Child abuse survivor speaks up for women, children

Cheruth Wright is a businesswoman who enjoys encouraging women and sharing the gospel. She is also a survivor of child sexual abuse.

As with most children experiencing sexual abuse, Wright didn’t have the words to understand what was happening at the time.

“It happened while I was in primary school. It was years of primary school. I was probably in grade three. My mother had nine kids and adopted one. She was overseas working to provide for us and so there were probably seven of us living in one house. It was a tenement yard. Our big sister was in charge and sometimes she couldn’t go to school as she was looking after us,” Wright said.

“It was three different men. One was someone the pastor introduced to our family to mentor us. I now question why it wasn’t a female mentor for us as only women. We only had one brother in the house. This man became the ‘uncle’ of the family and the other two were a stepbrother of one of my sisters and a stepchild of a sister,” Wright shared.

The passing of time saw Wright being groomed until the acts eventually became sexual. At times she would doubt herself and only spoke about the situation in abstract ways or to friends in high school.

“All didn’t lead to sex but it was a lot of fondling, kissing. One started with the uncle, the mentor. He would come to get us to go for ice cream. When the stepbrothers came over on the weekend, we had to accommodate them on the bed with us at night and the fondling took place. In school I would find a one and two friends to confide in and share experiences of going through this,” she said.

But, it was not until she was getting married in 2014 that the reality of her abuse set in.

“It really affected my sex life. Sex was not pleasing and I hated certain positions. I confronted the ‘uncle’ and was about to call the stepbrothers, but my sisters said, ‘No’, I need to find counsellors to move on. So I told two of my sisters, my husband and my abuser. I told him what I was going through and said all I can do is remember what you put me through. I needed to be released from that,” she said.

However, it was in 2020 with the restrictions caused by COVID-19, that Wright decided to publicly champion the cause of women and girls.

“During COVID when everyone was locked up inside, I was reasoning with one of my friends who was molested too and we said we can’t imagine how children locked up in the house with the molesters are managing. I called my family and it wasn’t well received. They said why didn’t you talk earlier but I have always spoken about it indirectly on my WhatsApp, and funny enough another sister saw those indirect messages once and reached out to me saying the same men did the same to her after I left the dwelling,” she said.

Since then, Wright has attended a Women of Destiny group training to help abused women move forward.

She said seeing the number of women who attended the workshop made her realise the magnitude of sexual abuse and propelled her to be more bold in her advocacy.

“We need help and some of us are not strong enough. We need someone to hold our hands. For those going through — tell somebody, go to the police, confront the abuser when you’re strong enough. Find help. The songwriter says I’d rather be a free girl in my grave than to live as a puppet or a slave. The answer is not to live in stress or as a slave. Find freedom through whichever means whether it is to talk to God, talk to a strangers, whatever means.

She also had advice for women in physically abusive situations.

“Find a job and leave the situation, you’re more empowered when you earn your own money. Get out. That’s the only answer,” she said.

Wright also has a message for children and parents.

“Speak up if you’re touched inappropriately. Parents, don’t let your children sit in adults’ laps. I remember being in a bus and was molested because the bus was full and the person who had me asked someone if they could hold me and all the man did was use his knee to rub against my vagina. Also don’t allow children to play dolly house. Those things lead to inappropriate touching,” she said.

Moreover, Wright said that there needs to be a more comprehensive punishment for sexual abusers.

“I don’t want the death penalty for them. They need to do time, publicly apologise, do community service and they need to say what they did, why they got time and where they are now. I’d love to see them start an anti-molestation and abuse movement and assist and instill in youth why this is wrong. Reinforce to themselves and others why these things aren’t right. Upon assessment, if they don’t change – they go back to prison and stay there,” she said.

Wright intends to start a homeless feeding programme, work with teenage mothers and hopes to one day work closely with the Ministry of Gender. She also used her Instagram page @ godisagoodfaher_cheruthspeaks to encourage people.

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