The girl child: Her sordid tales, as rape of minors increases
BY KATE HALIM
TEN-YEAR-OLD Hafisat has known pain. She has experienced the kind of pain that she couldn’t have imagined in her innocent mind as a child. She was raped by a 20-year-old man, Wahab Abdul-Aziz in Ogun State this year.
Her innocence was shattered forever by that singular act of an adult who is supposed to protect a child. Hafisat was raped while on an errand for her mother. She was lured into an abandoned building in Sparklight Estate, Isheri Olofin, where Wahab forcefully had canal knowledge of her.
Her cries for help went unnoticed. Her pleas equally didn’t appeal to this man who was hell bent on violating her young body, taking her through the throes of pain, anguish and shame. Hafisat felt pain while he ravaged her little body. She was filled with anguish because no one came to her rescue and shame because her life, emotions and body have been scarred for life.
Even though the suspect has been nabbed by the police, Hafisat’s case is one among many to be reported in Nigeria recently where girls have become endangered species and preys that are being hunted down everywhere in the nation by the paedophiles.
Also recently, two brothers who are children of a pastor in Ebonyi state were arrested for raping two sisters, Favour and Uloma aged 7 and 9 respectively. The brothers allegedly lured the unsuspecting sisters to a corner in their father’s church and forcefully had carnal knowledge of them. Aside the desecration of a holy place where the act of criminality took place, many see it as an indictment on their father.
Ifeoma (not real name) is an eight-month-old baby who was sexually defiled by the man who had fathered her. Her mother, in her confusion attracted attention of her neighbours when she discovered that her husband had repeatedly raped their infant daughter.
She had observed that her husband often had an erection when he carried their daughter on his laps. He would also purposefully send her out of the house just to be alone with their daughter to carry out his deeds without suspicion. But the infant would let out loud shouts of pain when alone with her father.
Her suspicions were heightened when her daughter screamed out after her husband told her to go get him water. When she confronted him, he denied any wrong doing and explained that he just scared her with a scary face, but the mother checked her daughter only to see semen dripping from her privates and raised the alarm.
These are among the many rising cases of rape of minors in the country. And many Nigerians, especially parents of girls have their hearts in their mouths whenever such stories make headlines. They fear for their daughters. It is even scary that many fathers are sexually molesting and impregnating their teenage daughters these days.
In recent times, the Nigerian media has reported the increased frequency of child rape cases in various parts of the country. Child rape is one of the most traumatizing forms of violence against children, usually committed by a person in a position of power and trust in the child’s life.
While several cases are officially reported to the appropriate authorities in Nigeria, most people believe the majority of rape cases go unreported mainly because parents want to protect their children from potential stigmatization and embarrassment.
Recently, no fewer than 13 rape victims have been treated at Funtua General Hospital in Katsina State from January to date, the hospital’s medical director, Dr Tijjani Bakori revealed. He said that most of the cases were severe with victims requiring surgery in the hospital.
The medical director lamented that the rising cases of rape of minors signifies the magnitude of the problem in Funtua and environs. He said it is important for all stakeholders to intensify efforts to address the menace. According to him, all the victims were below the age of 13 and mostly from less privileged families.
He noted that there was no presence of International and National Non Governmental Organizations in the area to support the victims, noting that respective families of the victims were left to shoulder the burden. He urged the Katsina State Government and local councils in the area to ensure that the perpetrators were traced and severely punished.
A 12 year old had undergone surgery in the hospital because of the severe injuries she sustained while being sexually assaulted. She was raped by a security guard while the other victim, aged 13, was allegedly raped by her neighbour, one Dahiru Lawal in Bagari area of Funtua.
Mother of one of the victims said her daughter was sent to buy cooking oil when she was lured and raped by the security guard. She said that the victim lost a lot of blood and had to receive blood transfusion at the hospital. According to her, the suspect has a wife and three children.
In Enugu State, the Women Aid Collective (WACOL) recently expressed concern over the rising cases of rape in the state, despite efforts to fight the crime. They revealed that 32 cases are in court, out of which one conviction was recorded, seven at prosecution stage while others are awaiting trials. The victims are mainly minors and aged people. They are either raped by one person or a gang. Some of these victims end up pregnant or HIV positive.
Cases of rape were recorded in all the 17 local government areas while the highest figure occurred in the state capital, Enugu East, Enugu North and Enugu South. A major challenge to rape in the state has remained stigmatisation which prevents the family of victims from reporting cases of sexual abuse to the appropriate quarters.
This year in Makurdi, a 28 year old student Japhet Fahonuma was in custody for allegedly raping a 15 year old mentally challenged girl. He was discovered by passers-by who saw him defiling the girl and they reported to the girl’s family.
Last year, the Nigerian Senate passed the Sexual Offences Bill, 2015 which prescribes life imprisonment for rapists and those who have sexual intercourse with children under 11 years, but that has not deterred the rapists.
Recently, given the severity of the crimes against under aged girls across the country, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa advocated the cutting off of genitals of child-rapists. The former Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to former President Goodluck Jonathan, spoke as a special guest at ‘Magnenta and Black Art & Fashion for Charity’, a fund raising exhibition for Mirabel Centre, held at the British Council, Lagos.
Reacting to accounts of rape by two survivors at the event, the senator said: “The lady said she was happy that she got justice for her four-year-old daughter who was raped by two men but, in my mind, if I were a judge and a man is brought to court for raping a child, he will receive capital punishment. But I will say, `don’t kill him, rather let him live his life in pain, let his organ be cut off’.
“He should not be allowed the pleasure of using that organ anymore. If the organ is not cut off, at the end of his term in prison, he will use it on other children. Fortunately for them, I’m no longer in the Senate but I will find a way to get it into the chamber. This is the proper way to end the evil of rape in the society”.
In addition to that, the Managing Partner at Partnership for Justice and Founder Mirabel Centre, Mrs Itoro Eze-Anaba, said that the situation had reached a stage that girls are no longer safe in their homes since fathers and uncles now rape them.
She said rape is not a girls’ or women’s issue, it is a community issue because boys are also being raped daily and that the implication of such acts if not checked immediately will unleash potential abusers upon the society as these abused minors can turn to abusers themselves.
As many Non Governmental Organizations in Nigeria are struggling to make sure these victims get justice and recover from their ordeals, many of their efforts are being thwarted by the families of the victims who insist on shielding them from societal stigmatisation.
Mrs. Bukola Afolabi Ogunyeye, founder Morna International Children’s Foundation said that the rising cases of rape of minors in Nigeria has assumed a frightening dimension, stressing that “rape of these little girls aged 3, 5, 7 and above is real and destroying the psychological development of these children.
“Nowhere seems to be safe again for the girl child anymore. The churches, schools and even homes are no longer a safe haven for these children whose innocence is being taken away on a regular basis. It is worrisome.”
Mrs. Ogunyeye noted that these many rape cases have not received adequate government attention like they should. She revealed that rape damages the victim, as it takes vigorous and sustained treatment to recover from the psychological damage. She noted that parents have a role to play in ensuring that their children don’t fall preys to these sexual predators by teaching them about body parts early enough. Children she said must know the appropriate names of their private parts as from age 2.
“These children must be taught always that they must report to daddy and mummy anyone who tries to touch their private parts. The girl- child should not sit on the laps of anybody, and avoid one on one contact with the opposite sex such as private teachers, drivers, security guards and even family members.
“Those who sexually abuse children are acquainted with the child majority of the times. Uncles, cousins, nephews, teachers and even religious heads are those who prey on children.
Also, the relationship between mother and the girl-child must be strong and cordial one which would foster open communication between mother and child.”
She said that Nigeria needs laws that would further protect the girl-child as gender discrimination increases the risk of violence against the girl-child and inhibits the ability of those affected to seek protection. Nigeria needs effective laws to protect the girl-child.
Lending her voice to the campaign against the rising cases of rape of minors, Betty Abah, Executive Director, Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) said that one of the biggest contributory factors to the weird, frightening and absolutely unacceptable incidences of rape of minors in the country is free access to the internet especially pornographic sites.
She noted that today, a large number of underaged children and even the very aged are obsessed with pornographic online sites and x-rayed movies and naturally they would want to practice what they watch, adding that the nearest most available and vulnerable persons are usually children, especially poorly supervised and timid children.
Another factor, she noted was the leniency with which our courts handle rape cases. “It is a major scandal that in the 50 years plus history of this country, the courts have only been able to secure only 18 convictions. You would wonder what happens to the scores of reported rape cases we have in the national dailies every day. Most of the cases merely die naturally and at times, sadly, the victims are the ones that end up being shamed even in the courts, sometimes for lack of evidence.”
Nigeria, she said has stringent laws but almost zero enforcement. If we have more rapists sent to jails and thoroughly shamed, she believes that it would serve as a deterrent and other potential rapists would take precautions while the trend will go down naturally.
Our rape stories, by minors
14-year-old Rachael: My aunt warned me not to report
I left my widowed mother in Akwa Ibom State in company with my aunt Joy Isong who runs a restaurant in Mafoluku area in Oshodi, Lagos for a better life. But I regret that decision because I have been raped at different times in my aunt’s home.
One day, after my aunt had gone to the market, I was sleeping and suddenly felt someone on top of me. I tried to push him away but couldn’t. I knew him. I had seen him many times in my aunt’s house. He is a father of five who attends the same church with my aunty. He is also my aunt’s customer.
He covered my mouth when I tried to shout. He increased the volume of music playing at home. I pleaded with him but he said he would buy me expensive clothes. When I tried to resist him, he raped me.
When my aunt came back, I told her what happened and she saw that I was still bleeding. She told me to go clean up and went to talk to the man who raped me. But my aunt did not alert the police about the incident.
Also, my aunt’s 18-year-old son raped me afterwards at home. When I threatened to tell his mother what he had done, he just laughed at me. My aunt got angry with me for reporting her son to her. She ordered me to keep quiet about the two incidences if I didn’t want her to throw me to the streets. I told a teacher in my school who promptly informed the authorities.
12-year-old Queen: My father raped and got me pregnant at 12
I was raped severally by my father. He had been having carnal knowledge of me since I was 11 and impregnated me at the age of 12. He then forced me to abort a four-month-old pregnancy. I have lost count of the number of times he raped me. Each time my father came to me, I would cry and beg him to stop, but he wouldn’t listen to me. On one occasion, he beat me into submission before forcing himself on me.
8-year-old Sandra: He raped me after giving me 10 naira to buy biscuits
I was raped by our neighbour. I went up to him requesting for money to buy biscuits. After he gave me the money, he persuaded me to stay with him as he was watching a pornographic film when I entered his apartment. He asked me to undress but I declined telling him my mother would beat me for doing so. He forced me, dragged me to his bed and raped me. I opened up to my mother when I began to feel pains in my private part despite his warning not to disclose what happened.
13-year-old Lola: My uncle raped me three times
I offended my father and fled home because he wanted to beat me. I went to my uncle’s hotel and had to pass the night there. While I was sleeping, my uncle sneaked into the room and raped me. He warned me not to tell anybody and threatened to kill me if I did.
Afterwards, he came to our house and raped me again. He came to pass the night in our house. In the night, he came into my room, covered my mouth and raped me again. He threatened to kill me if I told anybody. He slept with me three times. I ended up pregnant. But he denied the pregnancy. I had to tell my aunty when he also attempted to rape his step daughter.
7-year-old Ngozi: The pastor who raped me serially blamed evil spirits for his acts
My rapist was a deacon of Jesus Saves Pentecostal church in Lagos. My mother is a food vendor who leaves my sister and I with Mr. Aneke pending our resumption time at school at 7.45 am because she leaves home by 6.00am.
He slept with me many times. He would undress me and insert his manhood in my private part. He will always threaten to kill me if I told anyone. After raping me many times, I told my parents who reported the matter to the police.
He told the police that he attempted to rape me just once and he didn’t even succeed. He said I was lying against him. He said he didn’t remove my pants because he was a leader in his church, but just moved it sideways. He said he left me when he couldn’t penetrate and ejaculated outside my private part. He claims evil forces made him do it.
Rapists are sick people -Psychologists
A child psychologist, Ololade Hector revealed that some of the effects of rape on children include both the initial physical trauma as well as deep psychological trauma. But she said that the lasting effects of rape involve mental health concerns and diminished social confidence.
“The child becomes withdrawn and even depressed. He or she now feels dirty, unworthy and unwanted.” She revealed that people who rape under aged girls are fascinated by pre-teen females. “They appear to have narcissistic and anti social traits. These predators lack compassion for their victims and express no regrets for their actions. They blame others for their actions except themselves.
‘’The paedophile treats his chosen victim child as an object, an extension of himself, devoid of separate existence. He finds the child’s submissiveness and gullibility gratifying. He regards every form of resistance as a threat to his power. So, he resorts to intimidating, cajoling, charming and making false promises to his victims in order to get what he wants.
“In the minds of paedophiles, isolating their prey from family, friends, peers, and from the rest of the society makes the victim dependent on their total control. They interpret everything the children do as inviting them to have a good time, that is how sick they are”, she added.