The world has been shaken these past weeks by rape and rapists. I would have said by COVID-19 but, as that Prime Minister said, “Valar Morghulis”. So, the virus has been struck off. However, just about the same time, racism and rape reared their ugly heads. A lot of discussion is ongoing on the best punishment for rapists. This is me adding a bit or two.
I must have been barely eight years old when one of our cousins came to stay with our family while he wrote an exam. We had just been a year back in Nigeria and I really did not know these extended family members. But, family is family, right?
So, what could have prepared me for that night? I woke up to find my underwear pulled down and my cousin rubbing his hands on my buttocks. He saw that I was awake and un-moving (Out of shock and confusion) and tried to use that momentary hesitation to shush me.
I ran to my parent’s room, glancing behind me while I knocked on their door. What if they did not answer? And what would I even say was happening? Is there a name for it? Will they believe me? Will he deny? What if they blame me?
“Daddy, bro XYZ is disturbing me.”
Maybe my father just got it immediately. Or it was the look on my face and the way I was glancing fearfully at the cousin. It could also have been the oddness of the hour. Whatever it was, daddy did not ask me anything further. “Go back to sleep. Lock your door.”
I know daddy spoke to him that night. What they said, I don’t know. Next morning though, this cousin punished and beat me for lying against him. What lie I told he didn’t say and my brothers, not knowing better, kept asking me what I did wrong.
Dad and mum had gone out. I did not get any time with them to talk about what happened. Or maybe it was not necessary? I could not bring myself to tell my brothers. This cousin was older than them. What could they do? He’d probably just punish them too.
My first brother only got to know about that incident when Bukola Dakolo spoke up last year.
He did not rape me. But, that was sexual abuse. If I had not woken up, what more would he have done? If my parents were not around, who would I have run to? What says he had not done same or more to some other girl out there?
I had a Zoom Meeting with some of my secondary school classmates yesterday. It was a follow up to a whatsapp discussion that proved to be eye-opening, positively and otherwise. When people eventually got talking on this Zoom call, it became quite obvious that something had to be done.
Question was, what? What would bring an end to this cycle?
- If we decide to kill off all current rapists, there would be some relief. Huge relief actually. But, for how long? Would we also make a time machine that would take us into all possible futures so we could kill the rapists therein? Lets also not forget the arguments that would spring up about the sanctity of human life or the need to make them suffer before they die or the famous, “Of what benefit is their death to the victim whose life has already been greatly altered?”
- Life imprisonment would seem like a good idea too seeing as they would be shut off from the sane world and probably exposed to rape themselves. Problem is, this is Nigeria. Before the perpetrator is pronounced guilty, many waters may have passed under bridge. Even when he eventually gets there, if he is well connected, he may be out in a jiffy. Besides, if we by some miracle apprehend ALL the rapists in Nigeria, the prisons we have will not be enough.
- Well, there is castration too. But, picking up from the last sentence in number two above, where would we find the surgeons to attend to them? Besides, what if one of the surgeons is a rape victim herself? Would she be able to limit her scalpel to just the designated structure?
- How about facing a firing squad? And I think we have more than enough ammunition for this and enough hands to pull the triggers.
But, would any of those be the most effective?
Rape is about sex. Rape is about power.
It is about exerting power over the sexual want or desire of another and deriving joy from the ability to do so and from the sexual pleasure gotten at the expense of the victim’s consent, comfort and cooperation. (That’s PEO™)
I have learnt that when you take what matters the most to villains, you strip them bare. That thing they think they can use against you, how about you spin it the other way round? Yes, let every female be taught self-defense. Let pepper spray and the likes get sale booms.
At the same time, let’s do these too:
- Emphasize on #SexEducation for all children by families, schools, religious bodies and communities. As was generally agreed on that Zoom call yesterday, many of us grew up without proper sex education. We had nothing more than threats, warnings and scoldings. For us girls, we heard things like, “If you LET a boy touch you, you will get pregnant/run mad/die.” We had biology teachers fumble through classes on reproductive organs because they could not bring themselves to pronounce vagina, penis, sex, etc. Religious bodies would talk about opposite sex attraction as though it took only the devil or some demons residing in you for that to happen. The community was filled with movies that propagated rape, infidelity, intimate partner violence and child abuse as normal occurrences. If these institutions take it upon themselves to change the narrative, maybe then we would make some headway.
- Empowerment, especially #women empowerment, is a must. You see, we were talking about the societal expectations on women and sincerely, it is dad. The African/Nigerian woman has just tow houses to live in; her parent’s and her husband’s. If either house turns her out, she has to turn to the other. There is no in-between. It is either she is here or there. Right from childhood, we are being groomed to become wives, not women. Every action or inaction is interpreted in light of you becoming a wife some day. And this becoming is not even your choice. It is more of a guy choosing to come pick you from one house to the other. A woman is of no consequence outside her father’s name or her husband’s name. This misconstruction of females has to stop. Women have to be allowed to exist outside and beyond this.
- No one is allowed to look away anymore. You are not allowed to say it is not your business. There is nothing like, “This is not my fight”. But, it is. It is a #fight we all have to carry on our heads. Every time you come across a rapist, potential rapist, rape apologist and all those who are sitting on the fence in any way at all, you should not look away. Speak up! Report! Get them arrested! Let the community know them for who they really are! Do not protect them in the name of ANY CODE.
- If you think you don’t know what to do on your own, look for #organizations that are into these things and lend an arm anyway you can.
- I would call on the government but why mock a deaf man by asking him if he can hear you.
Oh, and stop blaming the victim. But, if you still need to be told that or convinced that #RapeVictims did not choose/ask to be raped, then, you need psychological evaluation and help.
There is so much more to say. We will not be silent.
I am currently working on the site and it has been hectic. It involves bringing my photography into the show and creating a Shop from where you can buy the images. I apologize for the inconvenience. When it’s all done, I believe we’d have something amazing! Thank you.