‘I ran away at age 7 to escape abuse’
Popular Metro FM talk show host Criselda Dudumashe has written a new book in which she reveals how a family friend sexually abused her when she was seven years old.
Titled You Are Never Alone, the book is an account of Dudumashe’s life experiences and aims to help others who have been through trauma. In it she recounts how her innocence was stolen by a man she trusted – and, because she was too terrified to tell anyone, she ran away from home to become a street child.
Dudumashe spoke to City Press this week at the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, saying it took her 10 years to write her life story because she first wanted to heal and find the courage to share her story with “other wounded soldiers”.
After years of therapy, she felt she was ready.
On Thursday, she told City Press the details of how her ordeal unfolded. “Every day after school, bhut’Jabu (not his real name) would call me into the bedroom, look me in the face, put his fingers in my vagina, ejaculate without penetrating, and once he was done, he would tell me how smelly I was, and that I must go clean myself.” He would then buy her a Fanta Orange cooldrink and a red cake. “As a result I don’t like red cake,” she said. “It became a routine for me that every day after school I became bhut’Jabu’s victim. He repeatedly abused me.” She never told her father about bhut’Jabu. He will find out from her book. Even though she wanted to reveal what was happening to her, bhut’Jabu once told her that if she told anyone, he would deny it. “Dad likes him,” she writes in her book. “He is our community’s role model; his father is a priest. I don’t stand a chance because Dad will take his side.” When she could no longer bear what was happening, she ran away to live on the streets.
“It can’t get worse than bhut’Jabu and his mafinyila [slime], as I refer to his ejaculate. Nothing would stop me. I must get away as far as possible, where he and his kind will never find me,” she writes.
“Finally, I’m out of that house. I already feel like I’ve moved away, though I know that if Dad were to come back, he would still find me. I’m not going to think about it.”
She left home, aged seven, for a number of weeks, without telling anyone. “I found myself running around in circles, sleeping under highway bridges. Learning the value of cardboard and plastic used as blankets. At some point I crossed a stream using scrap metal as a boat,” she writes.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong. I just moved away from a painful situation.”
Dudumashe said that was the most difficult chapter to write. But, she added, despite everything she went through, she was never alone. “When I was hungry, someone took care of me. There was umam’Ndlovu who brought me food, a jersey and takkies – but my new takkies were taken by the streetsmart kids before I walked a mile in them. So I walked barefoot.”
Dudumashe wrote the book to encourage others to speak out against abuse and not keep dark secrets from loved ones. “This book is the story of every woman who has been through so much but turned out to be a beautiful woman, like I am today. On this hurtful journey I was never alone.”
OPENING UP Criselda Dudumashe shares her story of child abuse for the first time