Sexual abuse and domestic violence is a common problem in PNG and the pacific but not enough is done to stop it. I was invited by Pacific Family Health Journal blog to be a guest blogger and would like to share my experience.
It was the begining of another year, 1999. I was so thrilled to know that I was accepted to study in a tertiary institution in PNG. Days leading up to my departure date was slow and I was wishing it would go fast. I was looking forward to being away from home, especially away from my dad. I was sad to leave my mum and my three siblings but I was more glad to be away from the sleepless nights or the early hours fighting between my parents which usually starts after my dad comes home drunk, which was 7 days a week.
After arriving I quickly settled in and made new friends, some of whom are my best friends today. I used to think that I was the only one. There were times in the night when I would cry myself to sleep thinking about my mum and my 3 siblings. I would dream and imagine about what would happen if my dad was out drinking again. When I am with my friends, I would forget about home for a short while but in the nights I would know that back home my brothers and sisters were probably sleeping with fear, expecting another fight between my mum and dad when my dad comes home drunk.
I never told anyone about my family while in college. I used to think that my family was the only one with alcohol related domestic violence. And I felt embarrased to talk about my dad who at that time was an alcoholic. During dinner we would ask mum if she had spoken nicely to dad during the day and had not made him upset. We would put sharp objcets away, in case he use them on us or mum. We made sure dad`s dinner was prepared and on the table before he came home. When in primary school I went home after school filled with fear all the time.
It was during my second year in college that I became very close to a girl, *Hilda (not her real name). One afternoon while talking, we started discussing family matters. That`s when she told me her story. Her mother had remarried and they had moved in with her step father. She then told me about how her step-father had sexully abused her for 4 years. She told her mother about it who did nothing. I then asked her why she had not reported the matter to the police. She replied that even if she told them, they would not belive her story. She said during nights before going to bed, she made sure she two shorts and two T-shirts, which was not enough to stop her step-father. Hearing her story, tears swelled up in my eyes. I cried, she cried and we ended up crying togother that evening.
This experience open my own door to tell my story. I told her about my own family problems, which I had not told anyone up until then. I told her I thought I was the only one suffering with family problems. This emotional experience bonded us together. From then on, *Hilda was my friend whom I confided in. Hilda told me that she would run away from home when she graduate. Which she did.
I recall back to my own family and there were many times when we would ask my mother to run away and marry someone else. She would just say, “I have my reasons. You would understand one day when you grow”. I think I understand now. She did not want me or any of my sisters to be sexually abused by our step-father if she had re-married.
There many stories in PNG like mine and *Hilda`s. There is help out there but women like my mother are not aware of where to go for help or whom to seek help from. This need to change if we are to stop all forms of violence and descrimination against women in PNG, and the pacific for that matter. If you are a victim of abuse like me, my mother or *Hilda, you need to share your story so that more people can know what is happening in PNG and change the situation for the benefit of our children.
*Vavine is not her real name. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the real person. If the name matches you or anyone you know, it is unintentional.