by Tutu Leo Olagbaye
There is this absurd saying and myth in the Nigerian setting that when a woman says “NO” she means yes and vice versa. This myth/saying is one of the root causes of increase sexual abuse, assault and molestation in the Nigerian society. Need I say the cheap absurd excuse of provocative dressing as the reason why male species (can’t call them men) sexually take advantage of girls and women. It is very true that out of every 10 Nigerian female, 8 have been sexually assaulted, harassed, abused or molested at a point in their lives by family members, neighbours, family friends, boyfriends and strangers. Male children are also being abused as well and kept hush but the truth of the matter is the female gender is more of the victim than the male gender.
The Nigerian government is yet to understand the magnitude of this epidemic and the effect on the female and male children. Some of these victims never recover from the ordeal and ended up being damaged adults who go on to damage the people around them as a result. We need to step up as a society and nation to create awareness and education for parents, and both the male and female child that a “NO” is a “NO”. Even in a relationship and may I say marriage. I was not taught anything to be aware of human hulks that may want to sexually assault or molest me and how to protect myself from them and never given the tips on how to handle them as a child or young adult. As a result, I had a number of experiences that I did not tell my mother or anyone for different reasons one of which is the fear that no one will believe me and no evidence.
THIS HAS TO STOP because THERE IS NO PLACE ANY LONGER IN THE SOCIETY FOR SEXUAL PREDATORS. Parents have to do their bit with education and awareness of both genders. Raise your male children especially to respect women and not touch any woman or girl that is not their wife inappropriately. Teach your sons to have self control. It does not kill. Irrespective of how a woman is dressed, it is not an excuse for sexual assault or harassment. Same with the female gender too teach them not to touch anyone inappropriately.
These so called male species travel round the world and see naked women on the streets especially in summer, why don’t they go after them and sexually assault them? Oh! they see and remove their eyes, why? Because they know if they dare as touch a female inappropriately, they will end up behind bars with other serious consequences. So what makes that different when they are in Nigeria? Because they know they will get away with it, they know the law makers are themselves guilty of the same, they know the government has refused to legalise stiffer sentences on sexually related offences. This is because their hands are not clean either and because there is no serious consideration for the female gender within the various government institutions neither does those institutions have much respect for the female gender. (We know that some federal legislators from a certain part of the country are trying to legalize underaged marriage, as young as 13 years old)
The sad truth is that the African society is not fair to the female gender. The female gender has got to be blamed for everything whilst the men get away with everything. No wonder most of the male species feel they are “a prize” to be won. Parents, teachers, adults, police, government, medical professionals, legislators, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, society and the African culture have all failed many innocent girls, boys and women. Enough of victim shaming, the ones that should be shamed are the evil perpetrators of sexual abuse, harassment, assault and molestation.
This paradigm must change, the narrative must change, enough of these senseless myths and baseless beliefs. Everyone in the society including parents, children, adults, schools, government, police, legislators, medical professionals and bodies, Pastors, Imams, Ministers must work together.
The government need to wake up and step up, tougher punishment for all types of sexual assault, harassment, abuse and molestation against minors and adults. We need to have sex offenders register in Nigeria to protect potential future victims, disclosure of the identity of sexual offenders to get access to certain things in the country to protect children and women.
Guys, when a lady says “NO” it is a “NO” ok. Ladies if you say “NO TO SEX ” to your boyfriend, and he proceeds to force himself on you, IT IS RAPE. Report him to the police and get medical confirmation and swop for evidence immediately. Male species zip up ok!!! Self Control is not a crime, it is actually a virtue.
Parents wake up from your slumber and sleep, be approachable, believe your children and let them know they should come to you without fear to report any concerns with same or different gender touching them inappropriately and that you will investigate and take appropriate actions. Teach your children not to allow anyone including siblings touch them inappropriately; and parts of the body that should not be touched by anyone else.
Fathers do not sexually abuse, harass, molest, assault your female child ( I have heard about fathers having sexual relationship with their daughter(s) even in Nigeria it happens a lot. Protect your children like hawks and stop leaving them alone especially females with uncles, friends, aunties etc. Raise your male children to be leaders and not control freaks.
Nigerian Police, sexual assault, abuse, harassment and molestation is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being and the damage goes beyond the physical. It damages the soul, body and mind. Show empathy, take all sexually related crimes serious and follow through. Make the process easy for the victim. Nigerian Government we need well equipped facilities to help with the rehabilitation of victims both minors and adults. Legislators need to take sexually related offences and crimes more seriously and ensure it is enforceable with tougher sentences. Protect the victims and make the process less traumatic for them. They need healing.
Pastors, Ministers, Imams, etc. You need to do more to protect children and adults from these evil doers, you need to hand over these sexual predators to the police when it comes to your attention irrespective of what position they occupy in your ministry. Stop covering up for them and attributing their evils to the devil. Every adult should know there are consequences for their actions and take responsibilities for them.
Medical professionals, when a victim approaches your hospital/clinic for sexually related assault, please take a swop for evidence and report to the police. In developed countries, hospitals work hand in hand with the police, social services, schools etc.
Schools, there is the appetite for you to do more, Safeguarding for children should be taught to all adults that work with children and training should be refreshed every year. Know the signs to look out for in a child that may be experiencing sexual abuse. The signs are always there. In this case of the 14 year old involved in the crime, the school noticed certain things like withdrawal but because they have not been adequately trained in safeguarding the children, they did not know how to report their concerns to the appropriate social services and keep it confidential.
The teachers that come in contact with these children should know how to spot the signs and log their concerns from the information obtained from the victims and report appropriately to the social services. Teacher are the ones that are in contact with these children most after the parents. So a lot of responsibilities fall on them in spotting these sexual crimes and reporting them.
African culture and society, the world is changing and a lot is changing and has to change. It is not a crime to be female and all females both old or young should be respected and treated with dignity. Teach men to respect women in the way they treat, talk and relate with women, stop shaming and blaming the victims, no gender is more superior than the other. Stop treating the male gender like gods. Mutual respect is what we should be about in how we relate with one another irrespective of gender. STOP blaming the devil for evil acts, make perpetrators pay for their crimes. Show victims love, empathy and compassion.
Victims, you are victors because you lived to tell your stories. Some never got the opportunity to tell their own stories. Do not be intimidated. Own your truth and tell it with confidence. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Report every sexual crime immediately, make use of technology like your phones, CCTV etc, avoid being alone where possible with any suspected candidate, use your sixth sense to sniff out potential perpetrators and take caution.
Finally, a lot of parents are ignorant to these sexual crimes and how they can occur. Trust no one with your minors especially because they are vulnerable and may not be able to express their encounters. The onus is for every parents, male and female individuals to get themselves educated. Technology has made it easy to obtain appropriate Information from the internet and undergo courses and training online. You also need to keep up to date with the latest schemes and tactics that are used to perpetuate these sexual crimes including online grooming. Parents, if you were sleeping before, you need to wake up and stay woke. Times have changed and you have your work cut out for you. This is not just for the mothers alone, it’s the responsibility of both the fathers and the mothers. You need to work together as a team on this if you have the best interest of your children at heart and you want to protect and safeguard them from evil doers. If all the highlighted above do their bits well, we will cleanse the Nigerian society of this menace and have a safer society and environment for our children.
Whilst it is impossible to totally eradicated sexual assaults, harassment. abuse and molestation, from the society, we can reduce them to the significantly by learning from past mistakes and failures, to tighten the justice system and process to prevent future cases, and, or detect them quickly and take appropriate actions.