Sexual abuse and molestation in Nigeria is something we are all used to as females. A guy can boldly and shamelessly share the story of how he forcefully had sex with a number of girls to a mixed audience of male and female, young and old. Instead of the expected outburst from the audience, especially the female ones, don’t be surprised when you get nothing but boisterous laughter and such comments as ‘serves the bitch right’, ‘what was she even doing alone with you?’, ‘if they won’t give you freely, you take by force, after all, you are the man’ and that ends that.
Rape in Nigeria is often the fault of the victim and therefore there is nothing to discuss or fight for, they ask for it. And so the culture of silence continues, we feed it and nurture it, all of us. We nurture it by not speaking up, by not supporting the victims, by shaming the victims, by pretending and accepting it as a norm.
I searched for #MeToo Nigeria on twitter and I came up with mostly lamentations of how it just cannot work in Nigeria – which is probably true, but can’t we just try a bit?
No, I have never been abused by a celebrity of any sort, but yes, I have suffered sexual molestation. In fulfillment of my promise in my last post, here goes…
My first gory experience with rape was after my university when I was looking for a better job than the one I had. He was my school mate in elementary school, I met him again as a course mate and the president of my departmental students’ Union in the university. He became my friend and the brother I didn’t have. This relationship continued even after school and we graduated into family friends.
My crime however, was that I pleaded with him to assist me in getting a better job, nearer home to which he gladly agreed. And when we met to discuss this issue, Buli, my friend felt that if he should help me, then I must have sex with him and when I said NO, he saw no other alternative than to forcefully have his way. He was a married man at the time, still is, with kids he adore, he is a church minister’s son. He was my friend, my brother from another mother, and he raped me and I did nothing about it aside feel sorry for myself and angry at him and myself in addition to dealing with the guilt.
My second experience with rape was just a couple of years back; you would think I would have been smarter by then. Ben used to share a shop with his brother in my cousin’s compound and my cousin’s house happened to be my second home. He was a likeable and trustworthy guy whom my cousin could entrust her shop and home to any time. He asked me out countless times and I politely declined each time. When I moved far away from home, we stopped communicating and I felt he was fed up with me. But when I relocated back home, he became a regular visitor in my mum’s home.
He invited me to his apartment several times and I declined but my cousin told me that since he was a nice person whom we all knew, that there was nothing untoward in going to his apartment. I visited him one afternoon. After the pleasantries, Ben began to list my sins for me, how I had declined his advances for so many years, how he had loved me for ages without my reciprocating. I apologized and explained to him again that I declined because I did not love him and we began to argue back and forth. Then he gave me the verdict that I cannot leave his apartment till I had given him sex. I guess that was my punishment and payment for all my atrocities. He locked his doors and took the keys, telling me that even the shouting spree I wanted to embark on would not help me as no one was around to hear me. After all the drama, Ben succeeded in sexually abusing me.
Maybe this would have helped. I think I need some lessons in taekwando.
Say No to Sexual abuse
I read somewhere about someone saying that sexual abuse is a western thing and it made me wonder if that is also our view in Nigeria. Maybe there are very few or no case of sexual abuse and predatory in Nigeria? It is possible right? Given that we are one of the most religious people of the world.
In case you don’t quite grasp what the Weinstein effect is all about, allow me to fill you in. 2017 was a year of sex abuse scandals which emanated from the USA, though prior to that, there have been other reported cases but of lesser magnitude. The American mega film producer and co-founder of Miramax films, Harvey Weinstein became the scape goat that created what is now popularly known as the tipping point of sexual scandal. According to Wikipedia, ‘the Weinstein effect is a global trend in which people come forward to accuse famous or powerful men of sexual misconduct’. It went on to say that the term came into use to describe a worldwide wave of these allegations as media outlets reported on numerous sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein.
These worldwide waves of allegations seem to exclude Nigeria and I tell you solemnly that it is not for lack of cases of sexual abuse/harassment, No sir! Our country is notorious for bribery and corruption and that includes sexual harassment in high and low places. From schools to offices, to churches, sexual misconduct abound. In fact, it is so pervasive that it seems to have become a norm, describe it as the seam of the Nigerian fabric and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Students in the Nigerian tertiary institutions are beleaguered with sexual abuses from lecturers, and even non-academic staff for grades, hostel accommodation, or even certificates and of course money. The secondary schools are not left out mind you. The political arena is fraught with cases of sexual misconduct left and right, likewise the various offices, public and private alike. You need to play by their rules in order to get the job/position or get promoted. The churches are supposed to be safe haven for its members but the ministers of the churches hide under the cloak of religion to sexually harass their members in order to ‘rid them of infertility, demons, poverty’ and all what-not.
I have no doubt that almost every Nigerian woman, old or young has a personal history of sexual abuse to share. But unlike the western world, the name and shame thing will definitely backfire here because most of the powerful men are part of the rot. As I read about the Weinstein effect and the Weinstein scandal, I could not help but wish that it could be replicated in Nigeria, but who will bell the cat? For one, corruption is so entrenched into the system that the prey might become the predator if she attempts to name her predator especially without evidence and strong backing. Naming names might expose the victim to threats and dangers beyond her scope.
Let us for one minute dream that the Nigerian victim who was sexually abused by a big name in Nigeria is able to tell her story, will she be heard? Who would believe her and not accuse her of seeking for fame? Most importantly, will she get her justice? Or will she be ridiculed, punished and stigmatized? Some will even term her evil for wanting to expose the abuser, that is how religious we can get.
For three decades Mr. Weinstein harassed and abused women, for thirty years, he used his power to victimize young women. But in 2017, his full cup began to overflow. I was filled with awe when I read of the numerous bodies to which he hitherto had dealings with that not only dissociated themselves from the man, but stripped him of his position, power, honour and prestige in short order. I began to wish that Nigeria could become that courageous and transparent. The reverse would bebthe case here with all the high and mighty groups protecting their own and further victimising the victim.
In the wake of the Weinstein scandal came many other cases of sexual abuse accusations leveled against the powers that be in the world of entertainment, journalism, politics, judiciary, and many other sectors especially in the Western world. More victims, male and female found their voices and began to speak out.
The Weinstein effect has no effect in Nigeria, Nigeria is not even talking about it so how will the effect come about? You only hear or see individual snippets of it from private quarters on the social media. Most of us are scared of the repercussions but I believe there is something we can do here in Nigeria even if it means going anonymous. We can borrow a leaf from the Indian law student, Raya Sarkar
even though she is under fire from rapists and molesters and even feminists for her role in exposing abusers in the academia. Nigerian victims can also open this can of worms here not minding how bloody it can get.
In my next write up on this issue, I will share my own sexual assault experiences in solidarity with the #MeToo tag. I pray I find the courage to tell my story even if I am not able to name names… lolz.
I appreciate the fearless journalists and victims that gave life to the Weinstein effect. They have written their names in the sands of time and in the hearts of men and women of the world and posterity will not find them wanting.
I write this based on some soul searching reflections I carried out recently. It came as a rude shock to me that half or even more than half my life has been lived to please others and live in conformity.
When I consider that my life is mine alone, then the choices I make should be mine, the way I live my life ought to reflect my personality and not that of the world around me. Most of all, consider the fact that when death calls, it would call just me without seeking permission from my neighbours and friends. Even if death seeks their permission, they do not have that permission to give, not forgetting that some would willingly give death the permission to take me immediately.
Moreover, the journey to death, as is that of life, is mine alone and as I leave this world, very few people out of all those I lived to please would genuinely cry for my death, few would genuinely miss me, some will attend my funeral if their jobs, business, health or weather suits them, but none will go with me to the other world.
Then why have I been living to please them, to accommodate their whims and caprices, why have I been living for them, losing myself in the process, cheating myself? Sounds stupid when you actually think on it. I do that in major and minor decisions, in little and big daily actions. In the market, I buy vegetables from my neighbor whose pumpkin leaves are withered and yellowish rather than buy from a stranger and have my neighbor angry with me.
I work as a health care giver so my family will be pleased that I am following the family tradition when all I want to do is write and travel the world and make tons of money. I have sex with him because it is what he wants and expects from me as his partner, not because I enjoy it so much. I hide the ugly truth of their actions from them so I do not displease them even as they displease me. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with you? Where is the self-love? The world will certainly not end if I tell them how I feel, if I insist on what I want rather than what they want. They might be angry for a while, or even forever, but it does not really matter in the long run.
I know I am not alone in this ‘living to please others’ syndrome, many of us fall into this societal trap that we laid for ourselves. It seems it is wired in the genes of most women, to live to please their husbands, kids, neighbors, parents, anybody but themselves. Worst of all, it has become so ingrained in us that it is now an unconscious everyday action. We give so much of ourselves to please others and in the process, lose our personal identity, our goals and dreams. I was once in a relationship where, even though the guy had good intentions but running a pharmaceutical shop was just not what I wanted; neither was going to Japan for post graduate degree. So why did I agree to those suggestions of his even though I later began falling in love with the idea of studying in Japan? I did not want him to see me as ungrateful or unambitious.
But on a deeper level, when I began to analyze my life and my choices, I realized that I succumbed to those suggestions of his because I have begun to neglect my dreams, I was losing focus and depending on him and the world to decide for me rather than seek to please me.
What a shame. Why are we scared of displeasing the world? Because we care too much about what the world will say, because we are scared of alienating them, because we want them to like and love us. But take a moment to look at those people we know that do not give a damn about what the world thinks of them, I know some of them, so do you. Their lives are happier, more fulfilling, richer, more successful and with floods of friends, families and trumpeters.
So I ask myself, I ask you who are in this same boat with me, what do we personally gain by letting the world carry us on its wings? What have we been able to achieve based on the fact that we have been living to please others? The ugly truth is that you cannot please the world, even if you die trying, look at Jesus Christ! The world will be pleased with your success, your wealth, glamour, fame, but they will tear you down in an instant if given the opportunity no matter how patriotic and philanthropic you have been.
Let me begin to channel that energy I have been using in seeking to please the world into seeking to please me. Sometimes, being selfish can be liberating and fruitful. I have begun the journey of self-pleasing rather than world pleasing by first trying to learn and understand me. To do this, I am giving myself some me time, no matter how busy I am otherwise. In that me time, I think over my life, the choices I have made, the actions and decisions I have taken and where they have cumulatively led me. You should too, assuming you no longer desire to live for the world like me.
Heaven will not fall on me if I chose to buy vegetable from the stranger that sells the fresh greeny vegetable rather than my neighbor that has the dead leaves. My partner will not love me less or leave me if I stand my ground and follow my dreams. If he does, then, he does not love me and it would be good riddance to bad rubbish. Taking little baby steps towards blocking my ear and my mind from what they will say and think by focusing on what I really want and deserve is a start. It has been so ingrained in our character and thinking that it will be an uphill task to overcome. But with a burning desire to change and little daily, conscious shift in our thinking and actions, it is possible.
See you at the top, happy and liberated if you happen to be on this cruise to self-love with me.
>It is another 25th of November. It is another international day for the elimination of violence against women. It is another reminder of the role you can play to put an end to gender based violence.
Leave no one behind: End violence against women and girls . That is the theme for this year’s celebration and it advocates for the total elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls irrespective of their location or colour.
Gender violence and discrimination occur in developed nations as well as developing nations. The only difference would probably be in the magnitude and penalty.
An experience I had recently taught me that Violence against Women (VAW) does not necessarily mean physical violence. It cuts across emotional and psychological violence.
I dated and loved someone I thought was the best guy there was. Turned out he was not just a chronic womaniser, but he had very little respect for most of these women. I was blind to that part of him because he gave me 100% respect and what I thought was love. But when the chips were down, he made me realise he held little respect for the other women by the way he picked, used and tossed them aside. They were only there to satisfy his sexual desires. Their opinions, rights and feelings di not amount to anything. After all, they are ‘mere women’. As far as I am concerned, he exposed me as well as those other ladies to emotional and psychological violence and it was uncalled for.
I believe every woman, irrespective of job, color or location, has experienced one form of violence or the other. I recently listened to the Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie speaking on feminism and I realised that even the celebrities are not left out of this inequality mindset. Personally, I am getting used to having waiters and waitresses greet and fuss over the man beside me while acting like I am not even there.
Image courtesy of http://www.chimamanda.com
But when the famous Chimamanda explained how it also happens to her, I could only laugh at our society.
Funny enough, some men believe VAW is a thing of the past while many more others believe the female victims asked for it. They ask, what was she doing in a room alone with a guy? She asked to be raped. Like seriously?
But for me, it is more painful when women themselves think through their anus by joining the men to ask such questions. Or when they spearhead the maltreatment of widows or fail to teach their sons to respect and care for their sisters. Who would blame a guy whose mother taught from childhood, that he is more important than his sister? That he can rough-handle the neighbour’s daughter if she refuses to dance to his tunes?
And what about those women that fold their hands and watch their husbands and sons and brothers, rape their daughters and nieces and cousins? They sacrifice the happiness and future of these young girls on the alter of ‘family name’. They stand and watch mutely lest they bring the family name to shame. Is that one even a family?
There are more female excisors than males, women who still believe that a woman must be genitally mutilated to please a man and keep the ladies loyal and pure – for the man. Excuse me!
No one deserves to be treated like an animal. No girl, no woman deserves to be violated, for any reason at all. There is absolutely no justification for violenece against women. I mean, how can you justify punching a woman senseless by saying she talks too much or rudely? Who punches you when you misbehave? Is she justified to rape the guy because he visited her?
Today, all of us, male and female, young and old, white or black, we are being called upon to make a difference, to help end violence against women and girls.
Will you stand up to be counted?