The upsurge in reported cases of rape in Nigeria does not only call for sober reflection but demands a holistic panacea by the government, community leaders and other concerned individuals in our society. Nigeria is currently engulfed in a rape crisis. Our women (and in a minority of cases, men) are under siege by rapists. Rape is an insidious endemic that has ravaged every part of our society and the time has come for all of us to pay it the critical attention it deserves.
The worst part of it is that these violent sex crimes sometimes end in murder or threatening of the same victim and the culprits are more likely family members or people who are trusted by the victims. These include religious leaders, fathers, uncles, relatives or neighbours of the victims.
Sexual violence is a common but disastrous phenomenon in our society. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, most ladies are raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, often by someone they know and trust. In some Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries, that figure is even higher. Additionally, sexual assault is not limited to women, many men and boys suffer rape and sexual trauma every year but the rape of women is the most common.
Regardless of age or gender, the impact of sexual violence goes far beyond any physical injuries. The trauma of being raped or sexually assaulted can be shattering, leaving the victims in agony, shame, fear, loneliness, or being plagued by nightmares and other unpleasant memories. You no longer trust others. You may question your judgment, your self-worth and even your sanity. You may blame yourself for what happened or believe that you are “dirty” or”damaged goods,” relationships feel dangerous, intimacy impossible and on top of that, many rape survivors struggle with eternal trauma and depression.
This is not limited to immediate communities alone. Some other respected places like schools, religious places, and other places who are known for high moral standards and etiquette have also become the den where rapists hide to perpetrate their evil acts.
A recent report by PREMIUM TIMES shows how female students in Nigeria tertiary institutions have been left with no other option than to quit school as a result of sexual harassment from lecturers. It narrates the agony, the pain and the ordeal of rape victims across Nigeria campuses. One may begin to wonder how lecturers and other members of the academia who ought to be the epitome of moral values and good examples have become rape monsters who prey on innocent female students on campuses and plunge their lives in eternal trauma.
According to the survey carried out by the medium, 41.5 per cent have been sexually assaulted, and 77.4 per cent confirmed that they know persons who have been sexually assaulted in school. This shows the alarming rate of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions.
The stigma attached to being raped discourages the victims from coming out. They are, at times, wrongly blamed for alleged “indecent” dressing which does not, in any way, justify rape. Our society needs to give the victims a listening ear, we should not add to their problems by stigmatizing them because of their ordeals. Rather, we should embrace them and seek justice for them.
Our tertiary institutions need to adopt a clear policy that will prohibit sexual harassment of any form. The law of sexual harassment and heavy sanction it attracts should be enshrined in student handbooks, there should be a special committee or department responsible for the monitoring of sexual harassment attempts in all the tertiary institutions. This will go a long way in mitigating rape and other forms of sexual harassment in Nigerian schools.
Rape, like other forms of gender violence, is a silent endemic that has wreaked havoc on the lives of many people. It is an infringement on women’s rights, privacy, self-preservation, and dignity. It is both a violation of moral and constitutional rights and the government must change the way enforcement agencies deal with this crime. There should be public awareness right from primary school to higher institutions on how rape victims can get justice and heavy sanctions must be levied on the perpetrators when caught and tried.
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