By Juliet Ebirim & Aderonke Adeyeri
Nollywood Actress and Founder of the Non- Governmental Organisation, Action Against Rape in Africa (ARA) , Foluke Daramola-Salako shares her ordeal as a rape victim and the experience of other rape victims.
You disclosed that you were a victim of rape, how did that experience affect your outlook towards life?
The experience I had affected me greatly. This is my second marriage. In my first marriage, despite the fact that my ex – husband had his own issue and couldn’t help me, I was frigid and kept a lot of things to myself. When it happened, my mum told me to keep quiet,that such things are frowned at by the society.
So I had it all bottled up inside me and carried it into marraige. Apparently, my first marriage was wrong from the onset. Eventually, when I came out, I had to see a psychiatrist and he told me that the first step to take is to talk about it. I’m about the only celebrated face in Nigeria who has come out to say,“this is what I’ve gone through”. The reason why I can talk about it is because I have an understanding husband. Some men will tell you not to go out and say such things.
You have a Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) that is concerned with fighting rape in Africa, can you talk about it briefly?
My foundation is called ARA, Action against Rape in Africa. It was inspired by the experience I had. I was deflowered by a rapist. As a celebrity, I feel if I am able to share my experience as a living example, it will help a lot of people out there. The foundation is one that cuts across class, culture and tribe. I recently went for a symposium on gender issues and I shared my story with a lot of people. At the end of the programme, there were two parents whose daughters had gone through such at the hands of relatives.
They went about in guilt, thinking of how to deal with it. It is said that a problem shared is half solved. In Africa, especially in Nigeria, a lot of rape victims feel they are the cause of what befell them.They think they inflicted the pain on themselves. In this kind of situation, we make them relax, talk to them and make them realise that they are just victims and didn’t inflict the pain on themselves
Can you share some of the ordeals rape victims you’ve encountered passed through?
Ninety-five percent of rape victims in the world do not turn out right as adults. It’s either they are frigid, nymphomaniacs, lesbians and so on. And this is because, they don’t talk about it. This is a psychological problem that has to be addressed. Victims should seek psychological help. Most Nigerian marraiges are not working because most times, women have issues they don’t disclose during and before their marriages that often have negative consequences.
Why do you think rape victims find it difficult to speak out?
I feel it’s basically because of the stigma that goes with it. It’s pathetic that most people don’t want to share their experiences. Recently, when I shared my experience with the media, a lot of people called me to ask why I did that. A lot of people in high position went through this, but nobody is talking, that’s why it’s a big problem. So, I told my friends and family that I had to do what I did to help someone out there.
It was recently recorded that over 181 cases of rape occur in Lagos monthly,what do you think can be done to reduce this scourge?
A lot of times, those things that we take for granted are the things that matter most. I’ve always said mothers should try to understand their children, whether male or female. Sometimes, you find that a young girl will be trying to convey a message to her mother, but she’s not listening. For instance, a relative might be abusing the child and the child might be trying to pass the message to the parents, but they are not listening, because they see the person to be harmless. We recently had a crisis two weeks ago where a four year old girl was being raped by a forty- four year old man. When it happened, they took the case to the police but the rapist wanted to sweep it under the carpet. He started harassing the mother of the child and even tried to bribe her with N100,000. Though the woman didn’t take the money, she just wanted to run away because she was being threatened and harassed. She was scared and wanted to keep it to herself. We waded into the matter, told her not to worry and our lawyer took over the situation. Right now, the case is in court. These things happen everyday and they are not being addressed properly.
How can the government and law enforcement agencies help to tackle this problem?
The police is not helping matters at all. Most times, they let the perpetrators of this injustice go scotfree. For a rape victim to summon the courage to report that she has been raped, that person ought to be given support, instead they are ridiculed, blamed and reprimanded for what has happened. If that person leaves there in shame, you’ll agree with me that the person is not going to go there or talk about it again. When a victim reports that she has been raped, you don’t have to make that person feel worse than she already is; you listen to the person and show her love and support. If we can come out to fight this, taking cognizance of the fact that it could happen to anyone – your wife, sister or mother, then the country will be better for it. A rapist should be made to face the law and be severely punished.