How I overcame the trauma of rape
In a bold move aimed at encouraging others in her situation, Anthonia Alasa Ojenagbon, aka ‘The Golden Girl‘, recently sat on the podium of Harvesters International Christian Centre (HICC) in Gbagada, Lagos to narrate how she overcame the trauma of rape by her uncle, who she took like her father, having lost her father at the age of 12.
She had comforting words for young ladies who may have had similar experience and who blame themselves for what they could not control.
In most societies, when a victim reports a case of rape, she is rarely believed and she is sometimes blamed for the incident rather than comforted and aided to seek justice; hence the matter is supressed, especially if the predator is a relative, and she is made to carry the burden and trauma for life.
It was same for Anthonia, whose mother never believed her rape story till she got married.
The Golden Queen, as she’s fondly called, narrated her ordeal and how she overcame the trauma at the church’s Sunday Night Life, a programme organised for unmarried youths.
“I was 12 years old when my father, an Army officer, died, leaving my mother, who was pregnant with her 9th child, and eight children behind.
“I was asked to go and live with an uncle, who was so close to the family and was my father’s next of kin.
“One night, I discovered something was moving around my lower region. I noticed someone was trying to get into my pant; I couldn’t see the person because the room was dark.
“I was raped, but I didn’t know what it was to have sex, nobody thought me about sex, because my parents belonged to the Deeper Life Christian Ministry.
“I woke up the next morning and discovered something strange in my private part. The first person I saw was my uncle, who called me and showed me a gun, warning me not to tell anyone what happened, so I couldn’t say a thing. And that was the beginning of the molestation, as he kept coming almost every night to defile me.
“Then, a friend of mine invited me to a church programme and after the programme, my friend asked me and other friends to go see the pastor. The pastor prayed for us and while we were about leaving, he asked everyone to go and asked me to stay behind.
“He asked, ‘why are you leaving without telling me what you wanted to discuss with me? I replied that I had nothing to tell him and he told me, you wanted to tell me that your uncle has been sleeping with you. I was shocked because I hadn’t told anyone.
“The pastor asked me to go home, that my uncle would come that night to do the same. He asked me to do what I had never done before, that I should scream for help and when people come to ask me what the matter was, that I should tell them I had a bad dream.
“My uncle came as usual and I screamed, he ran away. So, his wife and others came to inquire and I told them what the pastor asked me to say. Then the following morning, my uncle looked at me and hissed. That was the last day it happened, but the damage had been done,” she recounted.
“Interestingly, the pastor who helped me stop my uncle started the same thing. It was devastating and demoralising, because I trusted him.
“I was appointed the head girl of my school, despite being a commercial student, because I was intelligent. But things took a turn in my second year in the university. I forgot I was brilliant and had to drop out of school.
“Then, I started going to church, looking for someone to marry, with the intention to murder anyone that propose to me. I met a guy in my pastor’s office (Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, Senior Pastor of The Fountain of Life Church), who said I should consider going back to school. He was interested in me, but I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to get married to a young man, because I would kill him.
“It got to a point where I was no longer scared of anybody; I was always ready to abuse and drag anyone, no matter the level, and I didn’t tell any of my family members when the guy I met in my pastor’s office, who later became my husband, asked for my hand in marriage.
“I did an investigation on him and I found out he was a gentle guy working with my pastor, so I accepted and said to myself, ‘escape route,’ because I was desperate to find another place to live.
“I went home to inform my family that I was getting married. They thought I was joking. I planned my wedding and picked the wedding date by myself.
“He came to my house and my uncle asked him to come with his family members. I printed my wedding cards with the money (N100, 000) the late pastor Bimbo Odukoya gave me and wrote my wedding list before he came back with his family and I asked him to go and buy everything.
“I got married and I did not remember that there is something a couple should do at night after marriage. So, after the reception, my brother in-law came to us, that we had to leave for our house. That was when it occurred to me that something would happen this night.
“He started removing his suits when we got home and I started begging my husband. I said to him, ‘sir, I need to talk to you.’ He replied,
‘Anthonia, I am no longer the pastor you used to refer to, we are now married, so stop saying sir to me.’ I insisted, saying, ‘sir, I really need to speak with you.’
“Then, he sat and I said to him, ‘sir, let’s live as brother and sister.’ Being a very gentle man, he said, ‘okay.’ So, I gave him my rules and regulations, one of which was that he must not stand naked before me. He must also go to the bathroom with his towel and dressed up there. And he concurred.
“After then, I decided to go for counselling. Three months later, my husband called me and said, ‘Tonia, please, I am not your brother.’
“So, after so much talk by my pastor, I said okay, we will do it this night, but you must put off the light and you must never say a word to me, not even I love you till you are done and when you are done, get up and leave, and he agreed.
“I would have been in the prison by now if I am not married to him, because of the emotional baggage and bitterness that engulfed me.”
For Anthonia, being married to a gentle man and a pastor could not immediately take away the bitterness, even with years of marriage.
She added: “I stopped working when I got married. I wasn’t doing anything and I had children in quick succession. I married a guy who truly loves me and has never judged me with my past. I am the only person who threatened to quit the marriage and exercise some level of madness. I have been married for 14 years and I have three children.
“I was always depressed every September because that was the month my uncle started raping me. My husband would preach, encourage and pray with me.”
On how the journey to her final breakthrough began, she said: “One day, I asked my husband for money and he looked at me and replied, ‘don’t you think you are becoming a liability?’ I am working, but 90 per cent of my earnings go to you. I cried.
“I took a pen at night and said, ‘God, you must tell me what to do with my life. I learnt how to make chin-chin, because I wanted to prove to him that I could be useful to him and to myself, because I still went to meet him whenever my mother asked me for money.
“So, I started doing petty business, but the business wasn’t picking up. I got scholarship to study in Lagos Business School, then I started doing proper business, but I needed a break.
“The depression got to its pick in 2012. I couldn’t go to church for three months. I knew I needed help, but I never wanted any. I castigated myself during Mothers’ Day celebration in 2012, saying to myself when I woke up on Sunday the morning, ‘you, do you think you are a mother?’
“I learnt about the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) in 2012 and I applied. I wasn’t picked the first time I applied, because I did not have any business plan. The following year, I said to myself that I must have a business plan.
“I got a business plan and called somebody to help me write. The following year was for women only, where only 6,000 were picked from the six geo-political zones, then 1,200 of the women were going to be given N10million grant to start their business.
“Luckily, my name was among the 6,000 women waiting for the final list of 1,200. I was broken while waiting for the final list, because I wasn’t sure of my chance. The only thing I knew was to read the scripture. I returned to my depressed mood.
“I started selling Jollof rice, which I called ‘Sunday Sunday Jollof rice.’ I begged people to patronise me, gave free food to persuade them to come back, sold on credit and went to many people to invite me whenever they had an occasion, so I can cook for them.
“People started inviting me for small occasions to prepare food for 10 persons and invited another person whenever they had big occasion. Many ordered, but never showed up.”
She went further: “My life was filled with so much shame and reproach till I stumbled on a biblical passage, Exodus 34:10, where God promised to do a new thing. I started prophesying positive things into my life.
“By the mercy of God, my name was among the 1,200 women picked for the grants and that was the turnaround for my business.
“I fell into another depression in September 2015 and this time, I felt like committing suicide. It got to a point where my children would ask if I was in a good mood before they could talk to me. I was always sad, but I made up my mind to try my best to be happy.
“That day, I stood in front of a mirror and heard a voice saying, ‘Tonia, finish it up.’ Immediately, I realised that that was a spirit of suicide. I called the owner of a mental facility in Lekki and I checked myself in and that changed everything about me, including my hair colour and style. I heard a voice while getting my hair cut, saying, ‘this is Anthonia, the golden girl, the old Anthonia is dead, gold is expensive, gold is not cheap and you are no longer cheap.
“To the glory of God, I am now emotionally healthy. I am useful to myself and also to my husband.”
The chief executive of Silton African Kitchen, added: “I found out that former President Goodluck Jonathan was going to have a lunch with some people and I really wanted to go. Thirty entrepreneurs were selected in Nigeria to exhibit their products in Aso Rock, but one person couldn’t make it. Somehow, by divine mercy, my name was mentioned at the State House to fill the vacant position.
“I got a call by 8:40pm from a person who did not show any interest in what I do when I introduced myself to her at a programme. She said, ‘I want you in Abuja tomorrow, because you would exhibit your snail in the State House. I was shocked, but then I got myself together and prepared for the journey.
“Funny enough, all the ATM in Ilupeju didn’t work that Sunday. I ran to meet the general manager in my church and told him that the President sent for me, but I didn’t have money for flight ticket. He helped me out.
“I got to the airport and all the airlines were all booked. I started speaking in tongue. I said. ‘I must get to Aso Rock today. My husband went to a lady on the front desk and narrated everything to her. Somebody was not available, so I was able to secure a seat, finally.
“I got to Abuja around 11:00am and went straight to the hotel. I had problems getting a place to prepare my snail and in the process of trying to get a place, I met a man who dressed up like a Deeper Life Church member.
“I approached him and started telling him that my parents were members of the church and that I needed a place to get my snail prepared. He took me to the Aso Rock Kitchen, where I did everything.
“And when it got to the time for exhibition, I saw the President move around. He stood by my stand and I said to him, ‘sir, please have a box of my snail.” He took it and ate my snail.
“The trouble is now gone, the trauma is a thing of the past and I am a happy person.”
While advising young men not to discriminate against ladies who had been sexually abused, she said: “You may be involved with a lady you may not know the baggage she is coming with, but don’t just leave her whenever she has mood swing and for every survival, there is life after abuse.
“Jesus loves you and care so much about you. Your past does not define you. I never thought I could speak publicly about my experience. Now, as a queen that I am, I wear my crown; I opened up to my husband when I discovered how deep his love was for me and I was surprised he was not perturbed.
“Fourteen years down the line, he never referred to my past. I stood naked for the first time in the presence of my husband two years ago.”