There has been growing concern over the increased rate of rape in our society. It is becoming a common occurrence these days, like a fire spreading on the mountain but funny enough, no one seems to be on the run. I wonder why.

Statistics show that about 64.4 percent of women have been raped at some point in their lives. That means that many women you know have suffered sexual violence one way or the other. But I know that there cannot be accurate statistics on the number of women that have been sexually abused because most women will not speak up.

Why will someone suffer sexual molestation and refuse to challenge the molester or seek justice against the assault? In this part of the world where I live, you are stigmatized for being raped! The victim becomes the enemy. I remember the story I read in the newspaper about a female student who was raped by another male student. The male student had a bet with his friends that he must get the girl in question because the girl was a ‘born again’ and so has refused every amorous male advance. In order to be ‘the man’, he lured her and raped her, nearly killing her in the process. When the lady took the matter up and reported the rapist to the authorities, her school mates began to maltreat and harass her like it was her fault that she was raped. How dare she embarrass the guy? This harassment was like adding salt to the injury. Imagine how you feel when a thief snatches your wallet or other valuables from you? Compare that to a guy taking away your pride, your pearl, your treasure. It is a traumatic experience on its own, and then some self-righteous group come playing the blame game. But this young student was undeterred despite the stigmatization, she prevailed till she finally got justice but at what a price! How many women will be willing to go through all that shame and embarrassment to get justice? I salute her courage because there is even no guarantee from the onset that she will get justice since society thinks she is to be blamed for being raped.

There was an argument that came up recently in the office. The guy argued that even though rape is evil, that the ladies usually ask for it. The way they dress, talk, walk and all that. Are you kidding me? So I asked if the minors, the two year olds also provoke the guys. The grandmothers of seventy/eighty provoke them? No, he said, those are peculiar cases which can only be perpetuated by an insane man. Ha! Every rapist is depraved if you ask me. There are so many willing fishes in the ocean, why force your way through the unwilling one? My grandmother told us that in their days, they only use something like beads (jigida) to cover the lower parts of their body, leaving the upper part naked. Yet, how many of them were raped in those days?

I do not support roaming the streets half naked, but to use that as an excuse to sexually molest someone is insanity.

This is the attitude of most law enforcement agents to rape victims – they asked for it, they deserve what they got. With this kind of mind set, how do you expect such law official to discharge his/her duties efficiently? The biggest hurdle however, is in proving that the act is actually rape. Sometimes when the matter is reported, those that swore to protect and serve the people scoff and say that it cannot be rape. The lady probably consented to the act so why will she turn around now and shout foul? Woe betides the lady and the culprit happens to be someone she knows, a ‘friend’, neighbor, teacher, colleague, classmate – she asked for it, husband? She must be kidding. But we know that, apart from armed robbers, most sexual molestations are carried out by men who are close to the victims and that makes it even harder to prove anything. The bureaucracy involved in establishing proof of rape and getting justice is enough to discourage the victims, so the rapists continue to go scot-free, perpetuating the acts.

Last week, a group of rape victims, comprising mostly of young girls stormed the Nigerian National Assembly to air their grievances to the lawmakers, urging them to hasten the passage of the sexual abuse bill into law. What struck me was that the media reported that these victims had to cover their faces during the protest, as if they were the dreaded terrorists. They had to protect themselves against insults and stigmatization.

How then do we hope to put an end to sexual abuse and molestation if most of us, especially the men, believe that the ladies are to be blamed for the abuse they suffer? It is a ‘long walk to freedom’. Maybe when the faithful wives, the young, innocent daughters, the precious sisters/aunts of our elite men become victims then we can sit up and begin the fight against rape?

I lend my voice to that of every rape victim in this country in begging the Nigerian law makers to pass the bill that will protect our women and girls and ensure that the rapist does not go scot-free.