In I Called Him Dad, Ishiaku confronts rape, child molestation
I Called Him Dad were the words Fatima Ada Ishiaku kept using, even as she suffered years of sexual molestation and abuse from her stepfather, causing her to go into depression and turn to alcoholism, momentarily, for relief.
Surmounting all the odds life threw at her, she went on to study Sociology at the University of Lagos. This was to help her understand what she went through as well as help others in similar situations.
Ishiaku said her debut book, I Called Him Dad chronicles all the agony and suffering she went through for almost a decade.
According to her, “I used this book to tell my story so that people can understand what survivors go through. It also talks about why rape happens, protecting children from falling victims, what rape survivors go through, and how parents can detect if their children are being sexually abused. It also talks about vulnerable street children who are often targets but have no one to turn to. The book is for everyone because we all need to come together to end rape, especially of minors.”
“The best way to help survivors is by allowing them to tell their story in a way they find comfortable as this will help them heal and discover their inner strengths because they would need that to help fight fear and weakness and I hope this book would serve as a guide in helping them do just that.”
Born in Kaduna State to parents, who hail from Kebbi and Abia states, she grew up thinking that her mother’s husband was her dad until she discovered he wasn’t. “The man I thought was my father started molesting me at five and raping me two years later. The rape, which took place almost every day, became so bad and continued unabated for seven years right under my mother’s nose. He caused a lot of hate between my mum and me and I couldn’t tell her what he was doing to me. He also threatened me that the day I tell my mother, he would kill us both. I was 14 when my mum found out her husband was raping me and that was the day she told me he was not my biological dad,” she said.
Telling her story has not been easy. She has faced stigmatisation from those she narrated her experience to. “I have had two engagements called off because I came clean about the assault I suffered at the hands of my stepfather. I have had friends abandon me because they feel I am tainted. I have lived with the pain for a long and have tried to kill myself on several occasions. Along the line, I turned to alcohol and became an alcoholic. Earlier this year, an American professor heard my story and encouraged me to pour out my emotions in this book. He told me to define my life myself, that I shouldn’t allow my situation or the society to define me. It wasn’t easy but with God on my side and with his support, I decided to talk about it openly so I can help other young girls and women going through the same experience to speak out and also, so that the pains in my heart could heal,” Ishiaku admitted.
Most parents are unnecessarily strict with their children, making the children be afraid of them. When the said children are being sexually abused, they’ll find it hard to open up to their parents.
According to Ishiaku, “some parents don’t have a strong relationship with their children, so, it’s difficult to notice changes in their children. Most children confide more in their teachers, maid, driver than their parents, and sometimes, these people end up taking advantage of those innocent children by assaulting them. Some parents are aware that their children are being abused but choose not to speak out because of stigma or backlash, especially when it involves a relative or someone close to the family.”
On ways to help survivors, she said even though it is not a one size fits all, counseling is a major way to help. “Personally, I sought to help through counseling. I saw a psychologist and counselor, plus prayers helped me a lot. I also have some amazing friends who have stood by me from the first day I told them about what I went through and what I was still going through; their support also helped me. I’ve had to overcome stigma, bullying, mockery and I don’t allow it to define me anymore. I’m not ashamed of my past. I’m telling this story with confidence, it is my scar and I carry it with pride. I laugh more now; I’m no longer an alcoholic. I now love life. Suicide is no longer an option but living a good life and helping survivors is all that matters to me now.”
Ishiaku said she hopes the book would educate parents on how to protect their children from rape and show them the little things they do or overlook that expose children to sexual abuse. “Single parents should be careful whom they choose as stepparents to their children. You must check mental health and criminal background first before introducing them to your children. Survivors can also go to houseoffatima.org for counseling and support and the House of Fatima for Abused Girls Foundation aims to provide a safe house for survivors where they can temporarily stay to heal. I am fighting so that all rapists are brought to book and I want to empower victims as much as possible. To bring this to an end, parents must educate their children about their body parts and teach sex education even before they are taught in school. If parents don’t teach their children sex education the right way, a stranger will teach them the wrong way.”