Survival of the Innocent

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

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| This is the 175th story of Our Life Logs |

I was born in 1976, in Pretoria, South Africa, the oldest of four kids—me, my twin brothers, and my sister. My mom and dad were happily married, and we were a regular, middle-class military family. But things wouldn’t always be so perfect.

My parents had my portrait done by a professional photographer, 1980.
My parents had my portrait done by a professional photographer, 1980.

The world is full of sick, twisted people, and not before long, I became the target of something, which back then, was unspoken of.

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When I was eight years old, our family moved to South West Africa, now known as Namibia. We lived in a small border town known as Grootfontein where everyone knew everyone else. As an outgoing kid who could make friends at the click of my fingers, I quickly became friends with the kids in the neighborhood.

It was a Saturday afternoon when a friend and I had been playing in her outside room. In Namibia, all homes had what they used to call servants quarters—a little concrete building with its own bathroom. Some used it for storage, others used it for domestic workers who stayed in, and others rented them out for accommodations. In my friend’s case, it was her playroom, rigged out with a dollhouse, toys, and even a bunk bed.

My friend’s mom had called her to the house for something—I can’t remember what it was—and she ran off. I stayed in the playroom picking up the Lego blocks we had been playing with, minding my own business. Moments later, my friend’s dad entered the room. I could feel him behind me, I could smell him, and—call it that sixth sense—I could sense the danger.

He asked me what I was up to and I told him I was cleaning, hoping he would go away. He didn’t. Instead, he hovered. With my heart leaping into my throat, I went into autopilot and kept packing away the blocks. And then the unthinkable happened…his hands wandered. Now, you must understand, I was nine years old with no clue about the birds and the bees. In my mind I screamed, kicked, and cried, but I vocalized none of those emotions. I sat there, dead silent, monotonously shoving these colorful little blocks into the box like pieces of my colorful life, now slowly turning to nothing but grey, while he had his way with me. It felt like an eternity, and I kept praying my friend would come back. When her dad was done, all he said was, “It’s our little secret.”

I felt sick to my stomach, and the second he was gone, so was I. I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me to get away from him. In the days that followed, I made every excuse under the sun not to go on play dates at my friend’s house. And whenever I went there, I clung to my friend’s side like a piece of gum to a woolly blanket. But where a pervert has a will, he will find a way. It happened a few more times until they moved to another town. Only then I was free from his stinky breath and filthy hands…or so I thought. He might have been gone, but he had left his mark on my soul.

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I don’t quite know why, but for some reason I think his interference with me tattooed an invisible stamp that said “free for all” on my forehead. It’s like a mutation of genetics, where your body and existence becomes a sort of cocaine for molesters. The moment you walk into a room with a pedophile, they sniff you out and target you, because somehow–they know!

With my dad being in the military, we never stayed in one place for longer than three years. So, when I was around 11, my family moved to a new town. There, I quickly made a new friend, and we did everything together. One weekend, her family invited me along for a visit at her uncle’s farm. We had so much fun; we rode horses, milked cows, played on the windmill, and even swam in the man-made water hole. It was the best day ever until it was time for bed. To my shock and horror, my friend and I had to sleep in the same bed as her uncle and his wife. Throughout the night, her uncle would fondle both of us. I remember how my friend would nudge me so she could go to the bathroom, and then I ended up next to her uncle. We would swap places just to get a break from the constant touching. By morning, I was exhausted. I hardly slept a wink and my love for farm-life was gone. I just wanted to go home.

It’s always easy to ask why I never told anyone, but put yourself in a child’s shoes during the societal time of kids should be seen not heard. Who would believe you? Who would even listen?  In my case, I kept telling myself, this too shall pass.

But the stench of wickedness and filth clung to me, putrid and sour, luring the vultures who sought after the rot that had been carved into the very fiber of my existence. And soon I found myself staring at the same demon, just a different mask—my cousin.

When night fell, after darkness passed over me and I lay all alone in my bed, listening to the wind or the rustling of leaves, trying to draw deeper into myself, I knew…the boogeyman would soon come for me. And then, the sun would rise again and I would manage to catch a breath.

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The thing with sexual abuse is this, you never intend to let it filter into the very pores of your humanity—but soon enough, you feel not only depraved of innocence, but you also need the approval of those who poisoned you. As I grew older, I became more aware of my sexuality. I craved the attention, and before I knew it, promiscuity and rebellion had gotten the better of me.

At the age of 16, my life was altered forever. Drunk and hardly able to stand on my own two feet, I was raped by two boys I had known from school. I remember walking home that night, my mind numb, and my body bruised. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t even sad. I had reached a state of mental and spiritual hypothermia where even the stinging cold could not evoke a shiver.

By then, I was an Oscar-winning actress. On one side of the spectrum, I was a church girl, sang in the choir, went to Bible College, played the piano, and helped elderly people cross the road. While on the other side, I was nothing but a cheap, promiscuous woman, looking to trap and ensnare her next willing victim—regardless of the lives I ruined.

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But this came to an end when at the age of 21 I had my first child out of wedlock. My son’s small, innocent face pierced the places of my heart that were still gold. I loved him, and I vowed to protect my son against anything that lurked to ruin him.

Life continued. Around the time my son was nearing four years old, I met my husband. I say this because we fell in love instantly—in fact, by the second date, while I was getting dressed, I told my mom, “This is the one.” A year later we were engaged and soon after we got married. Finally, I could lay my demons to rest. I didn’t have to wonder if I was accepted, or if I was enough. Here was a man who loved me unconditionally, a man who accepted my son as his own. Life couldn’t be better…

Married the love of my life, April 13, 2002.
Married the love of my life, April 13, 2002.

For years we were happy, lived for each other. We eventually had our own kids, two boys. But it was only a matter of time before my demons came back to haunt me.

We hit a rough pat