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A little child still cries for help in me, but nobody can hear. When I was young, all I needed was protection and guidance, but these rights were robbed from me. My childhood was taken away from me and my pain is still neglected.

I was repeatedly sexually abused by my grandfather, the one person who was supposed to be the foundation of my protection.  When I reported the matter, it was hidden under the carpet, because we had to protect the family’s reputation. I was told to keep quiet and was sent to stay with my father. I learned that I would have to take care of and protect my siblings, and others around me.

I never got closure. Everyone I told has now passed away and for them the matter is no more, but I still have to deal with what happened to me every day of my life. I have had to find other ways to keep me busy so that I cannot think too much about my experience, however the past always finds its way back to haunt you no matter how deep you have buried it.

Twenty years later, my family is planning a gravestone unveiling ceremony for my grandfather, which I have been asked to organize because I am the only granddaughter. What do I honour besides the pain that he has caused in my life? So once again I don’t sleep at night. The child that is forever crying in me, has no one to rescue it.

I struggle to express how I feel to people because I have to protect their feelings. What about how I feel? What about the pain I that I have to deal with?  No matter how I try to not think about it, it always comes back to challenge me. I have tried taking my life, thinking that will ease the pain. But it only gets worse.

Not only I was sexually violated, but I was also infected with HIV. I am living positively with the virus. I was young and I could not stand and fight for myself. I did not know what was really happening to me. Now that I am old enough to understand how I was harmed, I have no one to answer to my questions. I have just myself to deal with the pain.

We live in a broken society. We are badly broken inside. We are not made to deal with such situations. We all have to find ways to deal with pain and anger in different ways. For me, I have been unable to express my feelings before, out of fear of judgement and shame. Nobody understands me; nobody knows the pain I must deal with.

Today I stand up to speak out. I choose to be the voice of those who are still too frightened to talk freely. Gender violence is real. It may not have happened to you, but it has almost certainly affected someone you know. I am lucky that I am alive to tell my story. Many do not even get the chance to share their experiences, because their lives were cut short as a result.

I don’t want sympathy. I just need someone to listen and learn from my story. I also hope that I can use my experience to change someone else’s life. I have learned to deal with the depression, but it is not easy when life keeps taking me back. I choose to live positively because I am not defined by my history. I choose to tell my story to help let those that are dealing with such pain know that they are not alone. I am Z, this is my story, and I will tell it my own way.

Stop the raping and killing of women and children. Let us all fight this scourge together!

Written by Z.

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