Trauma. Shame. Regrets. Those words are common denominators in the lives of rape victims who daily struggle to overcome the ruins of their past.
Saturday Sun went in search of some of the victims against the backdrop of the prevailing rape epidemic in the country, only a few of them were willing to tell their heart rending stories.
When Comfort Inyang escaped from her uncle who wanted to rape her in exchange for paying for her University education, she didn’t know that fate had something terrible in store for her.
Inyang lost her father at an early age and had to live with some relatives growing up because her mother couldn’t take care of the six of them. It was a tough time for her because she had to move from one relative’s house to another just to protect herself from getting sexually assaulted.
She told Saturday Sun that her first experience with sexual assault was with her elder sister’s husband. She was a teenager living with her sister and on many occasions, her brother-in-law tried to rape her.
“He almost succeeded one night but I screamed as loud as I could and woke up my sister and the neighbours. He then sneaked out of my room. The next morning, I reported him to my sister but she didn’t believe me. She took his side and told me to leave her house”, Inyang stated.
Sad and broken because her elder sister chose her husband over her, she went to live with her father’s younger brother in Lagos. It was a different experience at first until she started noticing some strange behaviour from him whenever he was home alone with her.
Inyang revealed that he would sit stark naked when she was home with him or try to touch her inappropriately. When she told him his behaviour wasn’t proper, he laughed it off. He would use any opportunity he got to touch her. Inyang became fearful once again.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when she gained admission into the University of Uyo and he insisted on having sex with her before paying her school fees. He even tried to rape her one afternoon but she escaped and went back to her mother in the village.
She didn’t tell her mother everything that happened to her because she didn’t want to cause problems in the family. She only said she needed a fresh start and her mother welcomed her back home.
From fry pan to fire
Determined to leave her past behind, she joined a church and became a member of the choir. She became close to the wife of the pastor and helped her with chores. Months later, after her pastor’s wife gave birth, she spent more time with her family, helping her with the baby.
“We were four in number who slept in the pastor’s house and helped out with chores and other things but I didn’t suspect I was in a Lion’s den. One night, my pastor woke me up and told me to help him fix food. When I started walking to the kitchen, he grabbed me and told me to go to the sitting room first that he wanted to show me something”
Amidst sobs, Inyang revealed that what happened next shattered her life. Her pastor, the man she trusted told her to read Psalms 51 and after she did, he overpowered her and raped her right there in his sitting room while his wife, baby and other church members were fast asleep.
“He grabbed my throat and started squeezing. He warned me that if I screamed, he would strangle me to death and claim that I seduced him. I started crying and begging him to stop but he refused. He had his way with me and told me that as long as I keep quiet, nothing bad will happen to me”, Inyang revealed.
The next morning, her eyes were swollen from crying and her head was banging. His wife kept asking her what was wrong with her but she couldn’t tell her what happened. Inyang left the pastor’s house and never went back there to assist his wife even after repeated pleas from the woman.
Raped as a child
Dooshima Unde will be 40 in August but she hasn’t overcome the trauma of being raped as a child by a relative who was supposed look after her while her parents were at work.
According to her, the thought of how a neighbor locked her up in his mother’s bedroom and raped her will forever remain in her memory.
She told Saturday Sun that she was friends with the siblings of her second rapist and he was crushing on her best friend back then. He was so persistent that her friend started avoiding him. He wasn’t happy about that.
“One day, he told me that he needed to talk to me and I followed him into his mother’s bedroom. I still remember how he locked the door and put the keys in his pocket. I still remember how I was shouting and struggling, and he punched me on my shoulders. He slapped me and I saw stars. I almost passed out because my legs were weak from struggling so hard but he had his way. He raped me”, Unde revealed.
Unde still remembers how his siblings were banging the door for him to open it but he was adamant. It was bad because his siblings were scared of him. After he raped her, he sat on the bed looking calm like nothing happened while she sat on the floor and wept.
Unde said: “I cried for hours and begged him to let me out. It was fun for him as he saw me cry and beg. He told me he knew I’d tell my friends if I go out. He was bold to tell me he knew I wouldn’t tell my parents. Everyone around me knew I was scared of my parents it was no news. He threatened to deal with me if I spoke out.”
After she regained her freedom and got home, Unde lied to her parents that she was sad and lost her voice because one of her classmates died in a car accident. She didn’t tell them she was raped and the siblings of her rapist kept quiet too while he moved on with his life as if nothing happened.
For Ayo Adetola, the death of her father who kept raping her for years didn’t mean anything to her. Even though he’s dead, she feels he took the easy way out and didn’t pay for what he did to her. In her late thirties, Ayo hasn’t been able to keep relationships because she is scared of men.
Her father raped her while her mother traveled outside Lagos for business. He pinned her to the ground that fateful night and raped her. He warned her not to say anything to her mother otherwise, she would be in deep trouble. It was the beginning of a life full of tears, pain and regrets.
“When my mother came back from her trip, I wanted to tell her what happened but she didn’t have time for me. She was always going out to sell her goods and comes home late. That meant staying home alone with my father who kept reminding me not to say anything otherwise, he would stop paying my school fees”, Adetola stated.
One night while her mother was asleep, he sneaked into her room and raped her again. He warned her not to shout otherwise her mother and their neighbours would find out that she was a bad girl who was having sex with her father. She kept quiet and the next day, he told her not to look so sad because all fathers have sex with their daughters.
Adetola revealed that her mum caught him one day on top of her, he begged her not to shout so that the neighbours won’t know what was going on. Her mother became very angry with her. She called her unprintable names and threatened to throw her out of the house for trying to destroy their family.
“I was angry with my mum for defending my father and blaming me for what happened. I became withdrawn. I started keeping to myself. My grades suffered and I became aggressive. I fought with people a lot and till now, I still find it hard to sustain friendships or have a good relationship with any man. I am afraid of men”, she said.
Adetola left home a year later and didn’t relate with her parents. She dated a guy, got pregnant and gave birth to a son. She hated her father and wanted to kill him but fate played a fast one on her when he died in 2015 before she could get her revenge.
“I hate him. He’s the reason I didn’t complete my secondary school education. He’s the reason I’m always fearful and depressed. He’s the reason I can’t have a good relationship with other men. Even though he kept asking for me on his sick bed, I didn’t visit him. When I heard he died, I didn’t feel anything.”
Betrayed by friend
30-year-old Cecilia Nwankwo is heartbroken because of the recent news of rape cases in Nigeria. The stories of women and girls raped and murdered in some cases brought back painful memories she has been trying to suppress for years.
Nwankwo was set up by her friend so that her brother would rape her. According to her, her friend’s brother had been asking her out for a while but she kept turning him down because she didn’t want to get involved with her friend’s brother.
Nwankwo didn’t know her friend wasn’t happy that she didn’t want to date her brother. Her friend kept trying to convince her to give her brother a chance to prove he’s a good guy but she stood her ground and rejected his advances.
“One day, my friend called me and said she wasn’t feeling well and needed me to come over and help her buy some drugs and also to keep her company because she was home alone. She knew I wouldn’t have come over if she mentioned her brother was at home.”
When Nwankwo arrived, she met her friend alone at home and went out to buy her some drugs but she was surprised to find her brother at home when she came back from the nearby pharmacy. She wanted to leave immediately but the plan was already in motion.
According to Nwankwo, my supposed suck friend got up and told her brother to do whatever he wanted with me since I was proving too hard to get. She left the house and locked the door from outside leaving me at the mercy of her brother.
“I started crying immediately and begged the guy not to hurt me. He smiled at me and promised nothing would happen if I allow him to have sex with me. I told him it won’t happen and he grabbed me. He tore my clothes and started touching me. He brought out a knife from his pocket and advised me to keep quiet, otherwise he would slash my throat. He raped me thrice that day.”
“When it was over, he called my friend, his sister to open the door and take me away. He threatened to kill me if I said anything. While I was still crying and trying to cover myself, he said I shouldn’t bother because I wasn’t that special since I wasn’t even a virgin, Nwankwo added.”
They took her torn clothes and gave her one of her friend’s clothes to wear home. Nwankwo cried herself to sleep many nights after that incident. She never saw her friend again and didn’t say anything about what happened to her until recently.
NGOs proffer solutions to rape epidemic in Nigeria
Esther Ijewere, National Coordinator, Walk Against Rape Nigeria stated that indiscipline and people taking advantage of the system knowing fully well victims hardly get justice is one of the causes of the recent spike in rape incidents in Nigeria. She however noted that no matter what, there is no justification for this epidemic we have in our hands right now.
Ijewere told Saturday Sun that sensitization is key to eradicating this menace. Nigerians should all be advocates at the front line, using their platforms and resources to create awareness, lending their voices and encouraging victims to speak up without fear of being stigmatized.
“We also need to start having continuous and not seasonal conversations centered around naming and shaming of rapists, and making sure such people are listed on the sex offenders register. As long as we can collectively see this issue as one that affects everyone of us, and handle it at such, I believe we can curb the menace to a large extent, Ijewere added.”
Yemi Dabiri, Coordinator, Clipeg Solutions said one of the major cause for rape in Nigeria is the attitude of men towards rape and disregard for consent. Rape is taking without consent. Nigeria men should stop seeing women as their property.
Dabiri noted that rape is a crime like murder and robbery and until we start treating it like a crime where perpetrator is held responsible for their actions irrespective of status, gender then it’s not going anywhere.
She said that our judicial system should be more proactive when it comes to rape cases by treating it same way they will treat robbery and murder cases, and there should be no selective justice. Secondly, agencies must work together as a team to combat this menace. Also, Nigerians must break the culture of silence around rape.
“Also, profiling might help to curb rape in Nigeria. The relevant authorities must profile the attitude of rapists, how they operate, what is common to them, and how they think. All of these will help us come up with preventions. I suggest capital punishment for rapists.”