About MEMU MCCOYMemu's Story
The innocence of my childhood abruptly came to a halt when I was seven years old. Growing up in a single parent household, my mother took me to live with her uncle….
A Story of survival
I Suffered in Silence
Not only did I have to adjust to being away from my mother and siblings, but shortly into my new living arrangements my mother’s Uncle began to molest me. I was fearful of him and obeyed his strong warnings in silence. Failure to comply with any of his demands resulted in physical beatings, which heightened my fear to speak of his violating behaviors.
As a result, I suffered abuse until I was 13 years old. I suffered in silence and cried for nights for my mother to come and rescue me. I turned to food to comfort my pain and became overweight. As a young child, I was expecting adults to recognize the pain and suffering I was feeling, I felt invisible. I thought no one detected that I was being abused. This was a devastating feeling, knowing my mother’s Uncle was a Pastor and a Principal, both prominent and trustworthy positions in society which guide others to live wholesome lives.
The confusion it created within me was overwhelming and left me suffering with shame in silence. Having no one to turn to, I knew I had to keep peace and developed a nature that strives to please people to gain acceptance. All I wanted was to feel loved, protected and cared for, but knew what my Mother’s Uncle was doing to me was not love. My self esteem suffered along with developing a lack of self advocacy.
EXPERIENCING UNTHINKABLE TRAUMA
Sold as a Child Bride
At the age of 13, during the first cease fire in Liberia, under the disguise of a dowry, I was bought as a child bride for $2,500 by a UN worker at the end of his contract. In returning to his country, Sri Lanka, I was abruptly removed from everything and everyone I ever knew. At this point in my life, I recognized my identity was completely gone at the demand of others.
At seven years old my name was changed by my mother’s Uncle, and by 13 my age and Country were changed. I was now considered an 18 year old (my passport was forged) and a wife, known as Rita Williams living in Sri Lanka far from my Mother, siblings and relatives. Along with the loss of identity, I lost my confidence and opportunity to bond and develop attachments to my siblings. My self awareness was shattered and I learned to be a people pleaser because I felt so alone in this world. Any form of resistance on my part resulted in physical battery. I craved a sense of belonging. I felt betrayed and trapped keeping everyone else’s secret of wrong doings while I suffered to survive.
OVERCOMING THE UNIMAGINABLE
From Child Bride to Child Advocate
Continuing with the lies of adults, I arrived in Sri Lanka with the promise of finishing school and then was denied the right to receive an education and develop an age appropriate healthy sense of belonging. I was 13 ready to go to school, but expected to be 18 and a wife with all wifely duties. There was nothing more riveting than my feelings of loneliness in a strange world feeling powerless, abandoned and scared for what was to come. I had no reason to believe that anyone would come to my aid and rectify all these events that put my life in constant chaos. Based on the lack of acknowledgement of my situation by others, I didn’t feel people cared enough about me which resulted in me feeling undeserving. To console myself I often stole away bathroom time where I just cried until I could regroup to feel strength to carry on. The ability to advocate for myself was never nurtured and further suppressed by the circumstances I endured.
At 15 years old, I became rebellious after repeatedly experiencing the put downs of being held accountable to an 18 year old’s physique in an adolescent body. These insults on top of countless lies, manipulations and deceit began to develop an anger within me. I was desperate for freedom and knowledge. I wanted to break free of the silence, pain and suffering. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to feel special.
At 16 years old, I decided it was time to stand up for myself, so I ran away and desperately tried to reconnect with my family in Liberia. My journey to migrate back to Liberia was long and complicated with legal issues that arose from passport discrepancies to reestablishing my individuality and to identify as a 21 year old single adult. With the assistance of a young man from England, I had met in Sri Lanka, my strength flourished as he loved and advocated for me.
I was able to leave Sri Lanka and found freedom in Canada. I began to find my voice and self worth. I was hungry for knowledge and embarked on the journey of academic pursuit at the age of 21 with only a 5th grade education. I was able to obtain my GED and while being a single parent I managed to get my Bachelors of Arts in Child and Youth Care Counseling. This degree was carefully sort out as it sparked my interest and became the culmination of my emotional turmoil as it counseled me back to whole. It was at this point in my life I realized school, my instructors and professors became the structure and adult mentors that provided the safety and impartial knowledge to help me heal and develop a stronger sense of myself. I felt empowered to share my knowledge and experiences to assist others in understanding and advocating against emotional and sexual abuse. Continuing my thirst for knowledge, to better serve those who experienced trauma, I have earned a Masters of Arts in Mental Health Counseling and founded MEMU Inspires LLC and MEMU Cares Inc. (501c3) to support the needs of creating a safe place to build awareness, intervention and recovery for others.