Usually we talk about rape cases in Nigeria as if they are foreign to us, but the truth is 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.
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.
Victims of rape suffer for years in silence and in most cases filled with guilt, anger and resentment. And in the case whereby the perpetrator is from the same family, nothing will be done and the case will be forgotten in no time at all.
My uncle when he was in his 40s was trusted and loved by my parents. Although uncle Ade was old enough to live an 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, during the night when everyone was asleep, he got up and went and laid beside my 17 years old sister in her single bed in the same room as everyone. My sister freaked out when she felt a touch on her skin and alerted my parents.
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 stayed overnight at our house ever again. In Yoruba culture, this was hard especially when the reason was deemed too damaging to be revealed.
There is secrecy 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.
Fast forward 20years later, uncle Ade asked my father if he could stay in overnight whenever he visited from village. My father promised he would get back to him. My mother told my siblings and I that she does not support the idea of sleeping under the same roof as my uncle not even for a day, because my niece (the daughter of uncle Ade’s near victim 20 years earlier) lives 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.
Although my mother did not tell us at the time, she did what she could, given the culture to protect us – her daughters.
The attitude of the public is very harsh on the victims and the perpetrators usually go free. Those perpetrators mostly start from home and graduated to the streets when they realise they could get away with it.
Participating in an online conversation on solutions to effects of rape on the victims yesterday was very inspiring. I am glad that at least now that we have dedicated individuals like Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode bringing the discussion to life and encouraging citizens on dealing with aftermaths of rape. As Nigeria goes, this is a huge step forward because such issues as rape is usually swept under the mat. #FightRapeThursday
And hopefully, if we will all work together to give these victims much needed supports and violators the punishment rightly deserved – we will be one step further to restoring women freedom in our society. We have to start from home.