*Lydia, who lives in the South of Mahe, Seychelles, found herself pregnant after being raped by a family friend she trusted. She tells Cosmocreole why she kept the baby and why she is living with a lie to protect her son.
I was a teenager, full of life, bright and had a future mapped out. I was very academic and took my studies seriously, but I also loved going out with my friends. I knew him. He was a family friend, our parents were friends, and he was older than me.
He had shown interest in me and asking for more than friendship before, and I said no. I wanted to be on my own – concentrate on my studies, and I didn’t want to ruin our friendship.
One Saturday I went out with my friends to Katiolo (a club on Mahe), but after being there for a couple of hours, I wasn’t feeling well, so I told my friends I was going to find a lift and go home. I then saw him; I asked him if he wouldn’t mind dropping me home. He had his father’s car. He said yes.
I was not drunk; I just didn’t feel well. On our way home, he stopped the car in a deserted area off the road. There were no houses by; it was a secondary road which led to some houses further, including mine. I felt uneasy and got out of the car and calmly told him I’d walk for the rest of the journey. Deep down, I was scared as it was dark and there were no lights. He got out of the car, and suddenly I felt him get too close to me. I just really wasn’t comfortable with it, and I tried to push him back. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. I panicked. I froze to the spot.
He then pulled me behind a tree. He was overpowering, and he pinned me to the ground. I honestly cannot tell whether I fought him. It was like my body had gone into shock. It was like time had stood still, and he was very forceful. When he was done, I picked myself up and just ran. I was in excruciating pain and everything was blurry. That day was my first sexual encounter. I was a romantic; I wanted to find myself the perfect boyfriend and wanted my first time to be special with someone who respected and loved me. Unfortunately, he took that dream away from me that day.
I became a recluse, I stopped socialising, and I didn’t talk to anyone at all about what happened. I just wanted to erase that memory. I thought not talking about it will help. I also felt I would be judged, and people would say I had deliberately put myself in that position or it was my fault. I felt that because I knew him, it didn’t really count as rape in the same way as if I had been attacked by someone I didn’t know. So I focused on my studies to distract myself.
Finding out I was pregnant
I was in my final year of my A’levels when it happened, It was July, and I sat my exams in November that year. I noticed that I never saw my period again after that awful night. I was in denial and ignored the possibility that I may be pregnant. At around October time, just a few weeks before my exams, my mother started eyeing me suspiciously but never said anything; by now, I knew I was pregnant. I had put on some weight but not enough to look pregnant. My breast changed, and so did my body. I still kept quiet, and I used a safety pin on the zip of my school uniform.
It was after the final exams that I got the courage and told my mother that I thought I was pregnant. All hell broke loose. My mother told me how disappointed she was in me, and my father was so angry when he found out, he slapped me and demanded the father’s name. I couldn’t bring myself to say I was raped and who was the father. I kept saying I couldn’t say, and needless to say, my father kicked me out of the house. I moved in with a relative, and the story of my life – I have ruined my life, and I slept with a married man because I refused to say the name of the father to protect him. The next five months was my worst nightmare. I had to go to pre-natal classes and consultations and I could literally felt the stares, judgements and sometimes disapprovals.
I didn’t consider abortion. I knew it was an option if I had acknowledged what I was going through earlier. I’m not anti-abortion at all – I think it’s a personal choice based on circumstances. But personally, it felt that the act of killing the baby was actually going to make it worse for me. Perhaps I was naive to think that. In the new year, I picked up my A’level results and three months later, I gave birth to a baby boy. My rapist avoided eye contact with me. I don’t know if at that time he knew I was pregnant as a result of his crime. I knew I was probably the subject of conversation at home because his father and my father were friends. A couple of months after my son’s birth, my parents reconciled with me, and I moved back home. My younger sister adored her nephew. I made it clear that I didn’t want to talk about the past, about what everyone called ‘my mistake’. My mother was amazing at helping me with my son. My exams results were outstanding. I got a job as a civil servant, and eventually, I got an in-service scholarship and went overseas to study. I took my son with me, and we had the best three years of our lives. No one knew me there, no whispering behind my back and I could truly be myself.
How am I now?
My son is sixteen years old, bright, a gentle soul and the spitting image of his grandfather, my father. I have told him who his father is, Seychelles is a small country, and I wanted him to know his family so when he was about 10, I told my parents who the father was. My rapist is aware that he is the father too, but what people don’t know is that he forced himself on me. We do not play happy family because I do not want anything to do with him. I avoid him and his family at all cost. Now people think I had a one night stand and I’ve never confirmed nor denied the story.
I still get flashbacks of that night. It took me fourteen years before I had sex with another man. I was 33 years old. I now acknowledge to myself that what happened to me was not my fault. It wasn’t me who ‘ruined’ my life; somebody else did. I have no resentment towards my son because what happened to me was not his fault. I do not regret having my son because he reminds me of how resilient and strong I am. Hand on my heart, I can honestly say I love him so much, and the way he came into this world doesn’t affect our bond.
I also kept quiet about the rape because I never wanted my son to be pre-judged by anybody because their interaction with him or me would be different if people knew. So I feel the one thing that’s made me cope with what happened to me is that I have always loved and protected my son. I also taught him from a very young age how to value friendship, respect the opposite sex and their boundaries.
*Lydia’s name has been changed to protect her identity