Reading Wikipedia entry of 16 December 2012 India rape case involving a young student that was gang raped while on a bus and the events that follow that got Indians talking about the problems that women face daily made me realise that in Nigeria we ought to talk more about rape case from personal experiences and the aftermath effects on the victims.
Usually we talk about rape victims as if they are foreign to us, however, realistically we know that rape happens all the time and more so within the home, among family members. This is true of most cultures whereby extended family members live under the same roof as in most cases relatives both males and females will have to share small space daily as the space available is limited.
Rupa Jha, BBC news article about how sexual assault at home go unreported is very similar to what goes on in many homes in Nigeria today.
Growing up in a small town, I have seen just about enough of rape case that people actually think it is normal or in many cases it is always the girls/woman’s fault. She dressed too provocatively, her dress/skirt is too short/too revealing. And when it happens in the church, which does a lot, then the lady is possessive of evil spirit and lure the man into ‘doing’ it. I have never witnessed one case whereby the perpetrator was punished accordingly.
Victims don’t talk about rape case especially when done at the time whereby noone is around. Victims afterwards suffer for years in silence and most cases filled with guilt, anger and resentment. And in the case when parents knew about the attack, if the attacker is from the same family, nothing will be done and the case would be forgotten. However, sometimes the mother would take charge and do what needed to be done to protect her daughter/s from future attacks.
This is what happened in my family. At the time of my sister’s attack, we are 5 girls in the family plus my parents. We all sleep in one big bedroom with one king size bed for my parents and one single size bed for my 17 year old sister. The rest of us were younger and slept on a mat. At bedtime there is nowhere to move about or sit, when you are up, you need to make your way out of the room because of the squeeze. We have relatives that come to visit us from the village so sometimes the squeeze is even tighter. We were normal and happy family as Nigeria goes.
Now, here is my experience. At the time when this happened my uncle who was in his 40s visited, he is my father’s young brother – the last child of their parents. Although uncle Ade was old enough to live independent life, he chose to remain baby to my father, my father loved him. On this night, he slept on a separate mat on the floor as he insisted that my sister should not have to give up her bed for him. During the night when everyone was asleep, he got up and went and lay beside my 17 year old sister in her bed in the same room as everyone. My sister freaked out when she felt a touch on her skin, my mother who never sleeps got up and was furious and demanded that my uncle get out of our house.
Neither me nor any of my sisters on the floor heard anything at the time, and the case was closed. I am not sure if my mother spoke to my sister in the morning about what happened and perhaps helped to calm her down. However, my mother asked that uncle Ade never stay overnight at our house ever again.
There is stigma to basically everything in Nigeria, you are not to talk about rape or attempted rape when it involves a family member as they might be put to shame in the community. My mother’s relationship with uncle Ade has always been a strained one. I remember when I was in college and uncle Ade game me 100 naira ($.40) as a gift, my mother was not pleased with it and she made sure she gave his children double what their father gave me.
Fast forward 20years later, a couple of years ago, uncle Ade asked my father to give him a room in his house so he could stay in whenever he visited. My father promised he would get back to him. My mother told my siblings and I that she does not support the idea of living under the same roof as my uncle as my niece (the daughter of uncle Ade’s victim 20 years earlier) live in the house. I was curious and wanted to know what the problem was, this was when my mother for the first time told the story of what happened and the reasons she has always maintained arms length with my uncle. It all makes sense to me why my mother has been so protective of us especially around uncle Ade. My mother talks alot about her upbringing and all sorts of events but never anything to do with sex or sexuality. My father has never mentioned the event of that night, but has respected my mother’s request of limited visit of uncle Ade to the family.
Uncle Ade lives in the village now and I heard he sleeps with anything with two legs. He has not changed one bit because he has never been punished for his immoral acts. I believe my sister was not the first and certainly not the last victim of his.
Although my mother did not tell us at the time, she did what she could, given the culture to protect us – her daughters. Although, today, I would have acted differently – match his sorry ass to the public and get him appropriately punished.
In Nigeria today, attitude to rape case is unbelievable, it has always been there but get more coverage thanks to social media. The attitude of the public is very harsh on the victims most of the time and the perpetrators usually go free. Those perpetrators mostly start from home and graduated to their streets when they realise they could get away with it.
If we all work together to give these violators the punishment they deserve, we will be one step further to restoring women freedom in our society. And also give the present and future generation hope that we can live together with fear of rape hang over us all the time. We have to start from home.