I am, I was, I have been the kind of dad that was never around. So when Mandy-our daughter, came home after her holidays, I did not notice there was a change in her. June noticed. And she came to me about it.
“It is written all over, she is a completely different girl, she dresses different, walks different, has different attitudes on everything, eats different, Mark, she even looks different. You are the father here, talk to your daughter,” she stressed.
“June, your daughter is a woman now. She is deemed to change,” I pointed out.
“You think I don’t know that. I am a woman for god sakes! I know how to change to a woman, okay?!”
There was no fighting that. She obviously was more woman than I could ever be and besides, being the man in the house, I was rarely home. Either working my ass out or out drinking with friends because it is said, ‘a man should not be seen at the dinner table every night’ so yeah, I have to be a ‘man’ sometimes.
I was the most closest to our daughter. Something about what Freud said about human development. I don’t believe in half his theories but…
I had to talk to her. See what’s wrong. Yeah. My beautiful daughter. But she is my princess, she can do no wrong? I knew nothing was wrong. June was just over-reacting. I mean she was a woman now, she could take care of herself. I was proud when she joined campus.
Yet I couldn’t totally brush her fears aside. We were slowly growing apart. She no longer told me about boys she had met and who she was in love with. She never confided in me anymore. Maybe it was a part of being ‘woman’ that I had not gone through myself. I ought to confront her. At least ofr the sakes of my beautiful June.
I had to talk to Mandy.
And I needed to look for words. The right words.
Two weeks passed. I had not found yet a better approach method that would not be me intruding on her privacy or will seem weird. I mean I am a man.
“Is it that you are afraid,” June confronted me when we were in bed one night.
She was reading Catch 22 I think.
“Hey, I have everything handled baby, I have everything in control.”
“It has been two weeks.”
She was in the living room. I knew she was. She was always awake till two o’clock and sometimes the whole night. Listening to music or reading a book. Or writing things. I do not stalk my daughter.
“I haven’t found the right words yet.”
“What can be hard about approaching your daughter and asking her what is wrong?”
“The easiest questions are often the hardest to ask.”
She didn’t talk back. She shut the book and turned her head in the opposite direction.
It was time.
I got off the bed and went to the living room. She was in my favorite couch. Across the TV. It was muted but was showing a manga film.
She had earphones on and was reading a book.
I sat beside her and she removed her right plug.
“Hey,” I started.
She got back to her book.
“When I was a kid, there was a character called Might Guy, I used to love him a lot. I don’t like Manga these days, too bright. Too colorful. Too English.” I found myself speaking.
“You didn’t come here to talk about Manga and cartoon characters.”
“Do you know why we called you Mandy?”
“After Billy and Mandy. Obviously. You made me watch that thing a million times.”
“No, I called you Mandy because Mandy always spoke her mind. She didn’t give a shit about anything else. So let us cut the chase, what is wrong dear? What has changed?”
“Is it my hair?” I had most recently stopped shaving and was hoping to grow a couple of locks. You know, to rebel against life. “Is it something we said? Or you want more money? You know…”
“Dad, I was raped.” She barged in.
“What?” thoughts literally raced through my mind. Raped? Mandy? How? By whom? Did she report it? Why would anyone rape my daughter?
“It was a friend of mine.”
What the heck was she doing? You don’t break news that direct.
“Mandy, come here,” I took her and let her head rest on my chest and my right hand on her head. “Tell me what happened.”
I had missed a class. It was math and there was no way I could let it go. We had a cat coming. I barely know anyone in my class so I called this boy we were familiar with. We rarely talked but it was something.
We agreed to meet in my room. My students’ ID had not yet been processed so couldn’t access the library.
He seemed decent so for a fleeting moment, I trusted him.
He came at around six o’clock and we had a recap of my class. He actually helped my copy notes from his book and when we were done, I offered to show him out but he refused.
“I couldn’t have done all this for nothing,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“you have to pay me for this Mandy,” he said eyeing me and by now he was fingering my hand. I brushed his hand aside and reached for my purse. I didn’t see it coming.
He caught me by my waist and pushed me to the bed. I tried screaming but he had covered my mouth. He was fast. Too fast for me who had been caught off-guard.
In between muffled screams, he reached for my knife and placed it on my neck.
“Don’t make me do this Mandy… you are a reasonable girl, what do you have to lose? You sleep with everybody else, don’t you? I’ve seen how cozy you get with the artists at the school theatre. I like you, I won’t hurt you any bit.”
The world came crushing down on me. Why was this happening, to me?
“Jay, please, don’t do this. Please, I am begging you. Aki please. No need for this. You have a girlfriend, what will Vanessa think?”
“Ha-ha, you can’t compare Vanessa to you.”
“Ssssh, get your clothes off.”
“Please…” I pleaded.
“I will slit your throat fucking bitch!”
“Dad, he tied me to my own bed!” she said amid her tears that were rolling further down.
“In my own fucking room!!”
“Ssssh baby, I am here, it will be alright. Did you tell the police?”
Justice had to be served here.
“What do you mean?”
“After raping me, he forced me into the shower with him. Th… The water was so hot I feel burns of it on my skin to this day. I tried everything, but nothing could stand.”
“What about the police baby, what did they say?”
“I went to the campus police the next day. It was late at night when he left. He had also threatened me. I went anyway.” I could feel her pain when she talked. It hurt her telling me this but it would hurt her more keeping it to herself. It was the best therapy at this moment. “They called him to their office to record his statement and hear his side of the story but he denied everything, he denied ever coming to my room nor ever talking to me. Said I don’t talk to anyone in my class and when witnesses were called, they said they had never seen us together. He presented his math book to the police and when handwritings were compared to what was written in my book by him, they were totally different. He had brought a different book. But it had his name and thence my case proved weaker. I didn’t have not even one witness, no roommate, nothing tying him to my room nor even knowledge of my existence. It was a lost cause. I asked for forensic examinations of my sexual parts. They came back negative. His semen was nowhere in my
system nor was anybody’s. I had not been raped nor even had sex for three days, they said. He had carried the clothes I had on so I had nothing with his DNA. Even my friends said they had never seen him before. I had been raped in my own room by a person I knew but there was nothing proving he had done so. I lived alone, outside school hostels and had few friends from my class. There was no one who could have checked up on me and caught him in the act. I was devastated.”
“Did you try therapy?”
“Two days later, they tried breaking into my room and ‘punish’ as they put it but luckily, my neighbor came to my aid. I had one of my best friends move in with me for protection. He didn’t do nor try doing anything sinister so I was safe. He also recommended guidance and counselling and I went to the office. By the time I got around to being helped, my reputation had spread around the offices as the paranoid and weird girl that accused a boy of rape. He also wrote for one of the school magazines and he spread propaganda through it and by the end of two weeks, the whole university population mocking me and demanding action for false accusation. I was done for. No one to turn to, no one to help me out.”
“I am so sorry Mandy,” I said. “I should have been there for me. I should have come to school? I should have noticed things sooner.”
“Don’t worry dad, there were other people to help. I was pushed to the ends of my mental edges and nearly committed suicide but I had friends. I had people close to me who cared enough to force me to live. That’s all that matters now. I didn’t want to break your heart.”
“We should get you some help. I don’t want you all gloomy and sad forever. Your mother is devastated right now. I am worried. You are scarred.” I pulled her towards me and held her tighter. These were the consequences of absenteeism in parenthood. If I had been around, I could have taught her how to handle such situations. How to handle men. She was my failure.
“I will live.”
“I won’t risk anything Amanda. I have to get you the best therapists, even if it kills me. I am sorry I wasn’t there for you,” I said regretfully. I should have seen this earlier.
“You came to my help. That matters dad.”
I pulled the duvet she had wrapped herself in before I came in and covered her with it. I had my daughter back but what about parts of her that would never look at me in the same way? Look at any man in the same way?
Would there ever be justice for her?