The seemingly perfect father, the trusted guardian, the unassuming uncle who fits the fatherly figure just perfectly, the super cool neighbor who effortlessly gets along with really well with all the kids…then all of a sudden, it shatters. The shocking irony shaking us to our very core each time, how just a minute percentage of strangers inflict this vicious wound. Yet, like a raging bull, the cycle devastatingly continues.
One too many times positions of trust have been abused by the very ones meant to protect.
“Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade” – WHO.
In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knows the attacker; (Department of Justice).
Over the past decade, there has been a devastating prevalent rise in the rate of sexual violence against women globally. Violence against women- every race, country and culture picks up the guilty card.
A Dire Reawakening:
Nigeria, although a proud diverse people with different ethnicity, cultures, communities, and lexicons are an ever close-knit people who hold values such as kinship, brotherhood, clan, respect ever so dearly. Especially amongst the Yoruba-speaking people, the average child is brought up to accord due respect to “elders,” hence, name-calling of an older person is forbidden. In due of offering regard, a total stranger is politely dubbed “uncle” or “aunty” depending on gender.
While we might argue about its suitability in a social context, in today’s deeply troubling world, one cannot overlook the dangers that singular mentality breeds – lack of knowledge boundaries – vulnerability to attack through the exploitation of familiarity, put simply, exploitation of knowledge of victims’ vulnerability.
We must build a protective edge around kids. Our children must be able to differentiate in clear terms relationships to prevent vulnerability of attack and no, uncles and aunts who aren’t related by blood do not exist, period!
Sexual Assault In Nigeria: The Blame Game
“Oh, the bane of civilization and the accompanying baggage!!” “It was unheard of in the olden days”… While it has been argued countless times how such pervasiveness cannot be traced to her roots, yet, present-day reality checks reveal a notorious spike in sexual violence against women, in her society. Certain factors such as job loss, depression, exposure to pornography, social isolation, history of abuse play a part.
Curbing the menace; To truly address a problem, one must face it head-on. This is where the problem lies in Nigeria. From time immemorial, guarding reputation and sweeping under the carpet has been an ever-ready tool to save face. Rather than calling out the offender and making them face squarely the law, so as to nip the menace, we whip out the “ever forgiving heart” card, eloquently chanting gibberish about “he who is without sin casting the first stone and all.” It’s a cycle that replays over and over again in homes.
We must learn to speak up. Rape offenders must be made to face statutory punishment, but no, the victimization card is played just because the rapist bears an identity that is recognized. To reinforce the sickening narrative, manipulative family elders step in, offering advice or rather sometimes outrightly demanding the act be keep hidden so the “shame” is not “exposed and the family name rubbed in the gutters.”
Fact check; Just because you know the person doesn’t automatically land them the innocent tag. Oftentimes, familiarity is used as leverage to gain trust to strike conveniently.
Weakened judgment, bias; The offender, who most of the time is no stranger to the family is left to; karma and a nonexistent conscience for not being “strong enough” to resist the “devil” from working through his mind. While the victim tagged the shameless seductress is mercilessly landed the blame card. In desperate cases, when all employed tactics to silence the aggrieved family fails, the family of the offender strikes brutal defense, resort to all manner of threats.
Look no further, the culture of silencing of the victims and victim-shaming are at our every turn. But, we must refuse to be silent! We must refuse to be manipulated into thinking forgiveness wipes every slate clean. Abused children become troubled adults, thereby begetting a troubled society.
Our conscience must not be bought by the familiarity card. To safeguard the rights of our children, we must rid ourselves of harmful attitudes and a backward mentality such as stigmatization and the blame card. We must learn to create a much more equal society where the girl child is safeguarded and empowered and thought that her voice matters. Our boys must be raised in love and respect. Then and only then would we have a happier, healthier Nigerian society with mutual love and respect and a safeguarded happy future.
Writer: Yvonne Williams