All protocols duly observed. Permit me to go straight to the crux of this letter.
I hope information that gets to you are not so filtered that you are not aware of the many cases of rape and molestation in Nigeria, which is currently too rampant to be ignored.
For the benefit of hindsight, I believe you are aware of some of these many cases, including that of the grandfather who raped his granddaughter; and the father who constantly raped his daughter since she was just 12. I hope you are aware of the Orphanage owner who habitually rapes girls he is meant to nurture, yet he was granted bail – released, permitted, and licensed to commit more havoc. I hope you know of the filmed and circulated gang rape of a young lady; the 4-year-old girl who was raped by an uncle; the 23-year-old young man who raped a 53-year-old woman; and the man who tied a female victim, raped, and buried her alive! Or what do we say about ‘masters’ who rape house helps, husbands who engage in forceful non-consensual sex with their wives (which is also rape); uncles/aunts who rape nieces/nephews; teachers who molest pupils; rich men who rape those they promise to sponsor through school; bosses who abuse staff; doctors who molest patients; and those placed in positions of authority who abuse their subordinates. Ma, it is not just male to female, it also happens vice versa. The cases are endless ma; and I am unable to ascertain if these news really get to you because it is unfathomable that nothing is being done by your office to tackle this menace; hence my open letter to you.
Your Excellency, I like to unashamedly let you know that I am one of these victims. I am a survivor! Many of us have been silent for fear of injustice, stigmatization, not been believed, and in a bid to protect our reputation; but enough is enough!!! No more silence!!! Not even with its recent reported and unreported rampancy, especially the classes of victims, as children and older women are not left out.
These experiences led me into a daunting self-war where independence is the ultimate goal – a war that grooms me to do all it takes to recover and maintain my voice and confidence. I gladly motivate others within my sphere of influence to do same lest they allow a nonentity forcefully snatch their dignity within minutes of a one-sided sexual pleasure. In the journey to recovery, I have learnt that overcoming the untold psychological and emotional trauma is the greatest gift I can give myself and the best vengeance for my miserable attackers. Ma, I realize that when I conceive great ideas and execute them – fail at some, win at some; when I love, sing, dance, play, and give; when I sometimes cry and laugh, and when I just live life contrary to the dictates and expectations of my horrible abusive past, I am able to unconsciously permit myself to confront and win my battles! It is then I truly become the winner! Then I become a responsible citizen, sister, daughter, wife, mother, and friend. But ma, how many victims learn these lessons? How many are real survivors? How many are really and truly healed? Some have become so perverted with uncontrolled sexual urges leading to promiscuity and prostitution; while some others are on a mission to vendetta, waiting to unleash if they ever sight their attackers.
Mrs. Jonathan, I could not stop the shiver that filled my spines, the goose pumps, and hot tears I fought to hold back as I watched how the body of the 5-year-old that was raped to death in India was carried away! This came days after another 4-year-old was gang-raped and left to die in the same country. The mother of the 5-year-old was as good as a walking dead! You could literally feel her agony as she wishes those who raped her daughter would be publicly burnt alive! It will be foolhardy to live in denial and think we cannot get to that stage in Nigeria as recent stories are pointers to how much we are no different! Your Excellency, should we fold our arms and wait till things get out of hand (as it is now in India) before we do something? Won’t that be crying over spilled milk? The next victim may be just anyone – a sister, friend, niece, daughter, or even a grand-daughter – and this WILL happen if we don’t become more aggressive in our approach to fighting this menace.
I watch my 4-year-old daughter, and sometimes wish I could place a ‘BEWARE’ notice on her forehead so no one would wrongly touch her the way her mother was wrongly touched. I see innocent and powerless young girls and boys who are potential victims if nothing is done! Yes, if nothing is done FAST, I envisage continuous cases of employees who cannot leave their abusive employers as they are breadwinners of their families; hurting wives who must stay in a marriage as society and religion demands; students who must pass, graduate, and secure good jobs so they can financially support their families despite abuse from their teachers/lecturers; house helps who must send money home to their aging parents and pay their siblings’ school fees despite being abused every night by their masters; job seekers who, if they don’t succumb to the sexual pressures of their would-be employers, may not get the job. Ma, I wonder what is being done to create a society where these issues are properly tackled so as to protect these current victims, serve as deterrent to would-be abusers, and a shield to countless innocent and powerless citizens who may join the already large numbers of silent but struggling survivors. Ma, I strongly believe we should be proactive and preventive, rather than being curative.
Your Excellency, as I heal, I continually tell myself it was NOT my fault after all. I have stopped judging myself; but still struggle to forgive my abusers as I sometimes nurse the thought of doing something I couldn’t do during the episode – like inflicting pains on them for disrespecting my ‘stops’ and ‘no’s’, thereby violating my right to choose. Ma, I am not the only one with these thoughts and experiences; I have interacted with countless victims to confirm this. You can’t imagine the number of victims out there dealing with flashbacks, low self-esteem, self-blame, scars, nightmares, wishes, and horror-memories that they hope could just fade away. Yet we expect that we will have more women in Nigeria’s polity holding leadership posts? How? When many are shadows of themselves, practically managing to maintain confidence and self-worth. How are they supposed to manage others, when they still struggle to hold their heads high? Ma, prevention is indeed better than cure!
Your Excellency, my letter is not to open fresh wounds; yet I am of the school of thought that to determine a better future, it is sometimes necessary to dig into the past. My letter is a respectful and humble call to action – a propeller for us to determine the anticipated future of sexual-related degradation in Nigeria through our actions and inactions. As an individual Nigerian, I have just commenced what I call “Project WARM” (WARM – War Against Rape and Molestation) as a medium to contribute my quota to curbing this societal scourge; but my influence can only go as far as what my available meagre resources can achieve. I write this, therefore, to APPEAL to your motherly conscience to please take this issue of rape and molestation very seriously. Kindly use your power, money, stardom, popularity, influence, prominence, voice, and all God has given you the privilege to possess, to fight a worthy cause as rape and molestation. It will be a good approach if you can also encourage other State ‘First Ladies’ to include or consider this as pet projects so that collectively, we can reduce the causes and effects of this menace. Your approach should not only be to creatively bring awareness, but also to ensure justice is sought and gotten so as to serve as deterrent for perpetrators; especially for poor victims whose cases get denied and dismissed. Kindly use your good office to ensure a society where the victim is not blamed and stigmatized in addition to being abused; we don’t want a society where rape is interpreted as fornication, as was done to Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, a teenage girl who was gang-raped by three men in 2011, yet lashed 100 strokes (under the Sharia Law) for lack of witnesses and evidence. Ma, you will agree with me that when a woman is empowered, the nation benefits greatly; but when a woman suffers, the universe bears its brunt.
I am certain you don’t want Nigeria to be named the giant of Africa’s sexual abuse cases before we do what we have been divinely empowered to do as women. Don’t forget that the next victim could be just anyone.
Thank you for your anticipated actions ma.
God bless you; and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
bukkyshonibare (at) gmail.com