The last Sunday Tiffany went to her father’s church, House of Yahweh, was four years ago, a few months before she relocated to the U.K. She sat in the row behind her father’s seat, where she had sat since she was a toddler. She sported ripped jeans and a pink off-the-shoulder crop top. Her face cringed as her father stood at the front, walking slowly from one corner of the pulpit to the other, preaching about the believer’s authority.
She shook her head every time someone said Amen and rolled her eyes every time someone walked to the front to drop an offering. On that day, as her father read from the book of Mark to complete his sermon, she stood up, moved to the front, snatched the microphone from her father, and shouted, “All of you are pretenders, sick liars, evil bastards…”
Her mother hurried to the front to seize the microphone from her before she realized her intrusive thoughts had taken over…Seeing her mother’s eyes, warning her not to say another word, brought her to tears. She dashed outside and headed to her friend Joram’s place. Anyone in the House of Yahweh, even those who have only recently joined, may tell you her story. After Tiffany stormed out of the church, her father requested everyone to raise their hands and pray for her daughter, who was being tormented by demons.
Tiffany was raised to be a daddy’s girl. Although the events of later years overshadowed all of her happy childhood memories, she occasionally goes deep into the past and recalls all of the good times. He always held her birthday parties, purchasing her beautiful cakes that were the envy of all her friends, not to mention lavish gifts. Her father taught her how to play the guitar, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She’d sit on his knee while he played her Westlife’s Solidad, her small hands tenderly placed on his while he strung the guitar.
He bought her a black acoustic guitar for her 10th birthday. She smashed it against the wall on the week of her 11th birthday, the first time her father had touched her.
It was in October, her mother always left for a Pastors’ Wives conference in Nigeria for a week. Usually, they would be left home with Aunt Wanza, but this time around Wanza was married, enjoying her first month with her husband. Tiffany sat at the table with her dad, they shared some pilau her mother had left in the fridge before she travelled that Monday morning. After she was done, she wished her father goodnight and went to her room.
She was already drifting into a deep sleep when she felt the door open and saw a glimpse of light through her closed eyes. Her father held the door and stood behind it for a moment before slowly walking in. “Is it the dishes, Dad? Can I please clean them tomorrow after school?” she whispered. Her mum would always wake her up to clean dishes when it was her turn. “No, sweetheart,” he said, “Wambu from the church will come clean tomorrow, don’t worry…I’m just so used to having Mum around, I’m scared of sleeping alone…can I sleep here with you?” She chuckled. “You? Scared? You’re never scared of anything, Dad.” As she tried to open her eyes which were heavy with sleep, her father had already hoped on. It was not strange to her, she had slept with her parents until she was 5. It was when she felt his hand sliding up her thigh inside her mickey mouse nightie, that she began to feel afraid. “Dad?” she cried, “Relax baby, I won’t hurt you.”
When her class teacher Nancy enquired what had happened to her leg since she was limping the next day at school, she had to lie and tell she had fallen when getting off the school bus. She cried every time she went to the bathroom that day, sitting on the toilet floor, ignoring the grime, and crying till her cheeks turned red. Her buddy Fiona saw her and notified Teacher Nancy.
“Tiffany, what is wrong?”Nancy asked her after everyone had left the class, with deep concern on her face. There was something comforting about teacher Nancy, her aura was welcoming. So Tiffany spoke, told her what happened the previous night, her heart racing, her mind convincing her she was doing wrong…
“What?” Nancy exclaimed, her face turned from safe to stern. “Tiffany, why are you lying?”
“I’m not…he did… he came…” Tiffany cried, her chest heaving. “Shut up young girl, do you know who you’re talking about? Are you forgetting your father is a man of God? Do you want to tarnish his image? Now tell me, what did you do to yourself? Did a boy touch you? Was it Ian?”
When she got home on that day she locked herself up in her room. Her father kept knocking. “Tiffany, tomorrow’s your birthday! I bought you a gift and a cake to share with your classmates,” he spoke through the door. She sat on her bed, her head pounding from all the crying, her legs parted, hoping that a breath of chilly air would help alleviate her pain. For three days, she did not leave her room. That was the time she shattered her guitar. She was intending to smack herself in the head with it, but it ended up striking the wall instead. She would later inform her mother that it had fallen from the screw that held it up on the wall.
“Baby, I truly am sorry, I don’t know what got over me…Please don’t tell Mummy, I promise I’ll make it up to you,” Fichi murmured to her as she left her room, starving. She remained silent. “Promise me you won’t tell Mum?” he implored, and she agreed. “What are you going to eat for lunch? Chicken? Chips? Ice cream?” Tiffany only stared at the man who stood before her, wondering who he had become. She lacked the strength to speak.
The second time Fichi’s demons came out to play was that same year in December. He crept into her bed at 2:00 a.m. while his wife slept, exhausted from a long vacation in Watamu. He put his enormous hand over her little lips to keep her from shouting, and she battled hopelessly to extricate herself from his clutches. She attempted suicide for the first time the next morning, but just before swallowing the handful of antibiotics she held in her quivering hands, she thought to herself, “Maybe Mum will believe me.”
She moved slowly and cautiously from her room to the kitchen, cognizant of every pain in her entire body. Her mother was baking pancakes for breakfast and appeared to be in a good mood. “Good day, Tiffany! How are you?” she inquired. Tiffany burst into tears as she stood at the entrance, clutching her small pink teddy bear. Her mother, startled, walked to where she was and held her. “What’s wrong, baby?” she asked, holding her tightly. Tiffany, with her eyes closed and body shaking, narrated to her mother what her dad had done. She didn’t even notice her go away; all she heard was her shouting at the top of her lungs from the living room.
Fichi nearly killed her mother on that day. He beat her, whacked her on the head with the tea-filled thermos flask on the table, yelled at her, and pushed her to the floor. She had never seen her mother so helpless and sad. She ran into her arms and hugged her as she sobbed helplessly on the cold tiled floor.
A few weeks later, church elders visited them at home. Unlike other days, Mum did not serve tea with buns; instead, she sat on a stool near the door, while the men and women sat on her brown couches, whispering to one another. Tiffany sat on the kitchen floor, where no one could see her. Her father sat contentedly speaking with several of the elders in his tom chair. “Evil man,” Tiffany mused to herself. Elder Tobias was the one who called the meeting to order.
“Good evening, as you know, we’re all here because our mother brought us a case that we felt compelled to address. Pastor Fichi has been my pastor for many years, and I don’t want his family to be split apart by misunderstanding; additionally, what kind of reputation will that give him?” Some elders nodded, while others said quietly, “Mhhmm.” “So, Pastor Margaret, in the same way that you approached me, tell the elders here what the problem is.”
Tiffany’s heart pounded in her chest as her mother rose to speak. “Good evening, and praise the Lord. This man here, whom you know as your man of God and my husband, is a wicked man,” everyone exclaimed, and Elder Jedidah yelled, “God forbid!” “Twice he raped his own daughter!” Tiffany’s mother continued. Her visitors gasped and talked to one another, their eyes wide open. “OK, everybody calm down,” Elder Tobias remarked, rising up and motioning Tiffany’s mother to sit down. She complied. “How do you know your daughter isn’t lying, Sister Margaret?” “If you had a daughter, you would not be asking such stupid questions,” Tiffany’s mother remarked angrily, her arms folded across her chest, her feet twitching.
At the end of the meeting, it was decided that Tiffany’s mother should honour and respect her husband, rather than simply believing her daughter, who was most likely lying. After all, Pastor Fichi was a man of impeccable character who had never cheated with anyone, let alone sleep with his own child. They were all in agreement that he was not capable of such heinous behaviour. Tiffany despaired of seeing her mother sobbing softly.
Her heartbreak at seeing her mother in such pain bought her silence for the next five years. Nobody would ever believe them, and nothing would ever be done. So she lived each day terrified that her father would enter her room. Each time he vowed it would be the last time. Nonetheless, he put her on contraceptive pills. In retrospect, she believes her mother was aware of what was going on but chose to remain silent. When she thinks about it, it tears her heart, especially because she isn’t sure she should be angry with her. She attempted to run away from home multiple times, but she always returned. Her mind sometimes tricked her into believing her father was the good man everyone believed he was, and everything else was all in her imagination.
Tiffany travelled to the United Kingdom for studies a few weeks after interrupting the church service that Sunday. She severed links with her family, including her poor mother, who did everything she could to contact her. I read her blog postings and can feel her constant suffering.
My heart is broken by how much she now despises God and men. Maybe she’ll come back one day after obtaining her law degree, maybe then people will believe her and Pastor Fichi will get the retribution he deserves. Perhaps that will bring healing to her heart. But until then, we keep praying for her, as she studies and spends her days with her Nigerian wife of two years, Chinara, that she will find true freedom in the love of Christ, and that God will find her in the place she is in.
Based on a true story.
If you happen to have gone through abuse or are still going through it, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will connect you with people who can walk with you.
2 thoughts on “Underfathered”
This is a very sad story may she find peace and may God heal her. Thanks for telling this story Yvonne.God bless you.
This breaks my heart 😭
It’s sad that sometimes the people who are supposed to protect you become the cause of your nightmares