Sexual assault victim still hurting 12 years later
Growing up, Mary* had always enjoyed spending time at a place she called her second home with people who she considered family.
But when she was eight, she was molested by a member of that family.
"I often stayed there with a girl that is older than me, her brother and their mother. They were my second family because my mom and their mom were really close. I was at their home one day and everyone left except me and him. At the time, I didn't think much of it because he was like an older brother. I saw him as the person that would always protect me, but he was the one that hurt me," she said wiping tears from her eyes.
She said he held her down and had sex with her. He told her not to tell anyone because of how close the families were.
Mary decided to stay quiet but kept her distance.
"After what happened that night, I was afraid to stay at the house. I would go there and sit on the veranda until my parents came. At times his mother would ask me to come inside and I would tell her I was okay," she said.
But after a week, Mary could not keep the secret any longer and told her sister. She said that her sister got so angry, she can still remember seeing her veins stand up in her face.
"My sister was my rock because after I told her, she carried me to confront him, and she told him that if he came anywhere close to me again she would call the police and tell our parents," she said.
Break down regularly
Mary said that she felt safe again after that and the man also left the area.
Now 20, she thought she had put the incident behind her until a few months ago when, for the first time after 12 years, she saw her abuser again.
"When I saw him the other day I couldn't help myself. I broke down and I cried like a baby," she said, noting that seeing him again brought back terrible memories.
She said that she was not aware of the impact that the incident had on her until she started to break down regularly since seeing him.
She has since visited a therapist and is taking care of her mental health.
"For years, I had self-esteem issues and I wasn't sure why. Therapy helped me realise why I react to certain things in a particular way because I am not a mushy person and anyone who tries to show love and appreciation, I shut them down. According to the therapist, this is what I use to protect myself and I didn't know that. So, for me, dealing with the issues head-on is the best way to get over it," she said.
She advises that anyone who experiences sexual abuse should talk about it to a therapist because living with the memory will destroy a person mentally.