How should I feel towards a father who hurts me and Mommy? Mommy says daddies are nice. But if that’s the case, why does my daddy abuse me?

Protesters against gender-based violence in Cape Town, South Africa, 5 September 2019 (EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA)

The following fictional story depicts a type of violence that is prevalent in Africa, the continent with the world’s highest rates of child abuse, according to a 2014 UNICEF statistical analysis of violence against children.

In Swaziland, a third of girls have experienced sexual violence before age 18, according to a 2009 study on sexual violence by the World Health Organization (WHO). In a single year, a medical center in Harare, Zimbabwe treated more than 900 girls under the age of 12 for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and a local organization in Zaria, Nigeria, found that 16% of patients with STDs were girls under the age of five, according to a 2007 United Nations publication on violence against women in Africa. In South Africa, more than one in five men reported raping a woman who was not a partner, the 2009 WHO study noted.

These troubling statistics highlight the pervasiveness of child and sexual abuse. Yet, reporting and data collection practices on the continent remain weak.

Trigger Warning

By Omobolaji Olalere


My eyes are burning. I’m crying so hard my tears could fill a small cup. Like the medicine cup he just used to drug me.

The smell of vanilla permeates the air like some otherworldly, sickly, pungent smell.

“You are frigid,” he says. Like this is my fault.

He complains as he hovers. “You’re not wet enough.”

What does that mean?

My body rocks with every movement. He only stops to clean my legs. Says he hates the mess.


Daddy’s friends are home. The room is dark. My eyes are straining, but I can only see their shadows. I feel their presence crowding me. Mommy!

He slaps me. His friends laugh. I must have screamed.

He does that thing again — enters me somehow. It hurts. I’m crying, but he doesn’t care.

One of his friends stayed back. I can see him behind the couch. He’s just standing there. I imagine that he is crying.

The house smells like vanilla. I hate vanilla.


Daddy slaps Mom awake. “My food is cold,” he roars.

Mom stayed up till 1 a.m. yesterday waiting for Dad, but he didn’t come home. She warmed the food once every hour from 9 p.m.


Daddy takes Mom and me to dinner at the Oriental Hotel. It’s very fancy, and the food is nice.

Mommy has covered her slap mark with makeup. She is really pretty. Her ebony skin is gleaming with coconut oil. I want to be like Mommy when I grow up.

Daddy says I look beautiful too as he trails his hands up my thigh. Mommy sees and chokes on her drink.

“Are you okay?” Daddy asks. She nods.


On Saturdays, we clean the house. I do upstairs, and Mommy does downstairs. Daddy isn’t home today, and the house is comfortingly quiet.

Mommy switches on the vanilla incense burner. I feel sick.


Daddy comes home this morning. He looks drunk and brings a pretty woman with him. I hate her. She makes Mommy cry.

We were supposed to go to church, but Mom drives in a different direction. I have never seen her like this. She looks sad, but also mad … really, really mad. Tears are gliding down her smooth cheeks. She’s driving really quickly. The wind blowing my afro in every single direction feels amazing.

We stop at a park, but there are pieces of stone everywhere. “It’s a graveyard,” Mommy says. She goes straight to a grave, which reads: “I love you. Bolaji loves you too”.

That’s my name! I ask Mommy who he was. She gestures, “That’s your daddy.”

I don’t want a daddy. Daddies slap mommies, and their friends make Mommy and me cry.

Mommy starts crying. So I start crying.

We fall asleep in the graveyard. Mommy wakes up first. She laughs when I wake, so I laugh too. Suddenly, Mommy stops laughing. She pats my head and says, “Daddies are nice.”


The glass bottle is bloody in my hand, but I can’t remember anything. He’s dead.

Mom comes home and sees the mess. She slaps me.

We’re running. I’m not sure where, but every time I look up at her, she shakes her head.

(Shivering) It was just a dream.


Daddy pretends to take me to school again, when he really just sent the driver with the car.

He enters me again today. It doesn’t feel as bad. I’m not sure why. I’m not even sure what’s happening, but he’s my daddy and Mommy said daddies are nice.

He kisses the birthmark on my forehead.


I turned 10 today. Daddy is taking us out to celebrate. We’re at the Oriental Hotel again.

Daddy tells Mommy he is taking me to the bathroom. Mommy nods, but she looks sad.

Once we are in the bathroom, he puts his fingers up my skirt. A lady comes out of the bathroom stall and sees us. Daddy talks to her. He’s nodding, but his smile doesn’t reach his eyes.

Like mine.

(For more News Decoder content on gender violence and women abuse, read this poem by another African Leadership Academy student.)


  1. Why do some mothers struggle to stop child abuse if they know it is happening?
  2. Why is under-reporting of sexual abuse a major problem?
  3. What steps can you take if you are being abused or know someone who is?

Omobolaji Olalere is a student at African Leadership Academy. She is from Nigeria. Bolaji is passionate about women empowerment. She loves being, watching and learning from women who take up space..

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