A Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, Network to Curb Sexual Abuse, NETCUSA, in Cross River has called on students to speak up when they are sexually abused.
The group made the call when it visited Big Qua Girls Secondary School in Calabar to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict is a day set aside by the United Nations to amplify advocacy and support country level efforts to prevent conflict-related sexual violence.
It is commemorated on June 19 annually to also respond more effectively to needs of survivors.
Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Calabar, one of the Coordinators of the outreach, Miss Bliss Achip said there was need to curb sexual violence, especially against children.
Achip said many young people especially girls hardly opened up to share their experiences of sexual violence because of the judgmental attitude of the society, parents and guardians.
She said since NETCUSA started 13 years ago, it had recorded over 80 cases of sexual violence, gotten conviction for eight while the rest were still in the pipeline.
“We partner with government agencies like the Ministries of Women Affairs, Health, Education, Justice, Police and other non-governmental organisations to ensure that we curb this menace.
“All hands must be on deck to fight this problem and as a parent, guardian or teacher, when children come to you to report, listen to them.
“Most of the questions we received from the children during the session with them show that most parents don’t believe them and are judgmental.
“Also, we need to encourage our children to speak out by talking more about sexual violence and there should be a comprehensive sexuality education included in our school curriculum,’’ she said.
Similarly, Mr Kebe Ikpe, Programme Manager, Basic Right Initiative, an NGO said they were in the event to educate students on their sexual and reproductive rights and all they needed to know about sexual abuse.
Ikpe said when there was a case of sexual abuse, the first thing the survivor should do was to go to the hospital, get tested and examined by a medical doctor and a medical report produced.
He said after this, the case should be reported to the police and the police would charge the case to court for prosecution.
“Usually because of the system we find ourselves, where the police is not up to task in handling these issues, it takes non-state actors like my organisation, Basic Rights Council to push the police to do their job.
“In terms of reporting, I cannot say we are doing very well because the number of reported cases is still very low, we have more abuse cases going on in the society than is reported.
“For the ones that have been reported, we are doing our best, recently the Cross River Family Court started sitting, this is after they sat last in 2011; they will start hearing the backlog of cases and the new ones.
“Our judicial process is slow, you have to convict someone beyond reasonable doubt so that they don’t send the wrong persons to jail, this takes time,’’ he said.
He encouraged people to take pictures when they are abused and get a medical report as that was a major way of preserving evidence.
“We have had cases where young girls get raped and the next thing is they take their bath, once you take your bath, you have washed away the evidence; the judge can only convict a suspect based on evidence and not emotions.
“Nigerians should know their rights and responsibilities and when these things happen, let us speak out, the more we do, we will get more people to justice,’’ he said.
In her remark, the Principal of Big Qua Girls Secondary School thanked NETCUSA for the outreach in her school and advised parents to give birth to the number of children they could cater for to avoid sending their children to distant relatives and strangers as house helps.