By Chioma Gabriel
I like to talk from the point of experience. For reasons I will not share here, I’ve had cause to live in a shelter for battered women. I have encountered children who were raped by their fathers and their fathers’ friends. I have encountered house-helps who were impregnated by men who should act as guardian or fathers to them; and I have encountered young ladies who have been severally abused by men they trusted most in their lives. I saw their shame, their inability to share their shame and many having had to share their experience behind veils.They feel ridiculed by their experience; they feel degraded and would keep silent most of the time over their experience.
The truth is, many would like to blank it out.
Rape or sexual abuse of any kind is not something any woman would openly want to talk about.
Despite what anybody says about women, talking about sex abuse is a big deal.
Victims of sex abuse, especially rape, experience Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) which includes disruptions to normal physical, emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal behaviour.
Rape trauma syndrome, according to Wikipedia, is a cluster of psychological and physical signs, symptoms and reactions common to most rape victims immediately following a rape, but which can also occur for months or years afterwards.
A person who has been raped will generally experience high levels of distress immediately afterward and may not want to discuss that experience. These feelings may subside over time for some people but can have long devastating effects on rape victims and some victims will continue to experience some form of psychological distress for months or years. It has also been found that rape survivors are at high risk for developing substance use disorders, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other disorders.
The truth is, many rape cases were never reported. Victims suffer in silence and keep it to themselves because of the stigma associated with such abuse.
Some social media commentators don’t understand this. Except if your close friend or relative has experienced sexual abuse and you witnessed their trauma, only then would you understand the issues.
Some people who have been raped have not been able to adapt to any relationship afterwards.
One of the girls I met in the shelter could not forgive her mother for nipping the fact that her father raped her severally in the bud. She was twenty then and she said her father started raping her from her 15th birthday and each time she told her mother, she would tell her to shut up and never let anybody else hear about it.
It eventually drove her out of her parents’ house and she left Abuja and relocated to Lagos.Her mother couldn’t get her to forgive. When eventually she would talk about her experience, she spoke in a public place and behind a veil. The audience did not see her face.
Her healing process began when she spoke about it.
Some people have been castigating Timi Dakolo’s wife for not speaking out all these years. Some have even accused her of seducing her assailant with her looks and even enjoying having sex with the pastor. These are all part of the reasons why women keep silent over rape issues. The ridicule is not something to write home about especially in a country where the government was not taking the issue of violence against women and girls seriously.
Can you imagine the guilt she feels especially each time she sees him on the pulpit preaching the opposite of what he does in real life; preaching the righteousness that she sees lacking in him and perhaps seeing others fall prey to him?
— Vanguard Newspapers (@vanguardngrnews) July 13, 2019
I have often heard the saying that anything woman sells. When you start a business and it’s not moving, package a woman, bring her into it and see what happens. The business moves.
Start a church without women in it and see how far it goes. Without well packaged women in that church, watch and see how far it will go.
There are men who go to church because of the women in the church. Some follow a particular woman to church every Sunday just to chat her up.
Many pastors have called themselves into the ministry because of women. They know women must besiege a church especially when a fine young man is the spiritual head. Some young ladies will develop spiritual problems that will take them to that church.
This is not peculiar to Nigeria. All over the world, Church of different denominations have had issues of sexual abuse. Both men and women have fallen victims.
It is normal for activists to call on women to speak out about sexual harassment and abuse by religious figures, but he is not the first person. There have been several others before him.
The problem did not even start today in the Church. It has been there for centuries.
In the catholic Church, sex abuse has been reported as far back as the 11th century.
In the late 15th century, Katharina von Zimmern and her sister who were Catholic faithful were removed from their abbey to live in their family’s house for a while partly because the young girls were molested by priests.
In 1531, Martin Luther claimed that Poe Leo X had vetoed a measure that cardinals should restrict the number of boys they kept for their pleasure, “otherwise it would have been spread throughout the world how openly and shamelessly the Pope and the cardinals in Rome practice sodomy.”
In the Church, the sexual abuse of children below the age of consent by priests has received significant media and public attention in many parts of the world.
Many of the cases span several decades and are brought forward years after the abuse occurred.
The accusations began to receive isolated, sporadic publicity from the late 1980s. Many of these involved cases in which a figure was accused of decades of abuse; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred.
Cases have also been brought against members of the Catholic hierarchy who covered up sex abuse allegations and moved abusive priests to other parishes, where abuse continued.
In Nigeria, you have often read of pastors sexually abusing minors and sexually harassing female members. But you don’t often read about women who seduce pastors and throw themselves at them and later on start claiming harassment by these pastors.
Sexual assault spreads across every Church: conventional and Pentecostal. It can come in any form.
Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. It can happen in different situations, by a stranger in an isolated place, on a date, or in the home by someone you know.