This story was written by Adedamola Taofeekat from NIGERIA.
My name is Odofin Adedamola Taofeekat and I am a 21 year old from Nigeria. Who I am today, who I will still become, is shaped by what I have gone through in the past, either positive or negative.
Girls face terrible and shameful situations every day all over the world, and a lot of them are too scared to speak up out of fear that those they value will shun them when they know their stories.
I was a victim of sexual harassment. When I was eight years old, I was sexually harassed almost every day by my class teacher. He would sit by me at the back of the class during class exercises and touch my inner thighs through my skirt.
When I was eight years old, I was sexually harassed almost every day by my class teacher.
At first I did not understand what he was doing. I would push him away gently, scared because he was my class teacher and he could have beaten me for being disobedient. However, he was persistent and kept it going for over two months.
I was not really a social butterfly as a kid. I always kept to myself and had no friends – no one to tell my problems to. I knew that what he was doing was wrong, but I was too scared of the consequences if I told people. I would always dread going to school every morning because I knew what I was going to face, and face alone.
However, one day after it happened, I found the courage to explain to my mother what my teacher was doing. I told her I did not like it and felt uncomfortable, and the next day my parents went to the school and the teacher was fired.
Unfortunately, some news of it got out in school. Children can be mean to each other sometimes. I felt embarrassed that they knew what happened and I got a lot of pitiful looks and side talks for it. I was physically and mentally depressed for more than a year. I felt so violated.
I was a little kid that got harassed for over two months without anyone to run to. I felt disgusted at myself at such a young age and I was stigmatised at school. But eventually I got over it. Or so I thought.
I was an early bloomer, so at the age of ten I started developing breasts. At first I was excited, thinking I was a big girl now. But my classmates thought otherwise.
They made fun of me saying it was abnormal to have them at that age. They even went as far as bringing up my past experience, saying I was getting breasts because I let ‘teachers’ touch me. No one wanted to associate with me then and my life was a living nightmare. Fortunately I was promoted to be two grades above me, but my mum took me away from that school to start secondary school.
Three years later, I was almost raped in the middle of the night by a 15 year old steward working with my family. This event, coupled with my early childhood experience, affected me for more than two years. I felt that everyone who looked at me knew my secrets. I was always sad and developed a terrible case of anxiety and fear of the male gender.
I also developed problems with the way I looked, thinking my body was not good enough and it was my fault for letting my teacher harass me for so long. I hated bodily contact and my classmates saw me as weird. However I had a great family support, especially my mother.
Little by little, I began to open up about my sadness and shame. Who I am today is a result of my past, but I have found a way not to feel terrible about it. I realised that all the times I was sad and alone, I gave room for my mind to reenact those moments without control. But since I have opened up, the memories returned less frequently and the past remains in the past. I have learnt to appreciate my body. And although I still struggle with anxiety, I have learnt to manage it with the help of family and God.
Wherever and whoever you are, just know that you can overcome whatever you might have faced or are facing.
Wherever and whoever you are, just know that you can overcome whatever you might have faced or are facing. No condition is permanent. Never let your past ruin your present – rather, let it be a story to tell others that will give them hope. Do not be afraid to speak up. Always think about your wellbeing and try not to bottle things up because there are always people waiting to listen and help you feel better.
No one can make you feel better about yourself other than yourself. I could spend forever telling you how special you are but if you do not believe it on your own then words will only fade away. #SharingNotShaming
This story was part of Safety First for Girls (SAFIGIs) #SharingNotShaming campaign.