A woman who was fostered by a Leicester family before being suddenly moved to Nigeria as a child has opened up about the trauma she faced after being abused.
Toyin Okunuga was born in Leicestershire to Nigerian-born parents who placed her in the care of foster parents.
She quickly settled into life with the Kind family, from Markfield where she made cherished memories as the “only Black girl in the village”. She was nicknamed – taken from her birthname, Basirat.
But at eight years old, she was suddenly moved back to her parents’ home country – where she was renamed, Toyin – without a chance to say goodbye to her friends and family in Markfield.
Toyin previously shared memories of growing up in Markfield with LeicestershireLive and the difficulty of adjusting after leaving. But now, in a self-published book, she reveals more to her story.
Several years after moving to Nigeria, at the age of 12, Toyin was sexually abused.
She told LeicestershireLive: “The trauma of being abused is something that stayed with me longer than I had realised myself.
“It affected my outlook on things and so many aspects of my life. So six years ago, I decided to to make some changes.”
She took measures towards “self-healing” including losing weight and spending time studying and reading.
She said: “I got into this journey of forgiving and learning – knowledge is power after all and I really got to know myself,” she said.
Having spent many years of her life keeping the abuse she suffered to herself, the process of writing her book, ‘Hush to Roar’ was a challenging one for Toyin but one that came with “therapeutic” relief.
“There are things I didn’t know I had in me – aches and pains that I hadn’t addressed,” she said.
In one chapter, which Toyin described as “important to [her] personal journey”, she interviews the perpetrator of her abuse.
“I know it was a bold move, but it was something I needed to do.
“There was no apology and I didn’t expect one. I bear no resentment, I just needed to do that so I could move forward,” she said.
The now self-published author said her end goal is to help others who may have had similar experiences.
Knowing that not everyone would have the opportunity to or want to question their perpetrator, Toyin wrote an alternative, next chapter of her journey towards forgiveness and moving on from the perspective of having not had interviewed them.
As part of her effort to help others who are dealing childhood trauma, Toyin started a dedicated series of talks and discussions hosted on Facebook.
“I want to people to know that they don’t have to be defined by what they have gone through,” she said.
Hush to Roar will be released in print and as an e-book on October 18, and can be preordered now via the dedicated website.