Some people ask, “Why can’t she leave? How could she be so stupid to allow herself to be treated like that?” Others even conclude that she became a victim of crime because she brought it unto herself.
Let me go back into the incident that led to writing this article to help you understand how shame and stigma is silently killing many women, and some men too. And, I will try to do this without mentioning names, but hopefully help you understand the scenario.
I was invited to an award ceremony, and I was happy to be celebrating a community member who was nominated for this prestigious award. It was an African named award, therefore, there were 99.99% Africans in the room.
Soon after we found our table and settled down, I saw a man that I had not seen in almost a decade passed by and smiled at me. I recognized the face as someone I knew, but couldn’t place the name immediately. I waved with a smile, and even bent my head in a “respectful” manner as our culture demands when greeting someone respectfully. He used his hands to signal that he would be back at my table, as it seemed he was going to another table across the room.
Shortly afterwards, he came around to greet me and I stood up to greet him. Then, I realized that he was one of my ex’s friend. What I thought would only be, “How are you?” and generally greeting each other turned into a mini interrogation.
First, he said, “I thought you were no longer living in Minnesota and had moved to the East coast.” I replied that I had been in Minnesota all these years. The next words that came out of his mouth were, “Why were you not at Tade’s (not real name) burial? I thought you should have been there. That is my own opinion.” Immediately, some questions filled my thoughts. I became silence for a moment. I thought, “Do you read? Are you pretending not to be following my story or what exactly are you trying to do know?” Right there and then, flashback sets in, but I was able to fight the emotional agony I had suffered a year ago and years before from ruining a great night with people who care about me.
I quickly asked about his wife and kids, and he pointed to a table where they were sitting. He asked about my son, and I told him that my son was doing well.
Such accusation from community members keep women in a relationship that end up sending them to their early grave. They don’t want to be accused wrongly or made to feel guilty when they should be the ones receiving help and support from the community.
In my journey today, I have built resilience and have been able to face community accusations and stigma as I move on with my life and advocate for others.
Chapter 11 of “A Living Label: An Inspirational Memoir and Guide” documents the dilemma that I had to endure about a year plus ago when my ex passed away. His death brought “Fresh New Battles”, sorrow, depression, and again, I feared for safety for my son and I. It was not a pleasant experience. It was one that took us both to visits with therapists. Worse still, it was one that accused me, who had not had contact with him for almost a decade, of killing him.
While I thought that that was behind me, this was a community member with another accusation. It takes the grace of God and determination to keep my head over waters, and still advocate in the face of community stigmatization.
I believe that there is a dire need for advocacy education in order to raise community advocates within my community. The more people in my community are educated, the more stigmatization will reduce, and the more victims will reach out for help.
I am glad to let you know that my first book, which I refer to as the “Victim book” entitled, Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim is now available on Kindle. The Second Edition released today. It includes discussion questions for students, staff training, book clubs, and other groups.
Thanks for reading. Kindly leave your questions, comments and suggestions below.
Until next time.