or international relations and diplomacy.
To all the girls l say: l stared death in the face, but l am still alive today. l still bear the scars which still affect me to this day, but l am a work in progress. It’s a daily struggle, but l know God kept me alive for a reason.
To get in touch with Kim Mukwa, find her on Facebook by following this link: www.facebook.com/kim.mukwa