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Ms. Elle: I Was Abused

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This is the story of how I was emotionally and psychologically assaulted by my supervisor. I write this narrative at a time when I am in a good place. I finally opened up to my family and thankfully they did not castigate me, as I thought they would. I have also asked God to forgive me if I played any role in encouraging it. It all started when my married supervisor made sexual advances towards me during a field trip which required a sleepover in the field.

When I was first introduced to my supervisor – let’s call him Dr. A – I was fascinated by his achievements. I found he had a lot of publications in reputable scientific journals and I was quick to judge him as hardworking, talented and focused. I admired his work ethic and felt blessed to have a supervisor who was research oriented and was interested in his student’s work. He was married with kids, so I admired that he was an all rounder who could balance work-family life. I was completely blindsided regarding his other side because I only saw good in him and talked a lot about him to my family. Everyone at home liked him and was happy for me. My bubble burst after some 18 months of working with him during that field trip.

Dr. A deceived me and convinced me that it would be better if we shared a hotel room just to save cost. He said that he and a female colleague had once shared a room to save cost during a trip abroad, that it was all to save cost. Let’s just say I was gullible. Sadly, he changed during that trip and I saw another side to him. After we checked in the hotel, he came across and hugged me tightly and lingered for like a few seconds. I knew it was inappropriate and I was shocked, just staring. I remember him saying my work was progressing and that I would get my doctorate soon and he was smiling sheepishly. At that point I felt trapped, like how did I allow someone deceive me at this point in my life.

I guess he decided to respect himself when he saw I wouldn’t oblige him. It was very late at night and I was in unfamiliar terrains with no money to escape. I remember cringing to a corner of the bed and sleeping with one eye open. I was up by 4am and we set out around 5am. I didn’t talk about it; I chose to forget it because I felt so guilty knowing his intentions weren’t clean towards me and I felt like an accomplice.

I later came to know that not speaking up is a very dangerous thing because it affects you especially mentally and emotionally and things can only get worse. That was the beginning of my troubles with my supervisor. Because I chose to keep quiet and pretend that his inappropriate hug didn’t happen, he started to demand to see me more. At first I didn’t know that was what he was doing. He would tell me he preferred to attend to students in the evenings after work. I didn’t realise it was a trick to get close to me. I lived in a campus hostel so it was easy to show up anytime he sent for me.

The next time I saw him after the field trip he attempted to hug me again and tried to kiss me. I remember deflecting my face, shifting away from the embrace and asking ‘sir, hope you are not having feelings towards me’. He asked me, ‘what about you’. I told him, ‘sir, you are my mentor, you are married’. Then he went on about how I was his friend, his confidant, that marriage didn’t stop him from doing anything, that he had had extramarital relations in the past, that he wasn’t a saint… bla bla bla. I guess I shot myself in the leg by not speaking up the first time. Again, I felt so guilty like the devil’s advocate.

Had my morals dropped so much that I could tolerate such abominable behaviour and not admonish it immediately? Was I afraid that if I spoke up he would hate me and use it against me to stall my progress? I was raised a stern, conservative girl and I had encountered wayward married men accost me during my NYSC, and I would bluntly tell them off daring any consequences. So why was it so hard to tell this predator off and report him? I don’t know. Perhaps I was timid. Perhaps I blamed myself and felt it was my fault. He always made me feel grateful for whatever form of assistance he rendered regarding my research progress which in the real sense is his obligation to his student. After the second harassment in his office, I sought counsel with my spiritual adviser, who said I should write him a letter if I couldn’t confront him in person, documenting how I am not a party to such behaviour and will prefer a professional work relationship from him. I did that and Dr. A said sorry, saying all he wanted was for me to grow professionally and get my doctorate.

I guess it was one of those things I thought I could handle myself. I thought I was being diplomatic, mature and emotionally intelligent. I thought that by writing that letter I had put him in check but I was wrong. What came next were bouts of aggressiveness from him. He would complain about everything I did. If I didn’t tell him before going to field, he would complain and torment me psychologically. I would worry and worry thinking what did I do wrong. If I didn’t ask him about work or something he had told me about, he would complain. He always found fault in everything I did even when I knew I didn’t do anything wrong.

His behaviour was contradictory and I would say psychotic, as he would still want to be close to me, telling me all sorts of inappropriate things and because I didn’t want to offend him, I would just keep quiet and hear. The one time I told him to stop telling me things he wasn’t supposed to tell me, he said I was rude and that I should be careful, that such behaviour can affect me even in marriage. Imagine him trying to give me marriage advice. I would shake my head internally. He would say he didn’t have anyone to talk to, and would talk negatively about his wife. I guess he thought it was okay to say such offensive things to me because he knew I was a mumu who would keep quiet no matter what.

He would ask me personal questions and I would stupidly answer. He would always want to hug me and when I told him to stop hugging me he was angry with me. In spite of all these, I still tried to respect him, I worked for him and still called him sir to maintain professional barriers, but deep down I knew better than to respect or trust such a vile human being. I was never truly happy; I was depressed and always wore an unconscious frown. I always felt guilty, confused, ashamed, and afraid. Many times I couldn’t concentrate on my research because I was constantly worrying.

This abusive behaviour spanned for two years until I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. I garnered boldness to first block him from all social media platforms. After noticing he wasn’t picking my calls anymore I knew the battle had begun. I told my mum and from there my dad and rest of my siblings knew. They were so angry with him because all this while I had only said good things about him. Then they were angrier with me for not trusting them enough to talk to them and bottling up so much inside. I felt a lot of relief telling them. They encouraged me to report to my senior professor in the department if he tries such behaviour again.

Meanwhile, I later confronted him verbally for the first time and he accused me of being rude again but this time I didn’t apologise for it. I have cut off all social contact so I only communicate by SMS or if he calls. I do not go to his office for unwarranted reasons any longer and I make more excuses to be far away from him as possible.

The day I report Dr. A is approaching and will probably make for another article but for now I am happy, I have reconciled with God and my family. I do not blame myself anymore for another person’s shameless behaviour. I will not tolerate such abominable behaviour ever again. I am bolder and will not worry about being rude because I have a right to be. I do not even care anymore if my programme is affected. Perhaps this was not the right place to get a doctorate after-all as I believe I have more potential than this school deserves, but I have come far and won’t let someone bully me out of the programme.

I thank God that the predator never had his way with me but I must say the psychological/emotional trauma ran deep, it was difficult to ease. I am still living and learning, and my story is still being written.

Is there anyone with a similar experience? How did you overcome abusive, manipulative and predatory seniors?

***image used for illustrative purposes and not of the writer

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Ms. Elle is a scientist by day and an aspiring relationship and lifestyle writer by night. She enjoys listening to people's stories, public speaking, traveling and catching bugs.. She likes staying optimistic and plans to launch her own website someday. You can reach her via email, [email protected]"

26 Comments

  1. @edDREAMZ

    December 14, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    Too long abeg… Sorry shah….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  2. Adetola

    December 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Back in OAU ile ife, I was in my 400 level and I was not sure I had graduate with a 2:2. So I picked up a pen and calculated all of my grades and it occurred to me that if I had 4B’s in my final semester I would finish with a 2:4 which was the lowest grade you have to attain. Did I put in the work? Hell yes. I had 3B’s then i was left with one more B. Finally the result came out and I had a 58C. Oh God I cried my eyes out. Then I went to the Course Lecturer Dr Mosobolaje to discuss if he could remark my work because I did read so well and I was expecting even an A.
    Fortunately I saw him sitting at his desk, his legs on his table. I lodged my complaints to him and he looked at me from head to toe, he said and I quote “You have no breast and no butt there is nothing you can offer me” so therefore I cannot remark your work” . He went on to say you can give me a blow job you know and I would change your score right now. He was about to ask for my Matric number when my instincts said to jet out of his office. See thing is I was sexually abused as a child for 5 years and I was still dealing with the trauma by myself so I knew not to let someone take advantage of me ever again.
    I never went back to his office and in all I finished with a third class.
    However, I have gone ahead to attain another degree in Law at a reputable University here in England and I finished with a 2:1 and currently pursuing my masters and my first assessment result is out and I had a 70%. So I knew I could do better without seeking no ones help but myself and God’s.
    I say all of this to say his I understand where the author is coming from but I just had a better chance at shutting it down. Never ever feel bad for someone else’s dirt behaviour. Make peace with yourself and watch God fight for you. Xo

    • wowza

      December 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Story of my life too. The girl child needs to be aware of “these things” and less naive!

      Engr. Onyeka IMSU structure’s lecturer- I ditched that university for you and moved on to a better one !

      Life is gooooooood.

    • purplieciousbabe

      December 14, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      nawahoooo…

      When you respect they over do it. Foolish men.
      Point ,I don’t blame you at all oo.
      I just thank God the ‘yeye’ man will have his own fair share…

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      December 14, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      I love the ending to both your stories, @Adetola & @wowza, And yes, please – write their names out in full.

      Capitalize it sef in bold letters, so that it may be publicly stated that such a Dr. or Professor or Engineer or worreva dem dey call am, is a sexual predator. Since they’ve chosen the path of shamelessness, then let this be known to friends, foe and family alike.

      NAME and SHAME them all.

  3. Darius

    December 14, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    It scares me to death to think that someday, I’m gonna have daughter, and some he-goat will try to harass.

    • Darius

      December 14, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      … a daughtet…

  4. Anon

    December 14, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I hate to blame you for this but all the signs were there from the get go. The first warning ign was when he suggested you share a hotel room on your field trip. It doesnt take a genius to realise he was making advances at you at that point. That was your chance to shut him down but you didnt. You had a lot of chances through out the whole incident. Yes He was your professor but from what I read he didnt even have that much power over you or your assignment. I dont think you should blame him. Yes he’s an idiot of man who cheats on his wife and should be castrated but you let yourself down. Your focus at all times should me on you. Your focus should forever be your safety, peace of mind, sanity and well being over anything else.

    You could have told your parents earlier but you chose not to.
    I was disappointed with the advice your spiritual councillor gave you. You told him/her you were being abused and he/her told you to write a letter. A letter. You could have been raped anything could have happened yet you chose to listen to someone who told you to write a letter. Who letter don ep?

    There are people you could have reported this whole issue to. It shouldnt have gone on for as long as it did. I sense some insecurity and low self esteem. and I think although you felt guilty a part of you liked the attention but you were confused at the same time. Which is understandable.

    You need to work on your self esteem and encourage those around you to speak up and shut things like this down the moment a man in a position of influence tries to miss use his influence.

    I wish you all the best.

    • tunmi

      December 14, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      I am trying so hard not to insult you.

    • Cocolette

      December 14, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      Lol…bless you, Tunmi!

    • Huh

      December 14, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      ??????? Is it that some Nigerians don’t know how abuse works? You’re so full of yourself and I’m sure you think you’re better than everyone. With your super smart and holier than thou self, what have you managed to achieve in life? The same women that insult Toke but if we check their own partners are cheating on them Andrea dishing out more abuse

    • Sa

      December 14, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      You’re an idiot…victim shamming like a nincompoop incapable of rational thought kmt

    • tunmi

      December 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      This was someone she held in high regards. This was someone she never thought would betray her in such a way. The only person to blame here is the man. He was the one who proposed they sleep in the same room. He is the one who abused his authority and influence. I have shared a room with my family members and non-faith members. It makes no sense to think that someone you trust like a mentor would make advances to you. It’s unhealthy.

      She was trying to make sense of it all. It takes a while. I’m glad you would have the fortitude to immediately tell your family members. Not all have that, men and women. I’m glad she did tell them and they showed no prejudice. I will agree with you that the Spiritual Counselor didn’t ha due it well. I hope we make progress on that. Perhaps when the writer is mentally up for it, she can have that discussion with the spiritual counselor.

      She has insecurity issues and low self esteem. She liked the attention. <— absolutely bull. THIS MAN VIOLATED HER TRUST. I can't imagine one of my professors doing that. I would hate to imagine what her mind was going through: how could he/he's my mentor/I aspire to be like him/is this what I have to deal with in this field/ohmygod who do I tell/how do I tell/what do I do?

      Her writing this encourages people to speak up. She blames herself enough, let's not continue that.

      TO THE USELESS PROFESSOR AND OTHERS LIKE THIS PERSON, STOP FUCKING WITH THE MINDS OF PEOPLE. STOP ABUSING YOUR AUTHORITY. DO YOUR JOB AND GO HOME!!

    • See

      December 14, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Who you epp? Mschew. Anon sanctimonious. Mschew. I have to hiss a third time to prevent myself from saying anything further to you. Mscheeeewwwwww!

    • See

      December 14, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Infact you are a wicked person.

  5. Truth 27

    December 14, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Change your supervisor ! Have you never thought of changing your supervisor or even your Uni(last resort). Life doesnt end & begin with that particular lecturer! And you dont have to tolerate all that you have been thru! You have written a letter, you spoke to him about it yet no solution. So detach your self from him !

  6. Dr. N

    December 14, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I dont know why your spiritual adviser told you to write a letter
    He should have intervened on your behalf
    Can you request another sipervisor?
    Dont wait for him to rape u. Blow it open. Record or video his next attempt and duplicate it bcos believe me, he will keep trying
    Btw…u are no mumu
    Cheers

    • The real D

      December 14, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      Maybe spiritual counsellor was thinking of paper trail.. I.e in case Oga supervisor wan deny something paper trail can prove otherwise. Instead of it becoming a “he said, she said” situation.

  7. Dr. N

    December 14, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    *supervisor*

  8. dr.

    December 14, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Dear, I don’t know what sort of research you are doing but if it is STEM you really don’t have problems. Believe in yourself focus on your research and get your doctorate.

    I was bullied throughout my research in UK. They went to the extent of mixing up my samples but God pass them and I got my degree.

    The first mistake I made was to report without evidence. Departmental colleagues stand with their own you will make your life miserable especially if he is well respected

    However when you have documented evidence they are forced to act so you don’t go to the police. Record all your meetings, every conversation don’t shut him up when he harasses you just keep a record of everything. If things get out of hand and you report it is not hear say.

    I wish you the best in your endeavours. I have a PhD in Molecular Biology/Neuroscience. No one taught me anything. The only thing my supervisors did really was read my thesis. I taught myself my methodology through trial and error. I had to work extra hard but I am proud of the confidence boost it gave me. If you need help write to other researchers who publish in top journals in your field. They are mostly willing to guide you. He is your supervisor not your God.

    I a pray a lot that helped me put up with the lies schemes and physiological trauma. Two of lecturers resigned when they heard rumours that I had documented evidence of their harrasment.
    I didn’t have evidence but I learnt the rules to their game.

    Worst case scenario change schools. A PhD is hard enough without dealing with idiotic people

  9. Sultana

    December 14, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Sis, i get you and i see how easy it is to fall prey to predators like this one. This could have been me too, I’m also quiet like that esp toward authority figures. im learning to speak out now. Please don’t berate yourself. Thank God you spoke out and that’s the first healing step. You will overcome and your hard work thus far will not be in vain.

  10. molarah

    December 14, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    I’m so glad you had the courage to move from this experience and share it on this platform, and particularly because you took time out to mention the areas where you realized you didn’t take action soon enough, so others can learn. It is good we ladies share these experiences so that younger women can learn to take bold action when facing abuse. Please folks, share this post with your younger sisters, teenage daughters, etc. so they can read and learn. There are so many young women hanging around and accepting nonsense from these perverts because they naively think these men hold the keys to their lives and can destroy them if they stand up for themselves. Imagine a married man, a scholar with widely published works, with so much to lose, having the audacity to try this kind of nonsense?? It’s only because he’s sure his secret will not be spilled. The more we speak up, name and shame, the faster this scourge of abuse in our society will end.

  11. No no NO!!!

    December 15, 2016 at 4:07 am

    I don’t think said writer has self esteem issues….. I fault her on agreeing to share hotel room with the lecturer. I have never being the trusting type. I’m sure shock was the reason she didn’t tell her family.

    For the ladies that mentioned the names of lecturers, a billion blessings and goodwill I send to you. People dropped out of schools, changed schools, couldn’t graduate with good grades , compromised themselves because of idiots like that . Thank God for social media!!!! You shame them in return even if it’s done in anonymity.
    What irks me is when they become pastors and develop selective amnesia. Before or after being born again, you know when you are doing wrong……. So please don’t make excuses about not knowing…… That’s a freaking lie!

    BN Mbok, ejo, biko, pretty please post my comment.

  12. jennietobbie

    December 15, 2016 at 5:33 am

    This generation of men and women standing up for themselves and stripping off “cultural expectations” “shame” and “silence”….I applaud you!!!

    The first step has been attained…you broke your silence AND wrote about it. Proud of you, sis!!!!

  13. Yets

    December 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Dear dr.
    I was wondering if you will be interested in mentoring me, I am doing a degree in medical bioscience in London.

    Thanks
    Yets.

  14. Exuniben

    December 18, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Dr. Onyeobi. Department of Geology. Shame on you!!

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