In recent times, the issue of rape has become a front burner. The latest case of this dehumanizing act were that of 22-year-old Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100 level student of the University of Benin who was raped and then killed in Benin, Edo state and Barakat Bello who was robbed, raped, and murdered. What made Uwa’s case more despicable is that the act was that she was reportedly raped by eleven men and left to die in the pool of her own blood. Her case was one too many. Her case isn’t the first and definitely won’t be the last.
Although rape is a common act in Nigeria, it goes largely underreported. Many of the victims always chose to be silent about it because they feel ashamed of themselves and also for not being able to help themselves against the rapists. They thought about a million things they could have done differently but didn’t do prior to the rape. It is that shame that has forced many rape victims to be silent about it and it is one of the reasons that ensured such an act continues. It is the shame they feel for themselves that has subjected many of them to serial rape by members of their families such as uncles, cousins, etc. and also because the rapists are sure that the victims would most likely never report it.
There is also the fear of what would happen if they report it. They fear how people that are close to them would take the news. They fear how many people would believe their story. Well, their fear is justified. Many of us are insensitive to their plight. Instead of blaming the rapists, we condemn the victims instead. We judge them based on the type of cloth they wear or how they carry themselves around. We probe them so as to know how they got to the place they were raped. We reprimanded for not shouting when the act was being committed. We tell them they chose to be silent as they were being raped because they were enjoying the intercourse even if it was forced. Of course, when the victims are aware that the society will judge them instead of condemning what had happened to them, they would be quiet about it. Some ladies even blame other ladies that are raped and seek to exonerate the rapists saying such things as ‘she should have seen the sign from the onset’ or that ‘she wasn’t forced to the guy’s room’. Thus, reporting it and keeping mute about it have the same consequence, which is the act not going punished.
The way a child is raised sometimes affects the way they treat issues such as this. Many female children are raised to see men as superior to them and they take everything that men do them as deserving. The male children are trained to see themselves to be more important than the female children. Oftentimes, very little effort is put into raising the male child in a way that will make him respect the females around him, especially those that are younger than he is. But the female child is trained to be a good woman so she could be accepted by the society for what she is and so that she could make a good housewife when that time comes. Little is done into prepping a young man on how to be a responsible man or how to be a good husband when he grows up. The belief is that as long as this is a man’s world, men could get away with anything. Unfortunately, that now includes acts such as rape.
From a young age, a male child could bully the female children around him as much as he likes and the latter would still blamed for putting herself in such a position that makes her a victim of male bullying. Parents caution female children when they try to play with male children that are about their age. They warned the female children to stay away from male children but cared less about teaching male children from a young age how to treat the women around them with respect and not bully them. The idea that it’s a man world is unconsciously planted in the minds of many of the male children when they see females suffer backlash from their parents when they do the same thing that they do but they get little reprimand for. Everyone wants to see a female child grow up to see a female child grow up to become someone that will bring honour to her family when she is old and wants the male child to be successful anyway he can.
Our resolve to go the religious way by preaching forgiveness when such an act happens is also not helping matters. Oftentimes, the family of the victims would want them to sue for peace and let everything go for peace to reign. As they say, we don’t remain friends after taking each other to court. When a lady is raped by someone close to her, her parents would prefer to let the case be settled within the family that is in a case where the lady is not accused of seducing her rapist. They don’t want the matter to go out for fear of what shame would come to the family. The elderly ones fear what stigmatization would come to the family when people heard that an uncle raped his niece or an aunt molested his nephew. They care about the image of the family than they do about what the act could do to the victim. And once a criminal is assured that he could always be pardoned in the name of saving the family’s image, they have the tendency to continue in such acts. After all, very few would believe the victims and the few that do would rather let it be swept under the carpet.
Even the Bible says that when the punishment for a sin is delayed, people would continue in it. Unfortunately, the police that are supposed to take such issues up are as to the plight of the victims are as insensitive as the majority lots. Sometimes, they make derogatory remarks at the victim and put her down psychologically. They could go as far as challenging her for going to where she was raped or asked whether she enjoyed it or not. Many of them don’t care about the person they are dealing with because once they are in their black uniform, they fear like invincible humans. When there is no justice in places where it ought to be found with ease, people don’t feel confident to report any harm done to them because they would receive more blame than the person that’s being reported.
As it is now, the society needs to do more in the way it views rape and other related matters whilst also acknowledging that rape happen to men as it does to women. Beyond that, every victim of rape should be encouraged to always speak up and not feel ashamed of themselves so that rapists would no longer be able to use the shame they feel for themselves as a weapon; the society should empathize with the victims and not judge them because nobody chooses to be raped and it could happen to anybody at any time and could happen anywhere including churches; male children should be trained on how to treat women with respect so they would grow up respecting and not feeling confident they could get away with anything; always forgiving the sins of a rapists would only give them power and encourage them to do it one more time because they would always find forgiveness, hence it should be discouraged; and people should be assured that when they report acts such as rape, the judicial system is capable of serving justice and not further kill the confidence of the victims. People should be reassured that they will always find justice when they are harmed and treated badly against their wish. Rape is a despicable act and nothing can justify it.
Written by Segun Ogunlade