Priscilla Musonda Schaufelberger knows what it's like to be a victim of gender-based violence and child abuse and has made it her life's work to help others break the cycle. The Priscilla Schaufelberger Home of the Abused Foundation (PSHAF) helps children and women who have broken free pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
The Zambian activist suffered a lifetime of abuse from her father, a figure who was supposed to protect her. She recently shared her story with Gender Links.
Priscilla's father started raping her when she was just five years old. He told her to keep their secret from everyone, even her grandmother. Her ordeal continued until her family realised that there was a problem when she was 11 years old. "I grew up knowing that love hurts because that is what l felt between my legs. And that which was inflicted to me by my father," says Priscilla.
The young girl was always difficult and prone to fighting. Everyone thought she was spoilt and stubborn. Even her teachers didn't pay much attention to her, which made her act out even more. Priscilla's uncle, a police officer who lived in another city, took her to live with him in an attempt to straighten out her unruly behaviour. For the young girl, this was a blessing; a chance to finally escape her life of sexual slavery.
Priscilla's relief at escaping her tormentor was shortlived, as her mother arrived a few days later with a plane ticket to take her back home. Not really aware of the true nature of Priscilla's troubles, her uncle sided with her parents and Priscilla was left with no option but to return home.
"My mother encouraged her husband to officially marry me and l had four children and one abortion and became his fourth wife. I had no choice and knew that this will be my life. Born to marry my father, and sharing him with all his wives. All three women had no voice to stop him."
Priscilla gave birth to four children during this time.
Eventually, Priscilla had had enough and reported her father to the police. He was arrested and charged with incest. In a case that was widely publicised in Zambia, Priscilla's father was acquitted after her mother testified that he was not her biological parent. But the die was cast and Priscilla was finally free.
She eventually married a Swiss national and lived in Switzerland for 13 years. During this time, she lost two of her children but also wrote her autobiography, Stolen Childhood, The 3Cs. The couple have a foster daughter, Agness, who has been with them since the age of two. She is now 13 years old.
Today, Priscilla is using her own trauma to help countless other women and children start over. She is a fervent advocate for the rights of women and children in her native country.
* Priscilla's story was first published by Gender Links