By Debbie Olujobi
Grace in my own understanding is an exemption from natural law and consequence. Grace enables a suspension of punishment and retribution and it is a gift from God that makes a life exceptional where it is abundantly available and utilised. It is easy to confuse mercy with grace as they are very similar; grace is the more encompassing of the two since its wheels are often times turned by mercy. Grace can bring dividends of favour, exceptional benevolence and turn situations round.
In the few minutes between entering the home of the girl I was going with; I said every prayer of grace and mercy I could think of. Let me do a quick recap for those who haven’t been following the story. A lady in my employ had been raped and was pregnant; I was on a mission to help break the news to her parents. Being the daughter of a disciplined and strict lawyer who was also a devout catholic didn’t fill me with much enthusiasm but I was banking on grace from God and mercy from her parents to avoid the banishment the girl was dreading.
As we made our way into the large compound of a house located on what was arguably the most expensive street of Lagos; I was muttering about God’s sense of humour. A few years ago, I had concluded that God had the best sense of humour as He seems to enjoy laughing at my pronouncements and resolution and bringing about the exact opposite much to my chagrin. This year had been the one year during which I would mind my own business and not be dragged into anyone’s drama; that was my resolution.
I pictured God having a big laugh as I dragged my feet into what could be a fully explosive situation; this was not minding my own business and I was smack dab deep in drama! Luckily the divine sense of humour was tinged with grace and the parents were more emotionally crushed than enraged. Being a parent, I could understand the disappointment and the hurt they felt but I was even more thankful that they put a higher premium on life and love more than judgment and condemnation. The choices were limited and abortion was both spiritually and medically out of the question, so the hours spent in their home were invested in prayers and sharing words of encouragement and comfort.
Breaking the news and guaranteeing the lady’s job anytime she resumed were as far as my responsibilities went in the situation. There was, however, a bigger question that we would all be consumed by the days after disclosure. It was the matter of the rape itself that still had to be addressed. No parent would just watch and do nothing while their child was violated, so I wasn’t surprised that charges were likely to be pressed.
I was initially one of those in favour of pressing charges against the young man in question and the momentum was building up before I got thinking. How does one give one’s child a legacy of a father convicted of rape? I know a lot of women’s groups will be livid with my position but I speak as a mother and women make a lot of sacrifices for their children. Even at the cost of personal humiliation and pain, I would not expose my child to a life time of taunts and alienation.
As a rule, I never impose my opinion on anyone in the shape of advice, but I shared my thoughts with the family asking them to consider the child before making any move that would label him or her before she was even born. I would be a 100 per cent behind pressing charges if there was no child to consider but the reality is that there is a child. Even if the prosecution was successful, how do you tell your child you sent her dad to prison without giving the child a complex or major depression? How do you even keep the story from popping up anytime in the child’s life? This society is ferocious with malice and the gossip will not stop ever! I don’t think it would be in any child’s interest to be labelled a product of rape!!!
AS I said before, many women have had a rape experience and some of those voices are speaking louder than most. If our souls were stripped bare 90 per cent of women have had experiences in their past that they would like to make right now. Those experiences would have happened when they were young and helpless; it explains why their voices would be loudest now that they were no longer young and far from helpless. It would be an empowerment of sorts to see any rapist put away.
A woman I know recalls a rape experience where she felt like she was “nothing.” A family friend had raped her right in her house and had carried on like nothing happened; telling such a woman not to help other rape victims is like showing a bull a red scarf. The last few weeks have opened my eyes to just how common place rape is, especially acquaintance/date rape. Most men reading this should keep a closer eye on their daughters; you might not be affected by the story I told but you can’t be sure that someone close to you has not been violated. The women had better get close to their daughters; the girl in question was pregnant for eight months without her mother’s knowledge; that tells me all was not as it should have been .
It is not my place to dictate events from here but I gave my standard advice in almost all situations when asked; pray and be led by God; save for the grace of God we would all have been damned!!