I had to take a Twitter break yesterday. It was just too much for my soul. Rape case here, violence there. My heart couldn’t take it. I tried to evade writing this as much as I could, but eventually worked my way back to writing. As bitter and heartbreaking as this reality is, we have to talk about it and continue to advocate for change.
I struggled with all the news coming at me this past week. I appeared fine externally, I had to do my job and it was business at usual. I realise that many don’t have that luxury of going back to their routines like nothing happened. Farishina can’t. Uwa is not alive to even consider it. So many other women, whose names we know and do not, are in similar shoes. In a gathering of 10 women, at least 8 have suffered some form of sexual abuse. This is not just a Nigeria problem. This is a global situation. How did society rot to this point?
For the longest time, many countries have put laws in place which endanger their women, so the human female gender has been on the lower end of the power scale. With this imbalance tipped in the men’s favour, rape culture is able to survive and thrive. Why? Because sexual abuse, at its very foundation, is a misuse of power, power in all its forms. It could be physical, involving a career, religious, social, in a family, wherever. It has nothing at all to do with what anyone wore, what anyone said, where anyone went. Rapists rape because they can, because they know that they exert some level of power over their victims. They dangle threats over their victims’ heads and use that to silence them. If these perpetrators get caught, the lies are then reeled out: “she was dressing seductively”, “why was she there at that time of the night?”, and other ridiculous tales. Why this annoys me so much is that they don’t apply this logic to other crimes; when a thief steals we blame the thief, when a kidnapper kidnaps we blame the kidnapper, so how does it make any sense that the victim is blamed when it’s rape?
The sad thing is, you never know how deep this mindset runs until you really do some self-reflection. I was with my mum in the car some years back, I was probably or 10 years old at the time. We parked behind another car at a shopping plaza. While still in the car, the occupants of the car in front of us alighted; it was a woman and two young girls who we assumed were her daughters. Those girls looked like 6 or 7 years old. They had on shorts and casual tops. We were about to leave the car when my mum made a statement about the girls and their mother. I cannot remember what she said word for word, but it was in the vein of “why did she allow her daughters wear such revealing outfits” and “if anything happens to them now they will be upset”.
I didn’t understand much then, but looking back at that scenario now I realise that her statements were a result of societal grooming. For the longest time, women have been conditioned from childhood to conduct themselves in a manner that won’t “seduce men”, and have been told by society that if they raped it was somehow their fault. The average girl child can’t be a child or think like one for long, it’s “cross your legs” and “don’t wear those shorts, men are around” before they see their first period. The average boy child on the contrary is told to go outside and play, and is pampered way into adulthood. Women are taught self-control, but men generally aren’t. Sexual abuse is not the beginning of the problem, but an end result of the deficient home training and guidance that many men receive.
Where do we go from here? Is it possible for rape to “end” in true sense of the word? While I believe that it may be unrealistic, the incidence of sexual abuse can be reduced to a large extent. We can have conversations – online and offline – with the people in our reach, not keep silent when rape jokes are being made, and do our best to advocate for change in our various spheres of life. We can speak up against victim blaming whenever we see it, we can educate those who do so against it. We can train the young boys around us to develop self-control, we can teach them that they are not entitled to women’s bodies. Train the children in your care to do better, to be better. You know better now.
Till next time,
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