The following post is meant to highlight the prevalence of sexual and emotional abuse in Somali households, and how survivors are not believed even when there is evidence that backs their claims. It has been written by a survivor of sexual abuse. The original piece was posted on Medium.
Betrayal from your mother is a kind of hurt that no one and nothing can prepare you for. A mother is there to keep you from harm. For many people, and I mean to what feels like 98.5% of people, a mother is all you can count on, the only person to rely on in this godforsaken world. A mother should protect you.
So what kind of person do you become when your mother is none of these things? What kind of person do you become when your mother enabled and protected your abuser? Not only yours but the abuser of three children? How broken can one become? How broken am I?
I’ll tell you.
I don’t have a mother. I don’t have a mother figure. I do not have the fundamental, very important foundation of care that is a mother. My mother enabled abuse and then lied to the police and social services for it to continue. My mother told my abuser that the police were on their way, and to get rid of the evidence.
Not having a mother and trauma has impacted my self-esteem, my ability to make friends, communicate with people, trust people, and my confidence. My scepticism is because of that. I am a cynic because the one person who should protect me betrayed me. A betrayal so big it would shock you. At this minute you’re probably silently thanking God, or whatever it is that you believe in that you have a good mother or at least not mine.
Recognising my sisters and I as victims of abuse was not a straight forward path. To come to that conclusion lead me to several nervous breakdowns. I did not want to carry that, but I had to because my mother enabled it. I had to accept it because I fear it will happen again.
A story that happens far too often happened to us (my sisters and I). It was my mothers new husband. She moved him over to live with us from overseas. Before he came to live with us, we had met him twice. He was horrible then, I was young, the eldest of three. I was 10 on the first meeting, and 11 on the next. I did not have the ability to detect the early signs of predatory behaviour. Though this is not a story about him and for my own sanity at this moment I do not want to go into detail. This is a story about my mother.
One afternoon, she saw for herself the very thing she accused us of lying about. She saw him in the act. He did it to my sister. My mother saw it. My mother saw him. That same day she found out he had done the same to my other sister. She was 12. I will keep mentioning it because it is important. She saw it happen.
She chased him upstairs when he ran off, confronted him and told him to leave the house. We had accused him of predatory behaviour for years. He made my sisters and I feel uncomfortable in our own home. She would tell us to “cover up”. There were certain clothes we could not wear in the house. No pyjama sets, no vests, and no leggings to list a few of the rules. We had to cover up. When I wore my then favourite pair of light blue jeans I could feel his eyes on my body and it made me sick.
He would sit inappropriately with his legs wide apart in front of us. He would stand by the toilet when we were in there. He would grunt loudly, and make inappropriate noises and gestures. All clear signs of a predator. She did nothing. She enabled all of this.
Every time we brought up how uncomfortable he made us feel she would bring him into the room and tell us right to our faces that we were lying. Every example of predatory behaviour he exhibited she invalidated and made some excuse for. He knew that she didn’t care about us, and that she would do anything for him, even begin to hate us and enable the abuse of her three daughters all under the age of 16.
My mother became irritated by our regular complaints about him so she kicked us out on the street with our belongings in trash bags. I was 14, my sisters 12 and 10. She accused us of trying to “ruin her marriage” and that our dad “set us up to do this”.
The day she threw us out was not even the worst day of my life. I’ve had worse days since as a result of abuse, and how she mistreated us. She berated and insulted us and called my dad who lived two hours away to come to collect us. When he said it was too far away, she called an Uber. I will never forget the look on the drivers face when he pulled up to three kids carrying trash bags of their things. I will never forget the look on his face when he realised it was our mother doing this to us.
So we went to live with our dad. That was shitty too. My dad is controlling and authoritarian. We changed schools and that was hard too. While living with him the police visited us as did a social worker regarding the situation with my stepdad. We told them everything and gave our statements in a police station. Unfortunately, nothing happened. Nothing happened because my mother denied everything. She took advantage of every situation to sabotage the investigation. If you consider what it takes to get an investigation into alleged child abuse closed, it would take a lot. One would have to do a lot to discredit three minors. She managed to do that, all to protect that man.
Living with my dad took a toll on us. She cut us off. At our most desperate moments we would to call her because we missed her, and she would tell us we were dead to her. She would tell us she hated us. She told us the only way she would forgive us is if we told the police we were lying. This is when I became depressed. We were doing bad at school, sad that our mother could do this to us and overall just miserable. Time passed and my memory about how we came to live with her again is unclear, but we did end up back at her house. However, we did not change what we told the police.
During the time we lived with our dad she took it upon herself to tell all of our immediate and extended family, even neighbours that we were lying and the accusations were false. All made up. We were children, how could we even make that shit up. Her family believed her, as did her friends. To this day her family believes we are liars who wanted to break up her marriage. You need to understand that she comes from deprived people, so that made perfect sense to them. My own aunts, and there is like six of them had abandoned us. We had no one. They all believed three little girls were lying about abuse. There is no way to articulate what that does to a child. We still have no one. The police failed us, as did the social workers and our own mother.
We were back living with her, in our home, the same home I’ve lived in since I was four. Things remained the same. My depression got bad and I confided in her that I needed help. I was a minor and I needed her to come to the doctor with me. She came, listened and pretended like she cared. Later, summer came, and we went on a holiday, just her and us. I should have suspected something because we were not the kind of family to take holidays. The holiday itself wasn’t bad until I found out what she had planned. August was coming to an end and naturally, we had to get back home and get ready for school, but we didn’t. She said we were staying there and enrolled us in a school with corporal punishment. I was fourteen.
On the day she and I sat in the headmasters’ office filling out applications, I was shaking, visibly distressed. I was terrified. I have never felt fear like that. Where was I? I didn’t belong there. I didn’t speak the language, and they beat kids at the school. What had I done to deserve this? She was sat beside me, unfazed by me visibly in distress.
That’s all I want to mention about my time there, but that was my punishment for being depressed. Sending me and my sisters away. I will never forgive her for that. What really tore me up was how when one of my useless aunts asked her why she sent us there, she replied that it was because I “fell into the wrong crowd, involved in drugs and drinking.” That killed me. She lied on my name, again. A rumour like that ruins reputations in my community. So not only was I lying about abuse, I was also a problem child with an addiction. Time passed and school fees got too expensive. We went back home.
What followed was the day she saw it happen. She caught him. She saw him do it. She told him to leave. My other sister who was 12 at the time told my mother he abused her the same way the night before, and how she cried herself to sleep because she knew our mother would not believe her. My mother broke down, apologising to us. She promised to make it right. At that moment I truly believed she would have our back because she saw it happen. She apologised, and we forgave her. She promised to tell the police. I wanted to believe it was just us now, us against the world.
That wasn’t the case.
Now, this is the part many of you reading will find shocking. I called the police and told them everything. This was because that night she apologised to us she promised she would cooperate with the police so he could not abuse another child. He deserved to be in prison. The police came to the house, spoke with us and what did she do? The officer asked for his new address to which she replied she did not know. She did know where he lived. She knew his licence plate, his phone number, all of that information she knew but withheld. She did this right before our eyes. What else did she do? We found out that she warned him the police were called and to hide his phone. The phone he had at the time was connected to the abuse. That phone was evidence. Finding that phone was vital.
A betrayal like that you never forget. The hurt you feel is indescribable. I remember that feeling, me and my sisters were in disbelief. Shocked to our core that she could betray us like that even after catching him abusing my sister. We were hopeful that this time our mother would help us and that things would be better.
The lies came so easy to her, she was cold. She protected him. Not only did she turn everyone against us, she lied to our faces again and when it truly mattered she betrayed us. We lost hope and because she refused to give any information to the police he roams free and even remarried. It kills me how he is around children, and is allowed to be free. It’s because of her. She saved him. She betrayed us to save him. She has endangered the lives of countless children to save him. She saved him because she loves him more than us.
She had no intention of supporting us. Her family began calling because he had called them to complain that he was was forced out of the house. She did not tell them why. She did not tell them what she caught him doing. We heard her on the phone denying everything. She said it never happened, and she kicked him out because of some marriage dispute. Not long after that she began seeing him in secret, and talking to him on the phone. She would have casual conversations with the man who abused her daughters. She began having sex with him. I know this because she got pregnant and got an abortion. I had to pretend like I wasn’t aware of this because if I spoke she would kick us out again, only this time my dad no longer lived in the country, so we had nowhere to go. She frightened us because she became volatile every time we mentioned what he did. Whenever we asked where she was going and who she was meeting she got angry, and I mean very angry. Still, not even 16 at the time and terrified of being kicked out on to the street I had to stay quiet.
She protected him because she was so afraid of people finding out she would rather he kept abusing us. She cares so much what her family thought that she lied to save him. Every thing he did to us she allowed. He would intimidate us in front of her, she let him get away with it all and he knew this. He knew he had the power. He knew she would never protect us. She is a sick person who enables abuse. We had nowhere to go. No one to help us.
What could we do? We had to keep our mouths shut. He did not come back in the house but I had suspicions he would when we were not home. I was right. She continued to meet him outside the house and spoke to him on the phone. She went on with her life and did not give a damn about what this had done to us. I have contemplated suicide, I have tried before. Knowing that she lied to the police the second time around, to actively abrogate the investigation there was no way I could trust her. She terrorised us every time we brought it up. We had many confrontations about why she did this to us. Why she did not tell the police everything she saw. Why she lied about not knowing his address.
During one of many confrontations she said “well at least he didn’t rape you.”
She does not care, at all. We were victims. We were children. She let him free. She protected him. With nowhere else to go we had to stay silent. We never brought it up again. It’s been six years since our last argument about it. She silenced us because we are frightened of her. She would become violent towards us, throwing objects at us, even threatening to kill us. She locked my sisters and I in a room once and said “I will kill you all” and that the abuse “never happened, you girls are liars” Everyone around us failed us. The night she locked us in that room, my other useless aunt was downstairs, she did nothing.
My mother is a terrible person. she is cold, an enabler, a rape apologist, a misogynist, a manipulator, emotionally and physically abusive. It upsets me how she can live with herself. How she can see the hurt in our faces. How we become so uncomfortable around men. How we have never even dated because of our trauma. It baffles me how she pretends to be a warm, friendly person to everyone but her children. How she can show empathy and display a kindness and compassion for others but not us. How she can watch a documentary about child abuse and predatory stepfathers and not even feel guilty. She chose to ignore it, to abandon us emotionally, to not support our emotional well-being. She chose to not defend us, to not protect us. We are traumatised.
I was offered free counselling when I was 19 by my college. When she found out I was going there every Wednesday she berated me. I had to hide that I was still going just to calm the situation and protect myself. To make matters worse our family who live in the same city ignore our existence because of what she told them. Not once have they checked in on us. Not once did they ask for our side of the story. To them we are just troubled young women who gave their mother hell for remarrying. I kept quiet for so long, but now there is a new danger.
I would not write this if it weren’t for the abuse she will allow my two step-sisters to endure. She did that with us and now she will with them. My mother had two children with that man. Two girls. When they were younger he rarely saw them. When they did, she would meet him with them in tow. This was all behind our backs; it wasn’t until they would tell us who they met with. Of course, I am worried. In fact I am terrified. I am writing this because I am scared for them.
My sisters and I are against this and we voiced this many times. When we did she would become aggressive and rationalise the situation and say that they were his kids, and that he would not abuse his own kids.
A predator is a predator. A paedophile is a paedophile. That will never change.
We have had many arguments about this. We were and still are terrified of her, of what she will do to us. That if she kicks us out again we won’t ever see them again. That way she will be in control to do whatever she wants. We were scared into silence once before, but not now. He has been out the country for a year so that bought us some time because the meetings stopped. Now he’s back and the girls are young, the same ages my sisters and I were at the time the abuse began. I am scared. I do love them; I’ve seen them grow up. I do not want anything to happen to them. Their mother will not protect them, so I have to but how? If I say anything she will kick me out and I will not be able to see them. The police are no help either because I do not have enough to prove he is a danger. They will interview my mother and she will lie. What rights do I have? What voice do I have?
I am still alive for them. I am still alive to protect them.
I feel helpless. I cannot allow anything to happen to them but I have no power.