As a Nigerian woman, I have become more apocalyptic about my future in this country and my safety. The past fortnight has been filled with outpouring rape cases on social media, which showcases the rising trend of sexual violence in Nigeria. The wide outrage by citizens of the country following the cold murder of Uwaila vera Omozuwa, a 22 years old university student, who was gruesomely raped in a church where she was studying in Edo state. One amongst many others, this menace particularly feeds on young girls and women of all ages, and does not exclude boys. As usual, when things of this nature happen, for the first few weeks, it makes the news headlines, hot topics on social media, gossips in saloons and offices, street gists and at best weak protest demonstration after which heads are buried in the sand like an ostrich, returning to normal activities. Typical of certain human behavior, to always display docility on the chest as badges of honor and return to status quo.
It is a truism most rape cases goes unreported, because of this reinforced culture of silence starting from the family who accuses the victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or blames it on her dressing, to make matter worst takes the victim to church that she has a spirit of seduction. Sometime, families prefer to resolve it quietly to prevent labelling or denting the family’s name, while others out of poverty and lack of information would just let it slide for peace to reign.
Victims keep quiet and would not report to authorities due to lack of faith in the system starting from the police, who would accuse the rape victim of making up claims, passing derogatory remarks, asking humiliating questions, extorting the traumatized victim and ends up not arresting the perpetrator. Even when they do, perpetrators often go unpunished as rape cases are barely charged to court, and when they do the court acquits most of the rape offenders on the basis of lack of evidence or because the victim has a ‘questionable’ character. Also, in 2019 within the capital territory Abuja, some women who were arrested during a police raid, accused police officers of raping them repeatedly at the police station and till now the case is still in court. More importantly, a salient factor often ignored that contributes to victim blaming, is cultural structure, beliefs and practices built on power imbalance between men and women. This ought not to be.
How can we help victims?
It’s a tough world for the victims, as they are left to wallow in their pains and miseries alone, knowing fully well that sexual assault brutally shatters the live of its victims. It should be a collective concern to campaign against rape, create a conducive and supportive environment for rape victims, rather than blaming & Shaming which revictimizes them. Victims should also know there are free help centers where they can access services (medical, physiological, police, legal, and safety ). The government should ensure strict enforcement of existing rape laws and melt out tougher sanctions for perpetrators, if not it is so obvious for us to see that the nation has no promising future for the women.
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