The rate at which defenceless individuals have been sexually abused has increased in recent times. The lifetime risk of sexual assault has been put at 1 in 4-6 for women and it is now estimated that only 1 in 5 adult rapes is reported.
We have heard about how individuals, mostly women regardless of their ages, were raped by men. Early this month, there were news reports about a 50 year old woman who was raped and subsequently hacked to death by a gang of men in Ogun state. Just sit back for a moment and think of that woman. Only then do you understand. It was cruel. She didn’t deserve to die that way. Unfortunately, while these nefarious acts continue, it doesn’t seem like culprits are being brought to book. Many feel they can walk away freely after committing such heinous crimes.
Recently, I met a 10 year old female student who was brought for a medical examination following a case of sexual abuse. She had been sexually assaulted by her headmaster for the past 2 years. She had opened up to her sunday school teacher who subsequently informed her parents. She was not alone. She further pointed out she was not the only victim. Imagine the psychological torture she must have gone through, how she had managed to keep this to herself for years? The owner of the school brought her to the clinic and confirmed that during their internal investigations, many of her classmates admitted that they had also been victims during the last 2 years. This was a little girl who was being sent to school to get quality education but then ended up with this situation. When she recounted the events, her account was clear and precise. It was evident she was never going to forget her past experience in the hands of that man. This had left an indelible mark in her memory.
I asked about the suspect. And I was happy when I was informed that he was in police custody. So I was excited about the prospect of a court case and a possible sentence for the suspect. Then a bombshell was dropped. The mother of the girl and the proprietor of the school told me they wanted an out-of-court settlement. I gave up. This potentially could mean that man may be freed. It then dawned on me that our society is one that is very willing to sweep things under the carpet. If he is guilty, he should be put away from little children and women for a long time and not an unnecessary and ridiculous amicable settlement. The proprietor is probably more concerned about the effect a court trial could have on the fortunes of his school and the mother also would not want this to go public to “protect” the reputation of her family. These are possibilities. Don’t forget, Nigerians do not keep records. He could move to another school in a different state and continue from where he stopped. The young girls in our society will therefore remain at risk.
A part which nobody seems to talk about is how will this affect the young girl? How will this 10 year old girl interact with men when she grows up. She had been sexually abused remember by a man for two straight years. Is it not a possible that she could develop a hatred or phobia for men due to what she went through in the hands of her headmaster? If she suddenly feels safer with women with the belief that they cannot abuse her and becomes a lesbian; she could be imprisoned for 14 years due to the new anti-gay law while the man who molested her continues to walk freely. This is with total disregard to the fact that her society, through her headmaster, may have pushed her to it. Many people who have become homosexuals may have had a troubled past but this usually is never put into consideration.
Furthermore, a sexually abused individual suffers psychologically. Many experience fears and nightmares, insomnia and even shame and guilt. Many families never return to normal after a member of such family has been raped or assaulted. Long term effect of rape may include Post-traumatic stress disorder. And then there is the “small matter” of sexually transmitted diseases and of course pregnancy.
Our attitude to young girls who have been sexually abused sometimes are unreasonable. Most girls are blamed for their predicaments. It is not uncommon to hear the “very righteous” people say the girl was wayward. She always dressed indecently and hence served as a tool of temptation. We now know this is far from the truth. Women who are over 50 years of age, who dress decently, have been raped. Rather than blame the victim, the rapist should be brought to book.
Due to the fact that friends, family members and the society are usually judgemental of these victims, many never recover from the effects of the incidents usually due to a lack of support. For some, they may never report the case. They live with the stigma while the culprit lives on with his freedom intact and more members of the population remain at risk.
Finally, the sexually abused go through a lot, much more than we will ever know. I will love to see where individuals who carry out such evil acts are brought to book and made to face the consequences of their actions. Victims should be supported and encouraged to report these abuses to the appropriate authorities. Parents should be open with their children and willing to communicate with them on any issue. A child who knows that he or she can talk about any issue with the parents is more likely to inform them of his or her troubles. We should not judge them. It could have been you or me. That little girl could even be your daughter.
Have a nice day

Uche H. Okafor

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