I opened the gate and came out, after her voice signaled that she was the one knocking. The time was some minutes to 1pm on August 10, 2017 in Obuzor, Asa in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State.
She sat down on the bench, leaning on the wall. “Oga, my father removed two of my teeth last night,” she told me, gesticulating.
Looking horror-struck, I could not believe her, if not that she opened her mouth. Two of her teeth were really off. They even changed her tonality. I was aghast and inquired of what led to the ordeal.
After narrating an inconsequential story, I flummoxed, asking myself why a father should beat her daughter to the extent that her teeth were pulled out.
I had dressed for the day’s transaction when Dimma, the girl of about 18, came to lay her complaint. I was hapless, owing to the fact that my house was no bank to withdraw money instantly and give to her for medications. I did not need a soothsayer to conclude that she would not be taken to a hospital by her parents. This was given that her parents and she were impecunious. I knew about their penniless existence, because they were my neighbour, very near to my house.
I told her that it was a pity. After some words of consolation and encouragement, I started hitting the road. But her predicament took my thoughts, as I voyage: I was not sure if I should characterise what happened to Dimma as child abuse, abuse of women or something. I knew that her hashish-addict dad had conditioned his mind to intimidate the family with a view that he was in control of them. Several times, his children’s voices had roared for help from his horrendous grip. His insolvent wife could not help.
The wife was a graduate of his merciless manhandling. As I learnt, she was the man’s punching bag when they got married new, till her family had to take strong measures against the husband that dimly calmed him. Now, the children were not living carefree, whenever he was around. His presence was a nightmare, such that children playing in the dark at night encounter.
The grumble in my thought was that Dimma, who could not finish her High School and had no hope of engaging in any handwork or trade except miracle happened, would continue to grow under her brutish dad, while clinging a hope that she would escape his presence and have freedom, when she was married. I could not help myself enough in the situation that Dimma found herself. In my thought, she was well captured in a Laura Davis’s “Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse.”
Davis said, “Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”
It was certain that Dimma would go underground with her feelings; else, any expression of them, would attract more beatings from the substance-induced-dad. She dared not invite the authorities; else, the community might dissect her. Now, her hope was pain – extreme anxiety. Even, Pain, was an understatement to describe the irresistible pains Dimma was going through.
Maybe, she would take it to ‘God’, as the later was the case in this clime. No one would listen to her, no matter how hard she cried. I knew that the pains would stop in Dimma someday, but the memories of losing her teeth in the hands of her father would linger a lifetime.
Would loving and trusting her father be there again? I wouldn’t say. However, I found writing about Dimma’s dilemma as a way to heal. Except the authorities, she would not bring her dad’s despicable attitude to book.
Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State. He can be reached by email HERE.