Halima Layeni- Her Life After Abuse
I am filled with so much excitement today because I can look back and gratefully say that I have come a long way. Before 16/11/2016, I was just merely existing but I am grateful that day happened for me- I found PURPOSE. I remember early hours of that day, I got a message from the star of this blog post, telling me she would love me to join her for an outreach as a volunteer later in the day only if her friend decides to cancel. I couldn’t pray directly for her friend to cancel but all I told God was to give me the opportunity to make it to the event. I have been a secret admirer of her works so I saw it as a platform to encourage her. Fortunately, by 7a.m, my participation was approved and that was the beginning of my new life.
To wrap up my high school anniversary series, I have the honour of having Miss Halima Layeni (HL) as the guest for this blog post. A very good friend of mine and the inspiration behind me discovering myself. She is the Founder of Life After Abuse Foundation and an internationally recognized activist. The truth is her story came as a shock to me because while we were in school, she showed so much strength in her approach to life. I am grateful she gave CIB the opportunity to share her story of survival to the world. Have a pleasant read dearest one.
CIB: Tell us about Halima Layeni.
HL: I am a relentless survivor of sexual violence and an incandescent Child
Rights Advocate against sexual violence. From my first-hand experience, I
kick-started an NGO “Life After Abuse Foundation,” a platform I use to
raise awareness about sexual violence and post-traumatic recovery, with
requisite medical, psychological and legal support to marginalized
adolescent survivors. I strongly believe in a world where every child, regardless of gender, social class, race or religion can live free of fear
CIB: I had the opportunity of being your friend while in high school and you
showed strength in character and in living but I was shocked to see your
survival story on Linda Ikeji’s Blog. Kindly share your experience of
sexual abuse as a child.
HL: My experience of sexual abuse started when I was about six years old and continued until I was about eleven. Most of the culprits were friends and family members who were meant to protect me. Throughout my life, I have been abused by six people – five men and one woman.
My first subjection to abuse was the longest and nastiest. The perpetrator was a son of a close family friend who molested me for over four years. He would invite me to his room, take off my clothes and underwear and start touching my genitals. If he wasn’t getting the satisfaction he desired, he would strip himself and attempt penetration.
Though he never threatened me about telling anyone, I kept it to myself
nonetheless. Worse still, I was too ashamed to share it with my mother or
anyone else since it was exactly what she had been protecting me. It became
a normal routine for me and I just never struggled with him or try to stop
I used to feel intense pain in the mornings, particularly during bathing:
it hurt so badly. I often cried all by myself in the bathroom, and when I
was done having my bath, I would wipe my face and pretend nothing was wrong.
At eleven years of age, I was already well exposed and experienced enough
to stand up for myself whenever anyone tried to take advantage of me. My
relative had a son who was around his mid-twenties at the time, who always
came to try to touch me sexually. I initially gave in to him because of my
history of sexual abuse but eventually got absolutely fed up over time. I
was in fact always irritated by his advances because we were related.
That was the breaking point for me- I made up my mind to stop anyone from
ever abusing me again. The obsession of my own relative had now laid the
platform for me, and I built on it. I came to realize that every touch,
every kiss I ever got or gave was wrong. I started to realize that
everything that had been going on in my life was not right. I suddenly
realized that in all my life so far, people had merely been taking undue
advantage of me, and then I decided resolutely that no one would ever exact
such satisfaction of me again.
For a very long time, I did not want to be alive because of my scars. I was
suicidal and always angry at everything and anyone who couldn’t relate to
the fact that I was angry at life. I had to struggle with pain, rejection,
depression, hate, anger, and unforgiveness.
After all my bad experiences and all the struggles I had going on in my
life, I looked at my life and came to the conclusion that I was a total
failure. I focused on my weaknesses. Even when I had the courage to do
something, I often expected it to not turn out well, so I never tried. I
had the mind of a failure, I had the attitude of a failure, so I failed at
The first 19 years until my healing were the most challenging. I chose to
let my abuse mould me into someone I could never be proud of. It was a deep
cut. It was easy to blame everything I was on my experience as a bitter
person and give excuses for it. To an extent, my abuse was the reason to be
the way I was; but I had a choice to either play by the rules and blame it
on society, or redefine my life and start thinking differently.
CIB: Why did you choose to open up considering the fact that you live in Nigeria?
HL: My healing came with so much power. I like to consider my life a miracle. At age 21, I had completely recovered from pain and trauma and I just simply wanted to share that with the world and redefine what life after abuse should mean.
This part of the world is particularly overly judgemental because we are
mostly governed by culture and tradition. This sometimes poses a threat to
speaking our own truth and telling our stories. A lot of people go around
wearing plastic smiles, sitting out their pain, feeling alone and
struggling in silence. It is imperative for us to have these honest
I decided to go ahead with sharing my story given the current circumstance
at the time because I had been groomed very early in life to act upon what
is right and based on personal convictions as opposed to the shallow
opinions of others.
CIB: The healing process must have been a whole lot, right?
HL: The healing started for me when I forgave myself for everything I had made myself go through. All my life since my healing, I had made myself pay for someone else’s mistake. I realized that true forgiveness comes from within: the ability to forgive myself was enough for me to finally see the light.
I got in total control of my life and how I wanted to feel and I
deliberately chose not to be miserable; I chose to live a normal life, fed
my soul with healing things and stayed dedicated to them. Day after day, I
convinced myself that I was not a victim but a overcomer.
I redefined my life and accepted my story. I couldn’t change a thing about
what had happened so I stopped worrying about it.
I found myself. This was the most beautiful part of my healing process
because when I fell in love with myself, I became indestructible. When you
genuinely love yourself, you’re happy, you’re content, you’re at peace. I believed in myself and everything I stood for. I started focusing on my strength and gradually my life began to take a new turn. I discovered my purpose, set realistic goals for myself, and followed my dreams tenaciously.
Getting over my abuse was a huge step, but it was a stepping stone to
getting over other issues in my life. My abuse had laid the foundation of
strength and power. I am at a very good place in my life right now.
CIB: How has the journey of Life After Abuse Foundation been so far?
HL: It’s been an amazing journey. In the space of 14 months, we have empowered over 1,300 youths in mostly state schools and rural communities. Our focus are the marginalised group because they are the most vulnerable to sexual violence with limited or no access to basic needs. They are ignorant of
their human rights and as a result, settle in pain and violence overtime.
We have uncovered 128 cases of child sexual abuse some of which are
currently undergoing pshychological support. We organise campaigns
occasionally to drive more progressive conversations on the menace of abuse
Some of the challenges we face are having survivors back out of
psychosocial support last minute due to the baseless stigma and unfair
stereotype in the society. Some adolecent survivors deny their stories out
of fear and protect the abusers who happen to be their benefactors. For the
most part, we face parental oppositions as a result of sociocultural
factors. Moreso, the limited social support centres, resources and ineffective structures contributes largely to low productivity. This could be discouraging sometimes but with the collective effort of the Government, NGOs, youths and stakeholders working in the same space, raising awareness and taking action, a safe and socially healthy community for all can be created.
CIB: I noticed you are a different kind of activist because you also have
projects on boy child abuse, what inspired that?
HL: In 2016, I was selected as a fellow at the Carrington Youth
Fellowship Initiative. I worked alongside four extremely talented youths
under the Civil Liberties group. We were driven by the desire to create
something different and address an issue that’s overlooked by virtually
every society – Male Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). At the time, when sexual
abuse is mentioned, people assume it’s an abuse of the female gender and we
wanted to change that notion.
The myth and socialization that males cannot be sexually abused and should
never show weakness have led to a very heavy silence on the issue of Male
CSA and contributes directly to the vulnerability of the male child.
We realized that the idea that a male child can take care of himself causes
a certain relaxation of vigilance which makes him an easy target to sexual
predators. When abused, he has no one to turn to for assistance, and even
where he does, he is reluctant to be perceived as weak and would rather
suffer in silence.
Worse still, some young males see abuse as an achievement of sorts,
bragging about it to their peers and further spreading the message that
sexual abuse (usually when done by females) is the norm, a rite of passage
even. Project Boys Under Protection (BoyUP) was established with the vision to raise awareness on the existence, prevention, effects and consequences of Male CSA.
CIB: Are there times you wished you didn’t speak up?
HL: I am so very thankful for the opportunity to walk this path and to be able
to share my story. I would never trade it for anything in the world.
CIB: For every lesson, there is a blessing. Please, what are the highlights of your journey since LAAF?
HL: Highlights of my journey would be hearing a survivor say they can too
because of me and receiving the United States Consul General, Lagos award
as the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative Fellow of the year.
CIB: What challenges do survivors like you face?
HL: One common challenge survivors face is the courage to rise above their
pain. Recovery truly begins with the decision and the unrelenting desire to
Another challenge is gaining access to professional help. Sometimes, what
one needs is simply having someone to talk to. While Nigeria is yet to put
therapeutic structures in place, we can explore the option of speaking to a
trusted friend about our struggles. It helps.
CIB: What do you think can be done to reduce the rate of sexual violence?
HL: The popular notion that boys and men should never show signs of weakness has encouraged the culture of power, privilege and entitlement. There is also the prevalence of emotional and psychological instability among men associated with this notion which eventually results in toxic masculinity.
This explains why a large proportion of perpetrators are men. Lasting change can only be effected when men begin to lend their voice and get involved; when they begin to redefine masculinity, challenge the values that has been passed down to them and change the narratives on what it truly means to be a man; when they recognize that to be a man is to be human; to feel, to be vulnerable, sensitive and emotional.
By doing so, they are pledging to stand with and for women and girls, they
are righting the wrongs of all men by acknowledging that men traumatize
women through wrongful normalized actions, knowingly and unknowingly and
they are taking a stand to change that. They are pledging to put an end to
rape culture, fear and all forms of violence against women and girls.
By doing so, they are declaring a yes to love, respect, compassion, tolerance, support, consent, safety, liberty, equality, inclusion, empowerment, justice and progress for all women and girls.
HL: There is absolutely nothing we go through in life that we cannot completely recover from if only we are willing to let ourselves. Don’t let your pain make you think otherwise, pain fades, life gets better, it does. Truly.
You can be a survivor and lead a fulfilling life. You can be a survivor and be
happiest person in the world. You can be a survivor and have a successful
career. You can be a survivor and be the best thing that can ever happen to
a man or woman.
Thank God we do not look like what we have been through. I hope you are inspired to live life the right way no matter how bitter your experience may be.
I know someone reading this may be a victim. I hope you heal soon. To any abuser or intending abuser reading this, I hope you know that there is no gain in your venture and more importantly, the law awaits you.
Thank you so much for reading to this point. I wish you and yours the best as the year comes to an end.
Till the next post, don’t forget to be a blessing.
With love from,