Cosmas Omegoh and Christy Anyanwu
It is not a fluke. Nigeria is experiencing an exponential rise in rape incidents. Probably no day passes these days without tens of women being raped. Pieces of crystal-clear evidence are suggesting that the menace has taken a turn for the worst.
Many men are simply running riot. They can no longer keep their libido in check. At every turn, they are pouncing on hapless females – adults, girls, minors, not sparing the infants. It is a never seen scenario on the upward climb.
As it stands, every concerned Nigeria is livid. The refrain on every lip is how did the society get to this crossroads?
Rape a bye product of society on the rise
According to Dr Charles Umeh, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, the rising incidences of rape is a bye-product of the society.
For him, the jump being witnessed now has of both immediate and long-term causes.
“First, there is a clear-cut reduction in human activities; many people have lost their sources of income. They are experiencing a downturn in their financial fortunes; this is leading to a rise in frustration.
“Second, the lockdown imposed by the government to curtail the spreading of COVID-19 brought an avalanche of trauma and hardship on the people. And while it lasted, some people needed to test that a part of their body is still alive. They didn’t give a damn about this because the sexual orgy can be overwhelming to some people.
“Of course, the truth is that there are many out there who do not have control over their sexual orgies. They probably don’t have money to visit the brothels or probably their wives were not there for them, yet they must poke their thing inside a hole. So, what happens next? Every woman they saw around them became a target. And the result is what we are seeing now.”
He also noted that “for many, the urge to rape can be heightened by feelings of lowliness, anger, inadequacy, humiliation, rejection. Many across the country are feeling that way right now.
“Over the past months, people faced frustration at home, especially those who live on their daily income. Now, some people have been sacked by their employers. So, they are jobless.
“And there is no forgetting that some men use work as a cover to run away from the home front. They use work to stay away from the pressing challenges at home to which they later return to confront.
“Such men usually have issues with their wives who don’t give them any opportunity to release their sexual tension. So, what do they do? Deprived, some of them simply pounce on any female around them to show that they are still men and dominant.”
Such scenario occurred on Saturday June 6, 2020, at Makoko Yaba, Lagos, where an eight-year-old deaf girl simply identified as Bolanle was brutally raped by a yet-to-be identified man in her neighborhood.
Bolanle’s case was brought to the public space by Mrs Olaide Ajayi, whose Debora Group provides food for the underprivileged children within the area.
Dr Ume said: “There is the nagging issue of people who feel that they have not been able to achieve, or their only way to manliness has been taken away from them. So, the only way they can cover their inadequacies is to see if they can overpower a woman. Recall that in this part of the world, it is often believed that the woman has to play the second fiddle. So, anyone who dominates them is man enough. That is why some men abuse women physically and otherwise to assure themselves that they are still men. These explain what is happening now.”
While acknowledging that rape is an age-long vice, he said: “Looking at rape from a broader perspective, for instance, if someone has been raped (male or female) or had witnessed sexual molestation while growing up, he/she turns out to be a rapist. Studies have shown us that. Another factor is that there are some men who are frustrated by circumstances around them. Because of that, they suffer rejection and lack of love; for them, the only way to have a sense of being human is to rape people they can overpower so as to gain a sense of superiority or wellbeing.
“There is also the case of psychopaths – well-known persons who love to see others suffer. They just rape people at will. We also have people who due to their poor social skills, cannot woo women; and what do they do? They stalk any woman they see, corner her at an alley and rape her – all because they need to satisfy their sexual orgies.
“In this part of the world, it is not out of place to say there is some myth about why people rape others. For instance, we have cases of fathers raping their daughters. And there are so many of them these days.
“When the elderly ones are the perpetrators of this act, one can ascribe the reasons to cult or ritual-rated issues,” he said.
Stigmatisation fueling rape
Dr Cynthia Chisom Umezulike, human rights activist, said that “the ubiquitous culture of victim stigmatisation reinforces the impunity of offenders to perpetrate acts of sexual violence and intimidation continuously. The predominant attitude of the Nigerian society is to doubt the survivors and question their story by deflecting the essential circumstantial narratives surrounding the act. Victims are often asked – why did you dress inappropriately? Why did you visit his residence? Why were you out at night?
“In disparaging the victims’ account and experience, the society successfully intimidates and shames them to silence, thereby deterring others from reporting acts of sexual violence and assault.”
She, therefore, said that “victims should be given adequate statutory protection under the law and empowered to unreservedly narrate their experience without the fear of intimidation, stigmatisation and victimisation.
Let’s call rape by its name
Dr Umezulike said that rape is heinous, insisting that it is condemnable.
Hear the activist: “Section 357 & 358 of the Criminal Code of Nigeria defines rape as ‘having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent….’
“Rape is a crime against humanity – a severe violation of one’s human rights, dignity and bodily integrity.
On his part, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, in a statement said that the upsurge in the number of rape cases in the country is worrisome to him.
In the statement issued by the church’s Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, he condemned in very strong words the growing trend across the country.
He said: “Rape is not only appalling, and reprehensible, but an intrinsic evil that infringes on the dignity and privacy of the victims, causing deep scars on their psyche.
“Rape is not only a serious crime against the victim, it is also a gross violation of the sacredness of the person’s body and an affront on the Almighty God who created the victim and every other person in His image and likeness.”
Archbishop Martins “expressed sadness that the high number of rape incidents across the country in recent times (January – May, 2020) put at over 717 by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, is an attestation that the society is fast plunging into the abyss of immorality.”
Also joining in condemnation of rape is Chief Ifayemi Elebubon, a teacher of Ifa divinity and an ambassador of Yoruba culture and tradition.
He told our correspondent that “rape is simply an immoral act. Those that are engaged in sleeping with infants or under-aged are committing immoral acts. There is no ritual that would tell an elderly person to have sex with a minor; it is simply immoral.”
Rage against rape
Since rape assumed a disturbing dimension, there have been various protests and outpouring of emotions by concerned citizens. Many cannot understand why within a space of five days, May 28 -June 1, two teenagers who were students in various high institutions – Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, 22, and Barakat Bello, 18 – were raped and murdered in separate incidents in Benin City and Ibadan respectively.
Unhappy about the cruel fate befalling many women and girls in the hands of men in recent times, Dr. Dasilva Ibru, founder, Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) at a forum not too long ago, lamented that “our statistics will tell you that one in four girls has had one violent sexual encounter before the age of 18.”
Now, the spread and impact of this vice across the country has been so glaring in recent times that all the 36 states governors resolved to declare a state of emergency on it and other gender-based violence against the women folk.
Even the police boss had called on Nigerians to join hands in tackling the monster now threatening the women folk.
To this end, a woman activist, Ene Obi, country director, ActionAid, at a protest in Abuja by the Coalition of Civil Society Groups told a national daily that “women and girls need more than promises; we need an urgent declaration of state of emergency in every state in Nigeria to accelerate investigation, arrest and prosecution of rape offenders.”
Impact of rape on victim and society
But has rape any impact on the larger society apart from the victim? The answer, according to Dr Umeh, is an emphatic yes.
Listen to him: “Rape is one of the major causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Studies have shown us that about 80 per cent of those molested sexually or raped suffers from acute stress disorder. Out of this, about 43 per cent eventually suffers from acute stress disorder. This comes with an avalanche of emotional disorders: depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and general feeling of unwellness. Some of them eventually lead to PTSD because rape to them is a violation of their essence of existence. Some people live with this for a very long time. To some people, if this is not well managed, it leads to severe depression and eventually suicide.
“Obviously, with the rise in rape, we are going to have lot of people living with mental illnesses. Remember the mental health of members of the society is very important in propagating everything. You need to be mentally alive in going about every day activities. Some of the people who go through these challenges might be trusted with the handling and taking sensitive decisions affecting other people’s lives; that is dangerous for the society. If such people are not in control of their emotions, that might be dangerous. Take for instance, if you are dealing with a lady manager who was once raped and now going through PTSD, one is sure to get a raw deal. Some of these challenges are not easily diagnosed except when the victim presents. Of course, such people often don’t present because of the trauma associated with rape. Therefore, the actions and decisions of such victims are likely going to impact on the decisions they make. There is the tendency that such people might be simply transferring aggression to others, especially in the work place.”
Equally, Dr Umezulike was of the view that “victims of sexual violence not only suffer the physical consequences of the devaluation of their body (unconsented pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases), there is also the psychological trauma from the experience, which leads to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“It is, therefore, critical that the Nigerian society recognises the injurious and detrimental effect of sexual violence on victims.”
Advice to rape victims
Dr Umezulike insisted that “it is very crucial to request that medical examination be conducted using a rape kit, which will provide evidence for forensic analysis. Ensure a formal complaint is made to the authorities – speak up and have the courage not to come under the shadow of intimidation and stigmatisation. To aid your cause – immediately contact NGOs focused on ending sexual violence and enforcing fundamental human rights protection.”
Call for action against rape
While calling for decisive action against all those found culpable in the court of law, Archbishop Martins stressed that urgent steps must be taken to rid the society of the evil of rape.
“Parents, religious bodies and non-governmental organisations must deliberately teach the boy-child respect for women; concerned government agencies must pay attention to suggestive contents that sexualise girls in musical videos as well as enforce more strict restrictions on pornographic materials that are so easily available on the Internet. Each person must also resist the common view that people must satisfy whatever urge or desire they have as if we are lower animals that have no control over their desires and urges. Everyone must also advocate for justice for victims of rape and severest possible punishment for rapists.”
He challenged the Nigeria police to give justice to victims of rape a priority and asked NGO’s and health workers across the country to join hands with other relevant professionals to offer care and necessary counseling to victims of rape in order to help them overcome the trauma of the sad experience.
He called on the National Assembly to find ways of ensuring that all states in the country domesticate the Child Rights Act in order to give full legal protection and guard against abuse of children, especially the girl child.
Reinforcing the message, Dr Umezurike said that in a way, the Nigerian government can offer better protection by implementing the right policy strategies for combating rape and broadening the scope under which sexual offenders can be effectively convicted.
In the same vein, Chief Ifayemi Elebubon urged the society to imbibe good morals, saying that the “various religious bodies and leaders should emphasis and teach their followers the lessons and gains of good morals. “Religious leaders should talk to their congregation to fear God and stay away from taboo, which the Yoruba call ‘ewo,” warning “anyone that commits ewo will see the consequences sooner or later.”