I Worked My Kids��� Childhood Away, And Sometimes I���m Not Sure It Was Worth It

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AZIZA: I was 15 when my father got me pregnant—my mother knew the baby was his. And he kept beating me. Now my one goal became to protect my baby. I had read that stress wasn’t good for the fetus. So when he was done yelling and threatening, I would go pray and meditate.

We’d moved to East Orange, and our new house was in the middle of a gut renovation with no plumbing, and I knew I would give birth at home; my father had made my mother do the same with my younger siblings. I was sitting on a Home Depot bucket with a toilet seat on top of it when my water broke. My mother laid me on a mattress on the floor. My father said not to push, but Arrishtk came flying out.

Every night we’d pile in this one room—my other siblings who would sleep around me and the three Great Danes we had at the time. And there I was with this newborn baby in my arms. Her name means “first water.” I remember looking into her eyes and just falling in love.

ARRISHTK: I vaguely remember the Great Danes. And Daddy. But I think there are a lot of things that my mind wants to forget…except the group performances—was it “Baby, One More Time”?

AZIZA: [Laughs.] Yes. You loved Britney Spears. We were always singing and dancing because Aswad was a music video director.

ARRISHTK: I do remember being called to the living room to watch him beating Mommy with a belt—and how normal it was for us to run for rags and hot water to care for her after. Like, “OK, he’s done, let’s do it!”

AZIZA: He never beat Arrishtk. I spent more sleepless nights worrying that he would sexually abuse her. He didn’t, did he, Arrishtk?

ARRISHTK: No. But if I had stayed longer, I think he would have.

Mother and daughter, torn apart

By spring of 2000 Aziza was 22 and had given birth to two more children by her father. And she’d resigned herself to being what he said she was: his sex slave. But one morning, when he was out of town, her youngest, still an infant, started having seizures. Defying Aswad’s “no doctors” rule, Aziza got her baby to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with rickets, a result of too little vitamin D and sunlight. It was a red flag that prompted social services to step in. Aziza was still too afraid to tell them about her own abuse, and on May 5 they took her children. She was devastated.

ARRISHTK: Suddenly I’m six, with my foster family, and I don’t like it there. I’m going to school for the first time. My brother and sister are with different families. And I’m just waiting, counting the days till I see Mommy for our monthly one-hour visits.

AZIZA: The caseworker told me Arrishtk was banging her head against the wall and sitting in the corner rocking back and forth, not talking or eating. I couldn’t stop crying, but I started reading books on family law, taking parenting classes—doing everything I could to get her back. After a year and a half, we worked it out so a relative would be the foster parent.

ARRISHTK: I grew up thinking Aswad was my father, but [the relative] told me, “Daddy is not your father; he’s your grandfather.” It didn’t register. At that point I had so many problems I put it in the back of my head. If anyone asked me about my father, I just said I had a single mother.

The showdown

After social services took Aziza’s children, Aswad got several different apartments, presumably to try to avoid the authorities, and the family members moved constantly between them. He still wielded control over them with threats and abuse.

AZIZA: I started working at The Limited and then at a restaurant—interacting with people for the first time was total anxiety! My father made sure all the money I made went to him. He moved in with me for a while, and I had our fourth child, KoKo. Within a year she was diagnosed with PKU, a metabolic disorder, and spinal muscular atrophy, a more serious neuromuscular disease—both inherited. That was a wake-up call. He’d been blaming me for her problems; now I realized they were due to incest. When KoKo died at age nine, it was the heartbreak of my life.

Not long after KoKo’s diagnosis, I finally stood up to him. I was 24, we were at one of the apartments, and he was about to go to bed with my sister. I was so angry I screamed, “Leave her alone!” I called him an asshole, and I went off on my mother too. I told her, “I can’t believe all of this time you have not been protecting us.” I expected my father to punch me in the face, to knock me out. But he just looked shocked and sat down in silence.

And it hit me: Oh. You’re just a punk. A coward. I realized that I had actually never seen him fight a man. He’d only victimized women and children. And this whole godlike image of him controlling everything just crumbled.

“Where’s my real daddy?”

Soon after Aziza stood up to her father, she broke off all contact. About a year later she regained custody of her three children. Arrishtk was about to turn nine.

AZIZA: When she came back, she started asking me about her father. I didn’t think she was ready. I even made up a story about a fake daddy. But one day she came to me in the kitchen—she was 13—and she’s like, “Tell me the truth now.” And the words just came out: “Aswad is your father. And he’s my father too.”

ARRISHTK: And I was like, “What?”

AZIZA: Actually she said, “I knew it.”

ARRISHTK: Yeah, well. You didn’t need to tell me any more. After my mind processed for a couple of minutes, I started calculating it in my head. I was just like, So that means he is my grandfather and also Daddy, and your sisters are my half-sisters too, and so—

AZIZA: I didn’t want to traumatize her with the hard-core stuff. But I said I was raped.

ARRISHTK: I was also angry. At him. And at Grandma [Aikasha]. Like she didn’t do anything? But at the same time, I felt even closer to Mommy.

AZIZA: We were close, especially then. I was in my twenties, and she was going into her teens, doing all the things I’d dreamed about—friends, school. I lived vicariously through her journey. She’d do her homework with me in the kitchen. That’s how I know my American history. [Laughs.] And then we would sing together, and the other kids would come join. We’d do a lot of En Vogue. I loved this old spiritual, “We Are One in the Spirit.”

ARRISHTK: Oh, there was this song—I hated her singing it, because it was about a man. Who’s it by?

AZIZA: You have to remind me.

ARRISHTK: [Hums a melody.]

AZIZA: Whitney Houston. “Saving All My Love for You.”

ARRISHTK: See! Saving your all love for him! [Both have a good, long laugh.] Our bonding times definitely helped us cope.

Getting justice

Over the next five years, Aziza married (and later divorced), bought a car, enrolled her kids in school, and at one point was juggling three jobs: as a chef in Newark, a hostess in Manhattan, and wallpapering houses on the weekend. It was a lot, but she was starting to live the life she’d always imagined for herself.

AZIZA: Around the same time I told Arrishtk the truth, my father sort of disappeared into the night. But my siblings and I started hearing that he was having children with other women, and we realized: He’s going to do the same thing to them that he did to us. So in 2006, for the first time, we reported him to the police.

One of my sisters and I were both willing to press charges and testify, so there were two trials. Hers started in 2010. He denied everything. But he was sentenced to 40 years [for charges including aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child]. I had to wait another three years for my trial. I’d gathered so much evidence for the prosecutor, but sitting in front of the jury with all these complete strangers looking at me—it felt like as soon my words came out of my mouth, they just fell apart and disappeared. Like my words had no weight.

ARRISHTK: Like they were going to believe him the way everyone had been doing the whole time.

AZIZA: Right. We had the DNA evidence [proving he was the father of my children]. But when his attorney cross-examined me, she had me write many of the things I claimed he did to me on a board. And then she went through each thing on the list, and if I hadn’t testified to it at the pretrial or told the police, she had me draw a red marker through it. The effect that had on me mentally? It was devastating. I started to question: Did this stuff really happen? I remember standing there and the tears just streaming down my face.

ARRISHTK: I was at school. But you never talked about that.

AZIZA: I wasn’t allowed to. Still, I didn’t let that attorney stop me. As I was on the stand being cross-examined, I pushed past the dread by focusing on putting him away. The idea that if I could just keep talking, he could never do what he did to me to anybody else. That drowned out everything else. I was in my bedroom when the prosecutor texted me just one word: Guilty.

ARRISHTK: When Mommy told me, I’m like, Whoosh! Party! He’s in jail, yes!

AZIZA: The shadow was gone. The sun was out. I have no love for my father. He destroyed that a long time ago. But I don’t have ill wishes for him either. In forgiving him I release myself from any power he had over me. What happens to me now is based on the choices I make for myself, and I’m so thankful for that.

ARRISHTK: For me, after finding out the things that he did? It was like, You’re not my father anymore.

Closer than ever

Aswad Ayinde was given 50 additional years in prison for charges including aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13—bringing his total sentence to 90 years. His daughters, meanwhile, are catching up on their freedom. Aziza is finishing two B.A.s at William Paterson University. Arrishtk is saving up to finish college, while focusing on a singing and acting career. They live in a ramble of a house in East Orange with Aziza’s other three children (her youngest, a son with her ex-husband), talking about their dating woes, and working on Precious Little Ladies, a nonprofit Aziza founded to support children of incest and survivors of sexual abuse.

ARRISHTK: It’s funny because when we’re out together, people are like, “Y’all sisters?” Usually we say, “No.”

AZIZA: I’m her mother. She’s my daughter.

ARRISHTK: But if we get into deep conversation with somebody, we’ll say, “Technically we are.” We are sisters. And you can see the sibling aspect in our relationship. We listen to the same music. We have girl time. We talk about guys.

AZIZA: I don’t want her to think that any mistreatment from men is OK. But it’s nerve-racking because I’m still learning what I should not be tolerating. She’s definitely less forgiving than I am.

ARRISHTK: Throughout our lives we’d talked about pretty much everything, learning from each other how to get through the trauma together. I was the first of all of us to go to school. I was able to see other people’s lives earlier than she did. So I’d tell her, “Don’t let that guy off for that,” or “You’re too good for him.” Coming out of abuse, she didn’t know her worth.

AZIZA: Honestly, I don’t need a man to be happy or complete. But, I’m a romantic.

ARRISHTK: Yeah, so am I. And we have each other. Knowing all the horror she’s gone through—it has just made my love for her stronger.

AZIZA: I look at Arrishtk and I’m so proud of her. Our relationship was part of our survival. She was my escape, my solace.

She gave me purpose.

Aziza Kibibi is the author of the self-­published book Unashamed . If someone you know has been affected by incest or sexual abuse, Precious Little Ladies offers support; RAINN can also help find counseling.

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Source : https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/mother-daughter-overcame-incest-unspeakable-123000862.html

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