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“He asked me where my parents are and I told him I didn’t want to answer that question. Then I told him I want to go back home. He told me to finish my soda first. The next thing I knew it was morning and I was naked in his bed……..”

I listened to Tracy* recount this story and I felt like going out to look for Amadi — yes that’s the name of the perpetrator — and strangling him with my bare hands. You see, I am Tracy’s third party guardian. She’s an orphan and lives in a children’s home. Her sister was a good friend of mine, and after she died, I took it upon myself to provide some sisterly love in Tracy’s life.

Did I mention that Tracy is thirteen and a standard eight candidate this year? Now that you know that, let’s go over this again…. What’s the definition of one who lures a thirteen year old child to his house, drugs her and proceeds to violate her? I welcome all your contributions at this point.

When I asked Tracy to explain to me exactly what happened, she narrated how during the last school holidays she went to visit her aunt. One afternoon, Amadi who is her cousin’s friend came to her Aunt’s house and demanded that she goes with him to his house. When she refused, he threatened to wait until her Aunt came home and that he would tell her how Tracy had been entertaining him all day. Tracy who is generally very terrified of her harsh aunt couldn’t imagine her Aunt’s wrath if this was to pass. Her cousin also urged her to go with Amadi if she didn’t want to be in trouble. And that is how she ended up in Amadi’s house. Tracy’s immense fear of her Aunt, her belief that her Aunt would never believe her if she denied the story and the scary thought of the possible repercussions of her Aunt’s wrath should a boy be found at home, had her follow Amadi to his house. And of course in her thirteen year old world view, never in a million years would the thought of intimate assault have crossed her mind. After all, Amadi was her cousin’s friend and she’d seen him at church a few times…

Did I mention that Amadi is nineteen years old? I ask again – what’s the definition of a nineteen year old boy who lures children to his house, drugs them and violates them? I welcome your further contributions.

I asked Tracy how she felt about it all. She shared with me that she was very angry at Amadi and that she was very sad that when she reported the case to the House Mother at the home as well as the social worker, they called Amadi, asked him if he had committed the offence and then proceeded to ban him from coming within yards of the home’s perimeter fence. The social worker also asked her to forgive him. “I didn’t want to forgive him. What he did was very wrong. But I just forgave him because they asked me to” She was massively relieved that I felt so strongly about the situation and promised to track Amadi down and have him reported to the authorities. She seemed hugely comforted as well that someone seemed to be on her side and felt like she did.

We had a discussion about what forgiveness is and is not. I explained gently that forgiveness is not glossing over or denying the seriousness of what happened to her, or neglecting the course of justice, but letting go of the hurt and healing self. I think she got it. I pray she got it. I will continue to further run through this conversation as best possible in thirteen year old speak until I am sure she gets it.

The gravity of Tracy’s situation and the potential occurrence of a similar situation arising from a child’s absolute dread and fear of a parent or guardian’s reaction is real. Parental rule with an iron hand that does not allow for open communication, for freedom of expression and for the opportunity to confide one’s feelings, concerns and experiences leads children down the path of destruction and as with Tracy’s case direct into danger.

There’s being a strict parent or guardian, and then there’s reigning with terror that has children run away from, rather than run towards you when faced with problems, issues and fears. We need to create an atmosphere where our children will feel free to communicate with us and to know for certain that no matter what situations they are faced with, and no matter what kind of real or perceived wrongs they have done, that we will be on their side supporting them always. And even if they goof and commit crimes, that we will provide them an opportunity to express themselves, mete out corrective action that is just and discipline them in love. And most importantly that when they are accused of anything, that we will listen to submissions from both sides and not be quick to judge without facts, evidence and substantiation. Children that grow up in an environment of justice learn to take on the world with confidence and self-assurance.

Did I mention that Amadi is walking around scot free with a mere slap on his wrist in the name of being banned from the home as Tracy struggles with coming to terms with the happenstance?What’s the definition of a nineteen year old boy, currently walking free after drugging and violating a child? Your contributions are once again welcome.

To convince a victim who has been intimately abused that it is not their fault — never was and never will be — and that nothing they did contributed to the perpetrators violation of them is a journey. Self-blame and shame abound within them and affirmation and re affirmation is recommended for healing. More so for children who internalize things deeply and think they are responsible for the genesis of all things bad. We’re on a journey with Tracy to work through what is and what’s not and to have an all-round reflective outcome.

The Center For Parenting Education, points out that an important way to develop self-esteem in children is to create a dependable, trustworthy relationship in which they feel safe, accepted, and cherished. This gives them the courage to take risks, grow and explore the world, knowing that if they run into trouble, or if atrocities happen to them, they have a relationship with you to come back to, knowing that you ‘have their back.’

Do your children know with absolute certainty that you have their back? I have Tracy’s back. I am on a hunt for the elusive Amadi who at the moment can only be traced through the cousin that aided and abetted the crime, and Tracy is not ready yet to go back to her Aunt’s or to talk to them. It is not a safe place she says. This set back notwithstanding, find him we will and put a complete stop to his current career of molesting children we will. That’s my solemn promise to Tracy. A promise that brought a ray of light to her eyes and a smile on her face. Knowing that someone has your back does that for you.

Please do the same for your children today. Make a solemn promise to them that you have their back. And please let me know once done we celebrate that declaration together?

* Name changed to protect her identity

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