How Not to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Sexual Assault

I don’t know what brought this memory to mind at one o’clock in the morning. Maybe it was a combination of uncomfortable heat and daylight saving time messing with my sleep pattern, but I thought about the boy who was the first person to touch me in a sexual manner before I really knew what a “sexual manner” was.

I was 11 and he was 17, serving as the mate on a trotro my mother held the title for until the driver, Mr. Osei, could pay off his debt. The trotro was locked safely in the confines of our house every night, as was the mate whose name I have long forgotten. Let’s call him Kwodjo.

Kwodjo was a kid, albeit a big one. When he was off duty, he would play tag, football and hide and seek with my siblings and I. And then one day when I was hiding upstairs in the bathroom crouched behind a laundry basket, Kwodjo found me. I don’t remember where he first touched me as I have largely blocked the memory…I just remember that day marked a series of clandestine incidences of pubescent indiscretions. He groped by budding breasts. He breathed heavily in my ear. One day he put his finger in my vagina.

At 11 and now having been sexually awakened in this untoward way, I found myself conflicted. I was scared. There were days I wanted it to end. There were times I wanted it to continue. I wanted Kwodjo’s attention, but I didn’t necessarily want him fingering me. One afternoon he told me to meet him in the boy’s quarters. He had something to tell me. He told me to wait for him to go ahead and follow a few minutes later. And I did just that.

When I arrived, he pounced on me and pushed me into a corner. His arms and lips were everywhere. I had an idea of what might come next, although I couldn’t know for sure until it happened. I stood there and let Kwodjo paw me like a wolf playing with a piece of meat. And that’s when one of our two houseboys walked in on us. It seems so odd to call Simon a “houseboy”. He was two times my age, at least, but as a fully grown man he saw exactly what my 11 year old mind did not have the capacity to predict. He yelled for Kwodjo to unhand me and I walked away embarrassed, but not before promising to tell Mr. Osei what had happened. Kwodjo looked shaken.

“No, Malaka, no,” Simon pleaded. “Don’t do that!”

I relented and scuttled out of the room through the window I’d entered from. It was over and I’d never have to live the incident or the terror of being caught in such a shameful moment again.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when my father called me downstairs the next day with a scowl on his face. His voice was cold as frozen stone.

“Malaka. What happened in the boy’s quarters.”

“What? I don’t know…”

“Did Kwodjo touch you in the boy’s quarters?”

My eyes flew open. My heart began to pound. I used the reaction to feign shock, particularly since both Simon and Kwodjo were standing in the kitchen WITH ME watching the interrogation.

“No, Daddy,” I lied. I was afraid I was going to be blamed for doing something naughty, a situation a I assumed my father thought I should have had control over. “He didn’t. Kwodjo only plays with me and the other kids. Football and things.”

My father stared at me. I stared back. He told me I could go. Upon leaving the kitchen, I heard Simon begging him to believe what he had told him.

“Daddy, it’s true! Daddy, it’s true!”

I didn’t hear my father’s response because I had already fled to my room and locked the door.

Do you know even after all that, Kwodjo didn’t stop hunting me? One day after the interrogation, I’d had enough. When he had placed himself bare-chested between my thighs as I was sitting on the veranda, I dug my nails into his back and scratched. I drew blood. He went to report me to my father who punished me for injuring him. Oh, the irony!

We’ve talked a lot on Adventures about the dangers young girls are susceptible in a society that doesn’t allow them to be kids. And although Kwodjo wasn’t technically yet a “man”, he was still closer to the stage of adulthood than I would be for another 6 years, which is a lifetime for a child.

I don’t know that we talk enough about how to approach girls who have found themselves in abusive situations. Fortunately for me, it did not go any further than it did, but not all 11 year old girls were lucky. Also, I felt like I was marked from that period…like the men and boys in the area who tormented me with their catcalls and comments on my body could smell an easy target.

I don’t have an exhaustive list of ways to NOT talk to your child about her assault/molestation/unwanted physical interaction, but I’d suggest not interviewing her in front of the accused. We know that rape goes underreported not just in Africa, but all over the globe and part of that is shame, a sense of being responsible for the moments leading up to the event and fear of the unknown consequences. What if my father didn’t believe me when I narrated how it’d gotten to that point? What if he asked why I didn’t tell him sooner? The answer on that day would have honestly been “I don’t know, Daddy!”…because I really didn’t. I didn’t know or understand fully what was going on.


Have you ever known someone – woman or child – who has been the receiving end of a poorly executed chat about her assault? What advice would you give concerned persons to carry this out better so that it does not cause the victim fear? Are we doing a better job today of keeping young girls safe?


7 comments On How Not to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Sexual Assault

  • Malaka this is so strange!!! I just finished a fictional piece for Adventures on the same subject. I shan’t put it up now because I think we need to engage with this one fully – people too like tori.

    Well done on sharing this, girl. Lots of things to read. Soon come.

  • To answer the question about keeping our girls safe, I don’t think we are doing a great job about keeping our girls. This is great subject and it is great you are bringing it up. I see a lot of these girls in my professional setting and usually parents bring them in for issues other sexual assault. Some of these girls are terrified of disclosing these incidents to their parents.

  • Wow Nnenna! We must be flowing on the same wavelength. Like I said, I don’t know what triggered the memory, but if you’ve written something similar it must be for SOMEONE. Looking forward to your post.

    Maame O, first thank you for the work you do with these girls. I understand the terror and hesitation to tell their parents. Kids are so protective of their parents and don’t want to be a catalyst for stress. Plus, you can’t always predict a parent’s reaction. I hope we can start to do better in being open with our kids so that they can trust that adults will do the right thing where they are concerned.

  • great story Malaka.
    I think we are doing our best in protecting our children, but if we could be more open towards our children dey can be open to us. To enable us to share in their worries, and understand dem. I think it all sums up to our approach towards dem.

  • This post took me back to following my teenage Uncle to the boysquarters on more than one occassion 🙁

    We really do need to simultaneously protect girls from sexual abuse whilst making sure they understand that they are not to blame for guilty feelings of pleasure when they are being abused, and to teach them about sexuality, and how to take control over their own bodies…Ahhhh it’s a lot and its hard to say how this can be done. I guess my only thoughts right now would be to create those kind of open relationships with our children so that they can talk to us without fear about anything under the sun.

  • Kids of this day mature on time, so the earlier you start educating therm on things of this nature the better for her. if she has been abused you don’t have to shout on her to get the truth out of her. again call a penis a penis and not another thing and be truthfull in your answer when she asks you a question concerning sex or she may get the wrong answer from her peers. I wish every parent in this era the best.

  • As a healthcare professional, I am hypervigilant when it comes to children and will defend one with all my might. When the topic of sexual deviancies is discussed it’s usually directed as an issue that only occurs in developed countries. Often I hear Ghanaians saying that those evil things are not an African culture. However, when I see young adolescent girls walking around braless, and with really short skirts and sitting inappropriately it raises concerns to me. Not to negate that assaults are perpetuated against boys and girls and should not be ignored. Unfortunately, young people find it difficult to speak against their “seniors” because there is always a higher headship independently from their parents. This matter must be dealt with before we can truly know the gravity of children that have experienced such detrimental hardships. Schools in Ghana should be incorporating these discussions in their curriculums. As for parents, we should be teaching our children inappropriate behaviors as soon as they are able to talk and identify body parts.

    In regards to your situation, my questions are. Have you spoken about it to your parents? And are you using your experience to help others?

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