Sexual abuse… Writers, celebrities seek action against scourge

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Guests at the launch of Disowned; the author, Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka (third left); popular actor, Mr. Richard Mofe-Damijo and guests… in Lagos

• The Reality Is That As We Speak, A Little Girl Is Being Sexually Violated
In what appeared like a campaign outing, a roomful of writers, celebrities and feminists recently gathered in Lagos for the launch of Disowned, a collection of dark and harrowing short stories by Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka, a protégé of renowned actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo. They were unanimous in their condemnation of crimes of sexual violence against women, especially young girls and minors by those who are close to them – family members and friends, male and female house helps.

They therefore also urged government to take urgent action against rampant crimes of sex abuse against women and young girls. It was their view that government should stop the culture of silence and become proactive in resolving abuses against young girls as deterrence to would-be perpetrators.

Some of the celebrities in attendance included actors Joke Silver, Mofe-Damijo, Kate Henshaw, Adesuwa Onyenokwe, Ramsey Noah, Chioma Chukwuka among others.

The author, Anyianuka, lamented the horrendous abuses young girls are often subjected. She said they were usually ignorant that a crime was being committed against them, as everyone around them keeps quiet. She stated that she had encountered a lot of children, who were sexually violated, but who didn’t even know they were being violated.

The author and the star actors agued strongly that girl should not take the blame whenever rape occurred, but that male culprits should be decisively dealt with so as to nip the ugly trend in the bud. They argued that society must stop blaming the girl, whenever she is violated, and stop asking flimsy questions: whether she was walking around naked, went to a man’s house at night or what was she wearing? They noted that such silly questions only helped to encourage perpetuators in their dastardly crime.

Anyianuka said although the stories are fictional, she wrote them after listening to abused people share their experiences, adding though that the stories have a true ring to them.

“Every time I talked about it, I remember these kids in my head,” she said. “I remember their stories and it breaks me into pieces. They are not my personal story. Thankfully, I wasn’t sexually abused growing up but I am not going to pretend that because it is not my reality, it is not someone else’s reality. I want to be a voice to speak to other people who were sexually violated.

“One of my reviewers said every time she reads the stories, she feels I have spoken to her; that means they are real stories. You can’t tell a story that you haven’t felt. I wanted to tell a story that I have felt; that is why I went out to talk to people. If it had happened to me, I would have told my story but because it didn’t happen to me, I had to hear from somebody else. I didn’t want to guess.”

The author also said no individual alone could stop sexual violence, but that she wanted to become one more voice that passes the message of sexual violence around to sensitise young people and for society at large to take action.

According to her, “The reality is that as we speak, a little girl is being sexually violated somewhere. A father is having sex with his biological daughter and his wife is sitting somewhere pretending she doesn’t know what is going on. A housewife is turning her eyes the other way and letting her husband sexually abuse her underage house help; a little girl is being led out of her father’s house by the male guard or the driver to violate her as we speak!”

THE CEO of iAspire Radio, Mercy Makinde, advised mothers to stop having wrong priorities when a young girl is being violated, as women prefer to save a home or their marriages rather than report an abuse case. She confirmed witnessing several girls being violated by their fathers, whose mothers were also aware and did not take necessary action. She said she had reported several cases to the right authorities, where sometimes nothing was done.

Makinde, who runs The Amazing Amazon Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, which deals with children who have been sexual abused, said she usually felt powerless and outraged when nothing is done to address such violence against minors. As NGO, she said she didn’t have the power to rescue, arrest or prosecute, adding that the best she could do was keep sensitising people regarding such crimes.

While arguing that the stories are not merely fictional as the author claimed, Makinde stated that she could relate to one of the stories titled ‘Two of a Kind.’ She claimed that it is a story she could relate with as she also suffered both sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual and social abuse in a marriage where her husband was older than her father.

To further prove her claim, she brought a 20-year girl, who was sexually abused by her father, to tell her story.“Every story you read there (in the book) is happening,” she said. “’Daddy’s Little Girl’ is a true life story. It’s like Nina was in my life because everything in that story I have seen, not just heard. A primary schoolgirl came to tell me she slept with three men a day to get N300 to come to school. That is ‘Blackie Mission.’ I am not telling you 1960’s story. I am telling you current 2018 story. I have seen people go through those things. I actually brought someone here who is a replica of ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ and you will see that her story is exactly ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’s.’

“What you read in that story is so real. She said it is fiction. I don’t understand. It’s not just me, but it’s a story of a lot of women in Nigeria. The book discusses all the problems of women in Nigeria. If you put 100 women in this room, you will find that the issues addressed in that book relate to all of them.”

Makinde said she discovered during her “Touch Me Not’ campaign that children were being abused by persons, who were close to them and that most people who abused these children were doing it for pleasure, not for ritual.

A victim (name withheld) told the shocked audience how her own father sexually violated her in the presence of her step-mother. According to her, the abuse began when she was 13s and the matter was reported to her grand parents and elders in her community but nothing was done.

“I am my daddy’s favourite and it always happened whenever he gets back from travel,” she said. “The first time it happened, he came to the living room, placed me on his chest and said, ‘come to daddy.’ At first, I didn’t know what he wanted and I rested on his chest like a good girl. He was touching me and I was feeling reluctant. So, he pulled back and my step-mother was watching.

“The second time, my step-mother was sitting in the room; he raised me up, removed my clothes and was touching me all over, and it was so painful that I wanted to shout. Then he stood up. The next morning, he said he wanted to see if I was still a virgin. The third time, it was very hard that I started bleeding and my step-mother was there, watching. I couldn’t wait till he was done; I ran away from the house.” The victim said she also dislike school due to her experience, as she was also raped by her teachers and principal in school.