Lying on the bed speaking to a close friend of mine on the phone, our conversation starts to deviate from what were planning for Christmas to the more sensitive issues of life. I don’t know why but I just blurted out a question…
“Hun, have you been molested before?”
Not really knowing what to expect, I was dumbfounded when she responded almost in sync, “Yes!”
Trying to roll my tongue back in, it was clear that was not the answer I was expecting. I could hear footsteps in my head, like a boxer trying to assess his next move. I wondered if I should halt the conversation to a close or continue to probe further.
Round one, ding a ling a ling.
“Oh my gosh Shola! When, how, why, are you ok?”
“Calm down Tosin, it’s cool now. I have dealt with it by God’s grace”.
“Shola, anyone listening to our conversation would think we were discussing a pair of Louboutin shoes. You sound so calm about it”
(She laughs)…“Well to be honest Tosin, I have dealt with it and accepted what happened”.
“So what did happened hun?” (the journalist in me arises)
“Let me give you the short of it. It all started with an uncle of mine when I was 14. I was not really sure what was happening, until the whole touching stopped. I thought it was just what Uncles did. It just used to be both of us in a room together. I used to see him all the time; he was and still is an elder in our family. I told my mum, she said we shouldn’t say anything and that was it. ”
“And that was it?!” (Silence on the phone)
“Well not really, in my early adult years I acted like nothing had happened. Until, I grew in my spiritual walk and realised that the abuse had affected my confidence and self-worth. That’s when I realised I had to deal with it.”
“Ehn what, Tosin? Abeg that’s it”
“Sorry I meant…” Scanning my mind frantically thinking what to ask next. Surely, we couldn’t have come to the end of the conversation just like that. I took a deep breath and continued with my questions.
…”I meant are you over it now”
“Over it?! My dear it’s not something one gets over just like that. I mean, yes I have forgiven the said Uncle. But it left me feeling robbed and violated once I found out what the whole touching meant. One thing I do have is peace as I have been able to discuss it with my mum, brothers and sisters. The good thing is everytime I talk about it I gain back an ounce of confidence that automatically erases the guilt and shame – which has helped in the last few years”.
“Wow Shola, thank you for being honest”.
“It’s part of my life story. In fact you know what gets me more is when I see young men and women like myself with such active sex life. I wish these men and women knew the worth of their sexual purity. Mine was robbed so I will never know what that feels like”.
I was busy trying to write down every word that was coming out of her mouth.
Dear 360 readers, one would have to be living on a remote planet like Jupiter not notice that we live in a society saturated in consumerism and an obsession for social acceptance. Living in any cosmopolitan city, the busyness of life can easily bury a person’s thoughts in the sand, unaware of the mental struggles that our fellow neighbours battle with on a daily basis.
I’m reluctant in my desire to take the following statement as fact, but one has to accept that our indigenous Nigerian culture is also one that is adept in the art of covering up. With a slight smirk on my face, I must admit that we do this magnificently well! We host lavish parties and boast the most stylish apparel, yet day in and day out the real issues that we face as individuals and within the nuclear family are brushed under the carpet. Though these are the characteristics which are shown by many but not all Nigerian families, I have a hope that we the Naija generation (apologies Aunty Dora) will not continue this legacy.
After the conversation with my dear friend Shola, I was spurred on to find out more. She came out victorious in her story because she had purposely dealt with her situation, which meant that her growth as a young woman would not have been squandered by the actions of her Uncle. Nevertheless I was in deep thought, mulling over how many other people have been sexually abused whilst still chained to the memories of their past ordeal.
Did they have someone to talk too, like my friend Shola? Or had the normality of being stigmatised by friends or family bolted their tongues?
More importantly how has it affected them as men and women in the society? Has this lead them to be more sexually promiscuous? Or the complete opposite, introverted?
What about our young Nigerian men, have they been overlooked by the prejudiced stigma attached to sexual abuse?
Every person who has been in the arm of an abuser will have a different reply to each of the questions above. Dutifully, the important thing is for these questions to be answered whether as a victim of abuse or someone who is trying to support one such victim.
As a young Nigerian myself, I have noticed that we spend hours discussing amongst ourselves the Nigeria that we hope to see in the future. We pray and dream about a nation that has constant electricity, good roads and a great health system. Not withstanding the significance of these dreams, I also bestow to all of us that it is time we started thinking about the cultural family values we also want for our younger siblings and children. Let our generation strive to protect their innocence whether they be boys or girls. Their sexual purity should be kept sacred rather than their childhood being robbed right before our very eyes. Let us not allow this topic to be suppressed by adopting the barbaric idea that: because we are Africans we can cope with any affliction.
Attention!! Many Nigerians have not been coping with this form of abuse; they have just learnt how to hide it.
The reality is that sexual abuse is something which engulfs a person in a psychological fight that if not dealt with translates into different areas of the person’s life. It is often the reaction of a parent or loved one silencing the conversation of the abused person that propels a life time of emotional damage rather than the actual abuse itself. Such emotional fallout can be like a cancer, in that it can continue to spread within a family and then onward from one generation to the next.
The fact is, many of our husbands and wives were abused at a younger age and could possible become abusers at an older age. Never! I hear you say. Do not be alarmed dear reader. Only ignorance would make one think that sexual abuse if not spoken about by the victim does not leave a lasting a legacy. Sadly it does.
There will be three categories of people reading this article.
- The person who has been abused.
- The person who knows someone who has been abused.
- The person who is adamant that this type of abuse could never happen within their own family.
In all three categories there is one common denominator. Only YOU know which category YOU fall into and it is only you that can make a choice today. So I close with this final statement.
Will you wake up from the mindset of ignorance and become the Naija Generation who faces up to reality, or will you walk in the footsteps of the countless generations that went before us, consumed by tradition rather than a need to preserve our children’s emotional well being.
- Are you married or on the verge of marriage now would be the time to start discussing this in a loving dialogue.
- Were you abused, find someone you trust and begin to open up about it. Do not imprison your soul to the memories of the past. You are not to blame!
- Are you an abuser? Do not allow it to continue. Seek counsel with someone you trust. Begin your journey of redemption.
Sexual Abuse in Nigeria. Can we talk about it? Let us begin…