By Eric Elezuo
How would rape ever be extinguished? Can victims ever get justice?
Rape has remained a recurrent decimal in the affairs of men despite the efforts of successive governments, human and civil rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, corporate bodies and even individuals. It has gained prominence in the last couple of days in many cities across Nigeria, prompting the question if there is an outbreak of rape or is it the new normal.
In the space of one week, three girls were sexually assaulted with two of them getting brutally killed in the process.
Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, 100-level Microbiology student of the University of Benin was murdered after being raped inside the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Miracle Sanctuary Mega Parish, Edo Province 10, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City on May 27, 2020, where she had gone to study. His assailant(s) smashed her head with a fire extinguisher.
Her killing sparked outrage and protests in Benin, Lagos and Abuja, with the hashtag,#JusticeForUwa, trending on the social media. It drew the irk of the government and other well meaning Nigerians with President Muhammadu Buhari ordering a speedy intervention into the matter with a view of apprehending the perpetrators as soon as possible.
Less than a week later, an 18-year-old student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Moore Plantation, Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State, Barakat Bello, suffered the same fate. Bello was undertaking the National Diploma programme in Science Laboratory Technology.
Barakat’s father, Kasimu Elepo, narrated that he was not at home when the incident occurred, adding that it was his other daughter who found Barakat’s body in a pool of her own blood at the back of the house when she returned from Quaranic lessons.
Elepo said, “I was not at home when the incident happened. The victim’s younger sister was not at home too; she went for Quaranic lessons, but when she returned home, she saw Barakat at the back of the house with deep cuts all over her body. She had been raped and killed.” Her murder also sparked protest on Twitter with the hashtag, #JusticeforBarakat.
On the same day Barakat was brutally raped and killed, three armed men were reported to have allegedly gang-raped a 17-year-old street hawker at the Oja-Oba Market, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State.
The Punch reported that the victim was hawking sachet water when the men, who were said to be armed with broken bottles, accosted her and took her to a corner in the market, and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her around 7pm.
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, said two suspects had been arrested, adding that efforts were on to apprehend the third member of the gang.
While society has identified “weak institutions, poor enforcement, poverty and unacceptable social practices” as part of the reasons for sexual violence against women, no measure employed has seem to dissuade rapist. And recently, they have added killing of their victims as part of their itinerary.
As the news begun making the rounds, The Boss went to town, and investigation reveals that nine out of ten girls have been raped or escaped rape at one time or another in her life. The statistics sadly covered the age group of between 14 and 28 years. It is believed that some girls have either been raped or escaped rape before their 16th birthday. So scary!
Rape has taken place among siblings, fathers against their daughters, neighbours, relatives and so called family friends. There are incontrovertible evidences of where extreme minors are also the victims. A video is currently trending on the social media where a grown man was seen kissing a three year old child. There’s nothing to prove that such person has not penetrated or attempted to penetrate the child.
Sexual violence in Nigeria largely goes unreported because of the burden of proof necessary for conviction as well as the social stigma it brings, and threats that go with them. Ordinarily, the Police have found it difficult to make arrests for sexual assault because of less reporting of the act, and when reportage is made, most rape victims have complained that the police blamed them for the assault, asking why did you go there? Why did you dress the way you did? These have made it difficult for girls, mostly the younger ones to report, even to their parents.
Koya is a student in Ibadan. She narrated her story as follows:
“I had just recovered from an illness that kept me away from school for two weeks. On resumption, my classmate, who was also my friend, volunteered to lend me her notebooks so I could copy. So on this day, I went to her house to take the books, but on getting to her house, she was not home. Her brother told me that he knows where she was, and would take me there based on her instruction. So we went. The place was her boyfriend’s house. I met my friend there with her twin sister. I asked that one of them follow me to their house so I could rush up with writing the notes. Just then, my friend left, leaving me behind with her twin sister, and as she left, a knock was heard on the door. I was relaxed, thinking it was my friend coming back, but two boys marched in. Without any form of warning, they started beating us up mercilessly, tore our cloths and took turns on us. My friend, who supposedly went to collect the book, did not go anywhere. She was locked up in another room, and another group of boys were also mercilessly raping her too.
At a stage, I fought my way out, and ran out of the house stark naked. That was when neighbours came to my rescue. I led them to the house. They cleaned us up and gave us cloths to wear. The neighbours encouraged me to go to the police, and I did. The police followed me to the scene and took us to the hospital. The hospital confirm that all three of us were virgins. Those boys brutally took our virginity.
The irony of the whole thing was that everyone blamed my friends and I. My parents scolded me for reporting to the police. They queried my mission in the house of the boys. My explanations did not make any meaning to them. The Police said we were the cause. I still don’t know how. And the kind of cloth I wore that day covered my body from neck down. The only visible part of my body were my fingers.
At interrogation, my friend’s boyfriend claimed that he planned it all. He said that he been asking his girlfriend for sex, but was constantly turned down.
On this day, the boy had invited his girlfriend and asked her to come along with her sister as confidence that nothing will happen to her. They actually made plans to rape both sisters, and Koya walked into the trap. The police did not help matters as they dismissed the case, heaping all blames on the girls. Koya further hinted that she and her friends are no longer on talking terms because they too blamed her for taking the matter to the police, instead of keeping quiet. This was after the boys have reorganised and beat the sisters for allowing their friend to report the matter to the police.
Another victim, this time a married woman, told a most pathetic story of how her 15 year-old daughter was brutally disvirgined under her watch by her step father, the very weekend before the lockdown.
She said: “Just before the lockdown, my daughter, who is 15 years was raped by my husband, a man she called father, though not her biological father. My husband was always in need of sex, and I tried to fulfil his needs whenever he comes, even when I can’t. Each time I seem to give him excuses, he will threaten to go and get it from my daughter. Whenever I call his bluff, he will move to the door of her room, and I will reluctantly allow him to have his way with me.
But this particular night was different; there was no demand and no rejection. When he left the bed, I thought he had gone to watch TV until I began to hear screams and threats. I got and discovered that the noise was coming from my daughter’s room. The room had been locked from inside. This man violently and mercilessly raped her, beating her up severely for daring to resist. By daybreak when he opened the door, the girl was a ghost of her former self. I took her to the hospital, where she was attended to. I managed to sneak into the house and took my two other children and disappeared. Not even a pin followed me out of the house. I was afraid of what he might do next. I don’t even want anyone to know where I am.
Like most people who have been disappointed by the Police, she said the Police told her “that’s your family problem. If your husband finds interest in your daughter who you had before you married him, then you people should look for how to balance it. It is not a new thing.”
The girl is shattered, and in hiding just like her mother.
Gracious is a 22 years old young graduate of the University of Lagos. She told the Boss that though she cannot remember vividly how her incident occurred, she is very sure attempt was made at her virginity when she was just five years.
“I believe I have a rape experience but I don’t have any clear recollection of it. I was very very little and I just have this suspicion of foul play by a neighbour but no evidence and nothing was noticed by mom, so I guess it probably didn’t happen. But rape aside, there are several cases of sexual harassment: inappropriate touching and inappropriate advances, but we don’t shout too loud because most people would say these are very common, she said.
When prodded to recollect incidences of such harassment, she hinted:
“I remember meeting a top personality in the media one day at the radio booth of a well known broadcasting station, and in excitement, I requested to take a picture with him. While we posed, his hand went too far down my hip and stayed fondling. He kept asking for the picture to be taken over and over again and his hand kept going further down with every picture taken. I didn’t know how to react because of who he was, and the number of people there. When he left, several people came to me commenting on how they had noticed what he had done. They told me how normal it was for him to do such,” she narrated.
She also recalled incidences including playing with his cousin, who out of instinct and “completely unprovoked, he put his hands into my trousers and into my pant. I didn’t know anything then but I knew that was wrong so I pushed him away and we continued like nothing had happened. I haven’t told my mom to this day.
“I also remember when I was also very very little, I couldn’t have been more than seven, my dad had left me at home while I was sleeping to buy something outside. Somehow, my neighbours’ sons (who were within my age bracket), got into my house and all I know is, I woke up to them looking and touching my nether regions almost as if curious.”
She frowned at the attention the society pay to such deeds, saying that the society, families and the police justify rape act by blaming the woman, saying she might have put herself in the position to be raped or touched or molested.
She however noted that rape is not to women alone, adding that men are also raped though most men celebrate their rape.
“I remember having a discussion with some of my guy friends about this rape issue. This is a group that the age range was from 19-25; out of four guys, three had a sexual assault story of different levels.”
Juanita is a 27 years old mother of four, who said she can’t count the number of times she had been raped because of her broken home status. She told the story of one her experiences:
“There was this man, much older than me. I was 14 years then. He was a cousin to my friend. The said day, I had gone to see my friend in company of another friend. Her parents were not home. There was just herself, her brother, cousin and boyfriend at home. Three of us were just the girls in their midst.
“Shortly afterwards, our host was sent to buy recharge card. When she returned, she was sent out again. This time, she took the friend I came with along. I was then the only girl left. I felt uncomfortable with the environment, and then went into the toilet to ease myself. When I came back, my friend’s council was already seated in the room, and on the waiting. I felt he wanted to try boys’ stuff with me, so I was ready with my answers. But I was wrong. He wanted sex. No conversation nor preamble; he grabbed me. He threatened me with horrible things. I was dumbfounded. He said he was going to soak my cloths in water and I will go home naked. We struggled but he had his way. even when the other girls came back, they were not bothered but peeped through the keyhole. That was it. I was raped. I couldn’t tell anyone. I got pregnant, and was not even aware of it.
“That even shattered my entire life, because I visited one quack after another for abortion. What and where does a 14-year-old know. I tried a quack nurse, a herbalist, all to no avail until one day, I started bleeding profusely. And my family got to know.”
She continued: “The beauty of the whole thing is that 13 years later, as this rape thing is making the rounds now, the guy has surfaced, asking for forgiveness. He said he had had no peace ever since, especially now. He traced me through Facebook,” Juanita said.
This story brings tears to my eyes each time I remember it; it is one experience I don’t wish for even my worst enemies, Peju, a 26 year-old woman said as she recount an experience when she was 17 when her boyfriend sold her out to be rape. Her MC boyfriend actually collected money from someone so the person could rape her.
This guy was an MC, and was about town, meaning we are always going out. That day, we were hanging out by a poolside, when I noticed a particular guy was constantly staring at me. Suddenly, he passed his number on a piece of paper to me. I immediately informed my boyfriend, who laughed it off, saying he knows the guy.
After the pool incident, we planned to hangout at the club later that night where he was performing, and agreed to meet somewhere drinks before proceeding. While there, the guy who gave me a number at the pool joined us to my surprise. He was formally introduced. I did not know the plans as my friend left on he pretense to buy something, and for three hours, he didn’t come back. Worried, I asked the pool guy where he had gone to and when he would be back. He said he did not know but that he would try calling him. Meanwhile, I have called repeatedly but his number was unreachable.
After sometime, he told me he had reached someone else and they said my friend was very sick, that he was at another friend’s place, so we went there. I waited outside for him to come out, he did not. The pool guy suggested I come to his house, and wait. I agreed reluctantly. His house was a full house so I felt comfortable. His sister, fiancé and another lady, were there. This was already some minutes past midnight. I was trapped. The guy gave me two options; either I sleep in his house or he lodge me in a nearby hotel till morning. I chose the hotel option since I didn’t comfortable sleeping over in his house. He put me in a room, but refused to go, saying he would finish his drink first.
I kept insisting he leave so I could go to sleep. Then he told me it was too late and he could not leave anymore. He volunteered to sleep on the chair while I sleep on the bed. couldn’t help it, so I asked him to sleep on the bed while I sleep on the chair. I waited for him to sleep but he would not. Then he said ‘why are you acting like this? You ought to know what is happening. In fact, let me tell you the truth, I have paid your boyfriend to have you tonight so don’t even try to resist’. It was the dirtiest statement I ever heard.
He locked the door and pocketed the key and he began following me around the room. The hotel is a popular place for prostitutes so shouting for help was futile, it was normal to them. I shouted. I begged. But it was a waste of time. He told me his money would not go to waste. He pushed me onto the bed, tore my skirt, my underwear and had his way with me repeatedly. Much as I hit his head with a bottle, he was not deterred. I was so scattered afterwards, even as I speak with you now, I’m shaking. I hate to remember that experience. I was so scattered, I didn’t know what to do with myself; my clothes were torn so how was I to stand up and find my way home? Who would listen to such a story? That’s how I was disgraced. Who would I have told this story? I got home that day and cried my eyes out. It was a miracle I did not commit suicide. I turned me into something else, I started smoking and misbehaving because I lost myself. It is really not a good experience but it is well and I thank God I’m still alive and strong.
If you think Peju’s story was callous, hear what another student, Ijeoma told The Boss amid hiccups:
“I was callously raped by a person I taught was my friend because he was close to my boyfriend. He claimed he was a student of OAU but I discovered later he was into Advance Fee Fraud (419). We were close because he was always with my boyfriend. One day, he invited my boyfriend to his house, and he took me along. This was already past 7pm. So I went with them because I had nothing doing. After sometime, both of them went outside, and came back shortly after. Just then, the guy started touching my leg in the presence of my guy. When I complained to him, he didn’t say a word. Emboldened, the guy jump on me, pinned me down and started tearing my cloths off. I knew I was practically on my own, so I started begging and crying. I told him to pity me that I was still a virgin, but he wouldn’t listen. To cut a long story short, he violently raped me both through my vagina and anus. He sodomized me. When he was done, he ran off to wash off himself.
At that point, the one I call my boyfriend said he wanted to take his turn with me. I started begging again, reminding him that we were friends. He refused, boasting that if he could have sex with his own sister, there was no reason why he would not have sex with me. I must have raised my voice higher while I was begging because someone seemed to hear and was banging on the door. That saved me. A next door neighbour, who happened to be a doctor walked in. She took me to her room where I was given a pad, and the police was called. It was a very rough experience. I don’t wish it upon my worst enemy. We, girls know what we go through on a daily basis; things that we cannot even speak of. We cannot say all that we go through.”
Ijeoma added that she was consoled with the fact that her rapist has been killed. She claimed he was killed during a cult war.
A lot of debates have been going on as regards the basic deterring measure to apply to curb this outbreak, which has remained endemic. Sadly enough, at Thursday’s plenary session, members of the House of Representatives voted against castration as punishment for rapists as suggested by Hon. James Faleke from Lagos state. They called for stiffer penalties against persons found guilty of rape.
The Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Julie Okah-Donli, on their part, said it would publish the names and photos of sex offenders in the country as a deterrent to would-be offenders
According to her, reporting cases of rape is the only way to curtail the abominable act, adding that the agency will act on reported cases.
A social commentator, who do not wish his in print said, every agency involved must find a way to make ladies understand that it is not their fault that they were raped before they can expect reports of rape. In the past, the raped woman has always been blamed for what she suffered.
He maintained that the length of rape action should not stop its prosecution, hinting that the case between Mrs Busola Dakolo and Commonwealth of Zion Assembly pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo, resurfaced many years after it took place, and is still on.
Rape gives only five minutes of enjoyment to the rapist, and life of misery to the victim. Human sympathy should play a role in curbing rape, the extant laws in place not withstanding.
It is not to be swept under the carpet most rape cases involve high capacity individuals, who ‘cannot’ be reported. There are stories of obas raping their interns, employers raping their employees or would-be employees, teachers raping their students, policemen raping the inmates and many more.
And has anyone bothered to know how models are recruited by the agents? That’s a story for another day!