Abuja: 24th June, 2020 Apart from the shaming culture of rape survivors in the country, the lack of meting out appropriate punishment to perpetuators is further deepening the agony of those that suffered in their hands, Mr. Arinze Orakwue, Director of Public Enlightenment at the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has said.
He said this on Wednesday June 24th, 2020 as one of the panellists of a webinar hosted by Plan International Nigeria’s Girls Get Equal activists on the topic: Life After Rape: Survivors’ Right to Care, Support and Justice.
Other members of the panel discussion moderated by Murna Fattih Akyok included Evangeline Dan Yusuf, a Psychologist and convener of SheNation Girls and Women Development Initiative; Kennedy Shaiyen, a Psychologist with the University of Jos and Salmah Abdulhamid Buba, a medical doctor at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s clinic.
Mr Orakuwe said part of the healing process for rape survivors was seeking a closure adding that “when a rapist who is supposed to be punished walk about free and the law enforcement agents who are supposed to protect the citizens allow that, it deepens the pain of the victims and worsen the healing process.”
Nigeria has recorded a spike in sexual and gender-based violence in the past months especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. From January to June, 2020, at least 707 cases of rape were reported according to the Nigeria Police Force.
There has been public outrage over the brutal rape and murder of 22-year-old Uwa Omozuwa in Benin and 19-year-old Barakat Bello in Ibadan which sparked social media hashtags #JusticeforUwa, #JusticeforBarakat and #WeAreTired. Dr Salmah Abdulhamid on her part bemoaned the absence of adequate tools at many hospitals to care for survivors of rape which in effect weakens the prosecutorial process as evidence needed risk being eroded.
As it is important for a rape patient to present to the hospital within 72 hours to prevent unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and DNA evidence to prosecute the perpetrator, she said: “Here in Nigeria, most health facilities do not have the capacity to investigate. Crude methods are often used especially checking on presence of semen around the genitals. Drugs are then administered on the assumptions the survivors might have contracted STD, or pregnant etc.”
Dr Salmah called on government to work harder to provide free kits to make forensic check on a rape survivor possible. This makes it difficult for perpetrators to escape justice.
Evangeline Dan Yusuf, a psychologist listed the effects on rape survivor to include self-blame, panic attack, hyper ventilation, diminishing self-worth, night mares, and inability to be intimate with partners even in legitimate marriage. She called on rape survivors to speak up and damn societal expectations and shaming, noting that research revealed that “talking about what you are going through especially with people you trust can help reduce the stress in the mind in 10 folds.”
Evangeline said “if any one tells you of being abused, believe them first and not passing judgement.”
Boys being raped too
The panellists also agreed that boys were being raped too by fellow male gender and female, a scourge they said needed urgent attention by all stakeholders to put an end to it.
This “does not take away the fact that girls are mostly at the receiving end of the risk of being rape,” said NAPTIP Director of Public Enlightenment, Mr Arinze Orakwue. While admonishing vulnerable persons to defend themselves against rapists with everything possible, he cautioned parents to train their sons to have self-restraints and be responsible.
“Many children consume pornography these days via the internet using the phone. Parents need to take responsibility,” he said.
Kennedy Shaiyen in his submission advised survivors of rape to stop blaming themselves. “It is not your fault. Speak up to a trusted person. Keeping silent will embolden the perpetrator to continue the act even with others,” he said.
Right to self defense
In response to a question by a participant if it was legal to use pepper spray as form of self-defense against a rapist in Nigeria, Kennedy Shaiyen of the University of Jos said “Self-defense is not a crime. So, the use of pepper spray in face of danger coming your way is not out of place.”
In Mr Orakwue’s words; “your sanctity and your sanity are your right to be protected with everything possible. So, pepper spray can be used to deter a rapist.”
He said NAPTIP could be reached in case of sexual abuse via a short code: *627# or call on 07030000273.
Yunus Abdulhamid–Communications Advisor No 49, Anthony Enahoro Street Utako District, Abuja, Nigeria Email: Yunus.Abdulhamid@plan-international.org