•Lagos DSVA boss relives survivors’ stories
- Says study established link between mental issues and domestic violence
Executive Secretary of Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, DSVA, Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, has devoted her life to serving people and remaining a voice for the voiceless, not only as a public official but also in her personal capacity as the founder of the Lola Vivour-Adeniyi Foundation.
A lawyer, public administrator, and philanthropist, with over 15 years of experience serving the people of Lagos, Vivour-Adeniyi’s experience cuts across public policy, administration, as well as legal and social services and, in recognition of her stellar performance as the coordinator of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, on September 21, 2021, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, upon giving assent to the Bill for a Law establishing the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, appoint her as pioneer Executive Secretary of the agency.
Recently, the agency opened ‘EKO HAVEN’, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. This is part of the state government’s commitment in ensuring holistic support for survivors of SGBV.
The shelter, located in Ikorodu, is a 30-bed space capacity to provide immediate shelter services to high-risk survivors of domestic violence.
The shelter was the state government’s prompt response to the burgeoning demand to ensuring preservation of life, safety, stability, empowerment and subsequently the reintegration of survivors back into the society.
Vivour-Adeniyi said, “The establishment of Eko Haven is in keeping with the DSVA’s statutory mandate of establishing shelters across all Divisions of the State. With this intervention, it is our hope that survivors in abusive relationships would find the courage to break the culture of silence, speak up and speak out with the assurance that help is just a CALL away”.
Also, Vivour-Adeniyi, representing the Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Justice and Solicitor-General, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey, at a media briefing as part of the activities to flag-off 2023 DSVA Awareness Month, themed, ‘Not in my Lagos’, usually marked every September, disclosed that at least 2,588 children were sexually and emotionally abused during various domestic violence recorded in the state between August 2022 and July 2023.
She added that 40 per cent of the children were taken through counseling programmes to ensure they are able to psychologically deal with the events they have witnessed without it having a permanent and negative impact on them.
“From August 1, 2022 to July 31, 2023, the agency has handled 5624 cases which are into two categories, adults and children”, she said.
“The agency now receives an average of 250 clients on a monthly basis. For adults- 91 per cent of survivors were female, 9 per cent were male, while for children- 45 per cent of survivors were boys, 55 per cent were girls”.
The survivors of sexual assault, according to her, received medical attention from comprehensive Primary Healthcare Centres, General Hospitals and Sexual Assault Referral Centres including Mirabel Centre, Women at Risk International Foundation, WARIF as well as Idera Centre.
“In the period under review, the agency provided services to seven Persons with Disabilities who were experiencing one form of Gender Based Violence or the other”, Vivour-Adeniyi stated.
“The youngest child that experienced sexual violence was an 18-month-old baby while the oldest client that experienced domestic violence was a 79-year-old woman”.
Another analysis of the data, according to the DSVA boss, revealed that there was a link between mental health issues and domestic violence, as 10 per cent of survivors noted that their abusers were diagnosed with mental health issues.
“The effects of Sexual and Gender Based Violence cannot be overemphasized as 90 per cent of the survivors disclosed that they have experienced low self esteem, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), extreme fear and anxiety, and about five per cent suffered from depression and had to seek medical help”, Vivour-Adeniyi said.
“Some of the men and women that experienced domestic violence disclosed that they lost their means of livelihood as a result of the abuse.
“The agency has secured 21 restraining orders, granted by the courts pursuant to the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law, 2015 against abusive spouses. “Furthermore, Lagos State Government through the Directorate of Public Prosecutions secured at least 120 judgments during the period under review”.
According to her, about 60 per cent of alleged perpetrators abuse alcohol and as such increased the risk of perpetrating domestic violence.
In the past two years, DSVA under Vivour-Adeniyi’s watch has mainstreamed prevention and response into the education sector through behavioural mind-set programs, trainings for stakeholders in the Educational sector which have been made possible with the support of the Lagos State Ministry of Education.
Some of which include the Kings and Queens Club.
The Kings Club is an initiative borne out of the compelling need to engage boys from an early age on issues such as Sexual and Reproductive rights, Health, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, promoting positive masculinity, Gender equality and equity, SDG 5, relationship with the other sex, anger management and transitioning from Boy to Man. The curriculum which was developed through this initiative has recorded numerous successes including change in behaviour in the boys.
It is said that children have a role to play in their own protection. Under her leadership, the agency developed and launched ‘My Passport of Rights’, a booklet developed in the form of a passport which summarizes, in a succinct manner, the rights of children, the different forms of abuse as well as steps to take to report such abuse. An overview shows that over 18,000 children have received their Passport of Rights whilst it is also worthy to disclose that well over 30,000 students have been appropriately engaged on child abuse, their rights.
It is believed that children spend a good number of their days in school. Consequently, teachers and educators play a huge role in the moulding of the children. This has informed the various trainings and capacity building of critical Education stakeholders, including Guidance Counsellors, School Administrators, Heads of schools and Principals on their role in preventing and responding to Child’s Protection concerns.
In her role as Executive Secretary, over 2,600 stakeholders, drawn from the 6 education districts, comprising both public and private schools have been trained on their role in ensuring full implementation of the Executive Order on Safeguarding and Child Protection Programme.
In view of the magnitude of this responsibility, Vivour-Adeniyi conceptualized the Online Course on Safeguarding and Child Protection. This 5 Module Course specifically familiarizes front-liners working with children or in a child centered institution on the concept of child abuse perpetrated by front-liners themselves, child peers, support staff and child educators.
It helps them to better understand the indicating factors of children who have or are experiencing abuse in the education institution and at home. It takes a step further into the existing laws of child abuse in Lagos State as it discusses the sections that addresses abuses as well as an introductory discuss on children in conflict with the law.
This course was developed for all personnel that work with children in the education setting. As at the last count, over 20,621 professionals have taken the certified course on Safeguarding and Child Protection.
It is instructive to note that over 500 education practitioners in other states and outside Nigeria have also successfully completed the course. We are therefore, contributing to the enhancement of skill set of other professionals outside Lagos and Nigeria.
Social services and protection
From the moment when a case is reported, up until when justice is secured, there is a need to ensure victims and survivors are able to access critical support services and protection.
Under Vivour-Adeniyi’s watch as Executive Secretary, various initiatives such as emergency evacuation of survivors from emergency situations, securing over 20 restraining orders against abusive spouses have been introduced.
Research has shown that survivors who are desirous of leaving abusive relationships are at a higher risk of experiencing further abuse. This period is therefore extremely critical and can be life threatening.
It is hoped that survivors in abusive relationships would find the courage to break the culture of silence, speak up and speak out.
Research also shows that at least 60 % of survivors of domestic violence remain in abusive relationships because of financial dependence on their abusers. It is therefore of utmost importance that once a survivor musters the courage to break the culture of silence, they are able to access financial support.
To this end, with the support and commitment of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Trust Fund was seeded and activated to provide grants to high risk survivors. Some of these survivors have now become employers of labour and are also giving back to their society in their own way.
The agency has introduced novel and innovative programs aimed at re-orienting behavioural perspectives some of which include: Idile Alayo (happy home). Traditional Marriage comperes referred to as “Alaga Iduro /Ijoko” have been conscripted into the State’s Zero Tolerance campaign, for the purpose of infusing advocacy around domestic violence, so far, a total of 400 Alagas have been engaged via this program with more in view.
The agency in partnership with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Local Government has introduced Compulsory pre-marital Counselling for intending couples who seek to solemnize their union formally.
Now, trained Registrars of Marriage as part of their current compatibility tests for administering intending couples. Over 715 intending couples have taken the pre-marital counselling course, before saying “I DO.”
The agency introduced a curriculum designed to offer and rehabilitate sex convicts. This was done in partnership with the Nigerian Correctional Service. A total of 120 Sex offenders participated in our flagship program tagged: “Psycho-Social Intervention For Sex Convicts.” 63 inmates participated from Ikoyi Correctional Center while 57 inmates participated from Apapa Correctional centres respectively.
In Lagos State, SGBV has been designated as a public health concern. Through the joint effort of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the Primary Health Care Board, Lagos State Health and Management Agency, and the Office of the First Lady, the agency has been able to drive systematic response and mainstream SGBV into the health sector.
Leveraging partnership and collaboration, survivors are now able to access quality healthcare services, post-trauma at no cost.
Among other achievements, according to Vivour-Adeniyi, is the ability to foster effective coordination and collaboration among all critical stakeholders involved in preventing and responding to SGBV.