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.
Have you ever experienced sexual harassment, directly or indirectly? I bet you have at one point or the other.
I used to think that it was mostly women that suffer sexual harassment but these days, it seems the men are getting it hot too. Many employees have experienced sexual harassment from their bosses and sometimes, their colleagues even, at one point or the other. You see male boss harassing and threatening the female employee, sometimes, forcing her to sleep with her or lose her job. Or the female boss asking the male employee out, threatening him if he refuses to succumb. In the banking sector for instance, the beautiful, young ladies are used as bait to attract rich customers. May be it took subtle forms with hints and innuendos, verbally and physically, touching and such or it was more brazen in approach, communicated explicitly without mincing words, all are forms of harassment. Whichever method is employed, sexual harassment is often a challenge to manage and overcome.
Sexual harassment is more rampant in private organisations than in public/government establishments. In the private sector, the boss has powers, especially if he is the owner of the establishment. It is easy for them to sack that employee and employ another if he/she does not submit. In some cases, the harassment might even get too much for the harassed that he/she will decide to just quit the job. In a government owned establishment, it is harder for the boss to sack and fire as he/she pleases, the power does not lie solely with the boss.
Sexual harassment can have ripple effects. It is not just the direct individual that suffers but also others around him or her. My colleague narrated his experience in his former office. His boss was interested in his secretary but the girl in question refused but rather seemed to like my colleague who was already aware of the situation between his boss and the lady. He therefore distanced himself from the girl and discouraged any close relationship with her knowing that he might be the one to bear the brunt. The boss believing that the duo was dating would come around encouraging my colleague to go ahead with the lady if he was interested. But the guy would always assure him that he had no interest in the secretary. At a point, the boss began to harass the guy at every opportunity he gets without reason until it became too much for the guy and he quit the job. Imagine losing your job because your boss is interested in someone you are not even dating.
Now, why does sexual harassment occur? It will be easy for the self-righteous to sit back and blame it on the victim, especially if the victim is a female. The way they dress, walk, talk and all that. Granted that some ladies dress anyhow to work, but that is a minute percentage of the people being harassed and we can hardly say that of the men, yet they are harassed too. It is natural for a man to like a lady and vice versa but it becomes an issue when one harasses the other because the person refused. There are many fishes in the ocean I believe, why insist on that particular one? It could be pride, lack of self-control or some other reason which is no reason at all.
The consequences of sexual harassment are numerous, for the victim, the employer, the organization and even the person doing the harassment. The victim can lose certain benefits if not the job itself. He/she might suffer psychological trauma too. The output of such a staff could reduce which is not in the best interest of the organization. It can also bring friction and animosity among the staff and between the staff and the organization. Such a boss or superior loses not just the respect of the person he/she is harassing, but also that of the other staff.
DEALING WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK
There is no cut and dry method of dealing with this issue, in fact, in a private setting, there is very little you can do to stop the harassment because you are working for the individual. But if it is not the employer that is doing the harassing, the victim can take it up with the appropriate authorities, the management, unions, and in the worst case scenario, the court of law. This can also be employed in a situation where the perpetrator is the owner of the establishment though it might not be very effective, but at least, you would have tried your best.
Aside that, you as an employee can work efficiently, be the best in what you do so that it would be hard to sack you on such flimsy reason. The boss or organization would have no option than to retain you against all odds.
Silence is never a solution to sexual harassment because it will probably continue and even get worse as time goes on unless of course you are willing to compromise. Talk to the person harassing you too. Sometimes you would be pleasantly surprised at how effective and powerful words can be. In a calm and mature manner, discuss the issue with the person involved.
If all fails, you can try enduring the situation as best you can until you are able to get another job although there is no guarantee that there won’t be a repetition of same experience especially if you are young, sharp, and beautiful/handsome. Employ wisdom, use delay tactics, feminine/male wiles or whatever trick at your disposal to thwart the unwanted advances.
Another approach is to begin on time to forestall such advances. As an adult, you know your history and past experiences, you also know when someone of the opposite sex is interested in you. Do not encourage it and keep to that stand always, if being friendly with that person will encourage him/her, then desist. Avoid being in a compromising situation with him/her.
If you are the one doing the harassment, I pray you have a change of heart and attitude before nemesis catches up with you. If the person does not want you, go seek the so many other willing and available fishes in the oceans please.