The recent surge of rape and molestation in Nigeria seem to have sparked my interest, especially because I was a repeat victim of this societal degradation; yet the lackadaisical attitude with which this menace is treated is disturbingly sad. Culprits seem to have graduated from committing this act secretly to videoing the scene and broadcasting it for the world to see.
This dimension should be paid close attention to before we loose it! I have wondered if it is when the situation becomes as unbearable, rampant, and seemingly unsolvable as it is now the case in India before we wake up to our collective responsibility and fight this menace? Or is it when a daughter, sister, niece or aunt becomes a victim before we make noise? Won’t that be yelling over spilled milk, or trying to pluck out a feather from an eagle?
This societal menace, which is gradually becoming somewhat dismissive and an acceptable part of our system – faintly discussed and unprofessionally handled, with no data to depict its extent, has so crept into our very fabrics as a nation, thereby challenging and threatening the very essence of not just the victim, but also our collective existence. These victims, mostly females, prefer to remain silent and anonymous for fear of loosing their social, religious, family, and professional reputation; or for fear of being hurt by the culprit. Yet, one victim’s silence is an open-door permission to several other existing and would-be culprits to follow suit. The next victim could be any one!
It is worthy of note that rape and molestation differ in meaning. While ‘rape’ is the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse; ‘molestation’ on the other hand, is when one is sexually touched, made to touch, or carry out sexual acts without the victims’ consent. Rape involves a penetrative sexual act, molestation does not, but both are nonconsensual and forceful.
Victims are just anybody – male, female, young, and old, who, having gone through the pains of being mal-handled (especially when it is physically forceful), still struggles to survive emotionally and psychologically. Sometimes the result is death! The perpetrators don’t necessarily come in hooded scary monsters but in form of a boss, father, mother, relative, mentor, pastor, coach, manager, colleague, or worse still a total stranger. In Nigeria, most of these abusers walk freely because four out of five rape or molestation go unreported, and when reported, it frequently gets dismissed for lack of admissible evidence. How pathetic!!!
I have read and heard stories of how husbands abuse their wives (and vice versa). This seem too preposterous for me to comprehend, perhaps because I am married to the most understanding and gentle man God ever created. Arguing out why a forceful or non-forceful unconsented sexual activity in a matrimonial home is also a form of rape has put me at a risk of coming across as an alien to my co-debaters, some of whom believe that once the dowry of the woman is paid, then the man owns the license and have access to ‘everything’ in the woman, which he can command or request for ‘use’ when and however he wants it. If she says ‘no’, it is taken as an act of disrespect, thereby leading to sexual assault. Where then is the right of the victim to say ‘no’, and the ‘no’ is taken as ‘NO’?
Homes, schools, boardrooms, offices, correctional facilities (e. g. prisons), religious houses, learning institutions etc, have become hubs for this dastardly act. Alarmingly, statistics in countries where this scourge is widespread reveal that majority of the perpetrators are immediate family members or relatives; while neighbours, acquaintances, and other people known to the victims are the secondary abusers. I recall a lady who shared her rape story of how her father molested and raped her severally since she was 8 years old. Another lady explained how her uncle would visit and molest her without the knowledge of her parents. Someone else narrated how, as an artist, her coach/manager molested her severally with the promise to make her famous. The most shocking story I got was how a male teacher repeatedly molested a brilliant primary school male pupil as his way of erotically showing how proud he is of the naïve boy’s excellent academic performance. How do we explain the mentor-mentee rape and molestation; or that of the employer-employee, which has become too common and too silenced to be tackled?
Threats, spoken or unspoken, are major weapons abusers use to ensure their victims are mute about their shameful acts, especially culprits who are in positions of authority. Should we wait for this to happen to someone close to us before we do something? How long will our silence continue? Can’t we see the viral effect of our continued silence?
What is to be done? Nigeria should take a cue from countries that are fighting assiduously to erase this menace and its ripple effect on their economy. Nigeria is particularly a peculiar place where one can hardly find statistics to describe the extent or alleviation of this societal ill. Creating awareness, promoting consciousness, and ensuring culprits are brought to book will be a right path to follow. A Centre for Rape and Related Crimes should be considered to serve as a one-stop ‘home’ for these abused victims where they can get all the help needed to survive. There is an urgent need to create a non-stigmatizing non-judgemental ‘conducive environment’ so victims can be encouraged to speak up; yet controlled enough to avoid its abuse. We should strive to have a society that stops blaming the victims for the act, especially when the truth has been established. Experienced Psychologists should be raised to offer proper post-abuse counselling to these victims. Professional investigators should be groomed to examine and ascertain the authenticity and circumstance of the incidence so that justice can be reached accordingly. Efforts should also be made to uphold utmost professionalism and integrity so that ‘salivating’ hungry suited awaiting perpetrators would be prevented from having a share of their perceived ‘national cake’ by asking an already battered rape victim to undress so her bruises can be assessed. Not all molested or rape victims get wounded, so it is foolhardy to expect blood or torn private parts in determining the accuracy of a rape story.
It is imperative therefore that while the Senate debates and pass a bill on same-sex marriage; and the Federal Government is racking her brain on whether amnesty to the Boko Haram insurgents should be granted or not; rape and molestation is a terrain that must not be ignored, lest we have more angry, abused, perverted, waiting-to-explode walking corpses in our society. And as we expect actions from the government; individuals and leaders of NGOs/FBOs, religious bodies, learning institutions, and corporate organizations must endeavour to, subtly or aggressively, create awareness and an atmosphere that will ensure that this menace is kept at bay as much as possible.
As our quota, “555 Foundation” is putting together series of sensitization campaign programs through its “Project WARM” (War Against Rape and Molestation); and we use this medium to call on individuals and bodies to support this cause so as to achieve our vision of curbing this scourge. This is a call to action!