Today, I want to ask women: how protective are you to your children, especially your daughters and the female wards in your care?
When the news filtered into town that Ochanya Ogbanje, a 13-year-old girl from Benue State had died from complications that arose from the serial sexual abuses she was subjected to by an evil tag team of father and son (who incidentally were her uncle and first cousin, respectively). Women across the country cried in agony and were ready to spill the blood of the despicable culprits if they had laid hands on them. The aggrieved and incensed women would probably have castrated them with vengeful fury. The circumstances of the death of the teenager could not be more devastating.
READ ALSO: Justice for Ochanya Ogbanje
In the heat of the outcry, the reaction of a good number of mothers was couched in the popular catchphrase denial: “God forbid, it is not my portion!” Notwithstanding, the empathy for the Ochanya men and women who wept for her and the uncountable number of young girls that have been victims of rape and other forms of sexual abuse, it must be borne in mind that Ochanya’s mother meant well when she sent her daughter to be with her kith and kin, her sister. It was in the hope that her daughter would be given a better life than she herself could have provided for Ochanya. It is such arrangements that make us true Africans and our brother’s keeper. But times have changed.
Today, I want to ask women: how protective are you to your children, especially your daughters and the female wards in your care? What awareness, moral instructions and monitoring are you giving to your daughters to protect them from sexual predators and rapists? Are mothers failing in raising rape-safe daughters? Have mothers become so high-handed and unfriendly such that their daughters find it difficult to confide in them? Can your daughter tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth? If she cannot, know that you are failing in your responsibilities.
Another question: how have you been able to stop primary intimidation around her? Arm her with the requisite information to beat back intimidation before it is too late, and probably consumes her. Have you spoken to her in the language she would understand? Have you given her media reports and books about rape cases to read and understand?
Have you shown her practical things about life? It is commonly said that if you train one woman, you have trained a village. What is happening today? Senior female students now intimidate junior students and attempt to turn them into lesbian pets. Mothers, act now, not tomorrow.
When daughters show non-proper conduct, do we look the other way and dismissively say, “Children of these days are all the same.” This is a fallacy as children are not the same in character. What you sow is what you reap.
Granted that getting into the corporate workforce has brought financial success to women, the other side of the coin is that most of them have become negligent in raising their children as the home front gets less and less of their attention.
It is a grievous decision for a woman to send an artisan to carry out repairs when only the house girl is at home. There ought to be the presence of another adult to discourage any untoward occurrence, such as rape.
Widows, divorcees, and single mothers who get into a new relationship should be doubly careful, be wise and watch the new lover with eagle eyes if she has daughters. Make sure he came for you and not your daughters. Ask all necessary questions, react to all statements. Don’t keep quiet when your daughter is admired lustfully. Women who dress their children in skimpy clothes during outings to keep up with the Joneses are unconsciously setting up the innocent children for rape or sexual abuse. Dress your daughter decently. Another question: must every man be welcome in your home? Are all male friends, colleagues, neighbours and church members welcome? Don’t expose your girls to danger, rather protect them like a wise single parent.
A female neighbour once told a nauseating story about how a careless mother used to hand over her crying child to a male neighbour to console because the man had a ‘soothing balm’ for crying toddlers. Unknown to the man, one day the mother peeped through the half window to discover to her horror that the ‘soothing balm’ was the man’s erect manhood stuck in the crying baby’s mouth. As he thrust in and out of the baby’s mouth, the yell stopped automatically. Can you imagine such degree of depravity?
In our urban settings, young girls go about to hawk in the medium and high density areas. This should not be; at best, the girls should go in pairs and threes or even accompanied by male siblings.
Another sad story was told of two female friendly neighbours; one had two boys aged 12 and 14; while the other had two beautiful daughters aged eight and nine. The mother of the girls would carelessly tell her daughters to stay in her friend/neighbour’s house for safety when they returned from school. On that fateful day, all the four children came back from school and the regular at-home-mummy was not around. It became a free day for all. The two girls were encouraged and made to remove their pants; the 14-year-old climbed on the nine year-old-girl, while the 12 climbed on the eight at the same time in the same room and had canal knowledge of these young girls. From the accounts of the girls, semen came out from both boys. It was a major disaster for the family of the girls.
Mothers, keep your children in your house, remove sharp objects that might harm them, keep food, snacks for them and hurry home when your business is done. If you are lucky to get a reliable supervising eye, fine and good, if not do not trust all neighbours especially the men.
These are perilous times as the Bible warns. Sexual abuse of a minor can be the other way round, as in the case of an accomplished female lawyer who molested a teenage boy. Both lived in the same house and were relatives to a couple. While Oga and Madam were upstairs, these two had separate rooms downstairs. The lawyer who nobody suspected of evil would lure the boy to bathe with her and then intercourse followed until the boy began to describe the lawyer’s breast. With a little pressure, he spilled the beans on what had been happening downstairs for months. It was so embarrassing to both families. Similarly, hell was let loose when a JSS2 student impregnated a female youth corps member in a certain secondary school. The list is endless.
Mothers, you need to be very careful with the most precious gift God has given to you. Rapists and sexual predators do not come from distant places, they are within and around us, just like the 70-year-old man who defiled a five-year-old girl. The lecherous old man was a friend to the victim’s grandfather who owned a pool office.
He was a regular face at the pool office, where he often came to play. On account of his age, nobody suspected him until he defiled the little girl, hiding behind familiarity.
Figure out how to protect your daughters no matter your work schedule. Take your girls into confidence, build trust between you and make them your friend, to enable you find out their fears, put in extra effort, and use persistent phone calls to monitor their movement and safety. Advice, discuss, train and caution when needed. Do what is within your power and leave the rest to God. The days are evil.
You can imagine this, a well respected and responsible senior executive was arraigned before a law court for alleged rape. It was so shocking to all because one would think the man in question was just a father figure based on his conduct not knowing that no house help was spared sexually. Whenever the wife discovered each incident, she would send the help away while trying to keep her marriage and husband until one tiny help who was trapped while madam was away ran out and informed the neighbours about what the man did to her. Women in that estate rallied round, called in the police and he was arrested.
An encounter with the Mirabel Centre at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, (LASUTH), Ikeja, would keep you spellbound. Rape cases are almost getting out of hand. The social stigma of rape takes a long time before it heals.
What are women not getting right? Why is there so much decadence? Are we busy chasing away and fighting our husband’s girlfriends while our daughters are being raped? If you do not protect any girl under your custody like Ochanya’s auntie did not protect her, the blood will be on your head as the mother.
Those mothers who spend all their time in church without knowing the whereabouts of their children are clearly playing with fire. It was at a big vigil that the son and daughter of two senior pastors sneaked away, to have sex. After one month, the girl’s pregnancy was traced to that vigil.
Mothers, do you have teenage children, especially boys in secondary schools? Watch them closely. Smartphones now enable them to visit pornographic sites and explore them. Some would like to practice what they have watched as young enthusiasts. Do not think your son is a saint because you might not know his true colour. They have mixed with all sorts in school – both trained and untrained children, weak and lazy, responsible and not, hardworking and sluggards as well as those from physically and emotionally abused homes. Look at them eyeball to eyeball and be firm. Do not let his gentle disposition deceive you as a mother. Be a loving and wise mother.
Mothers who send their children to people to train because of lack are not getting it right. I am sure Ochanya’s mother would be in total regret since the abusive death of her daughter.
Those ‘saints’ you are entrusting your precious daughter to could be the first abusers like the case of Ochanya. Women please wake up to your responsibilities. What killed Ochanya was not the complications from rape alone, but the intimidation and fear instilled in her.
Probably, if she was taught how to be bold, fierce and outspoken, possibly, she would still have been alive today. In all, the knees and the praying mouth of a mother get to God in heaven. Do not joke with prayers as a mother.