Rape as The Next Epidemic

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By Femi Akintunde-Johnsons

Why do men rape? And some women too? We are told of the recent rapacious pastime amongst the indolent folks have blurred the gender divide. The tragic double-headed madness being unleashed across the country this year by sex-starved sociopaths has gone beyond paperback bit-part novels or magazine features of distant deviants pillaging the Western world.

In the past few months, we have seen and read sick but true stories of painfully extraordinary crimes against women, and even more dastardly, against the girl-child. Incidence of sexual violence against women has been with us for a very long time; however, in the past decade it has assumed a wider and more vicious dimension bordering on a devastating epidemic. A 2015 UN’s Children’s Fund report exclaimed that one in four boys, and one in ten girls have experienced some forms of sexual violence before age 18! Global estimation is even more frightening: one in three women experience sexual harassment in a lifetime. Another report claimed over 20% of Nigerian women have suffered or survived this crime – that is a staggering 40m people!

The recent alleged rape and murder of 22-year old University of Benin student, Uwa Omozuwa; the 12-year old reportedly violated by 11 men in Jigawa in May; and the April gang-rape of 18-year old Jennifer by five men in Kaduna (among several others) have shot up the nerves of the populace who now demand for swift and severe justice for perpetrators of this nauseating epidemic.

As it stands, the victims of rape are hopelessly disadvantaged by systemic and cultural amplification of the Nigerian nonchalance. Though the law has widened the hitherto shallow definition of rape, and conducts unbecoming; and the penalties have ballooned to life imprisonment for rape and 14 years for confirmed attempt; the protocols leading to the achievement of justice, clinical and psychological support, personal and family closure, and compensation for the victims of rape, are grossly inadequate, or criminally non-existent.

How do you know a troubling matter has reached epidemic proportion? The prevalence of the ‘disease’ up to a point that many people now shrug their shoulders when they hear of incredibly heinous acts, like full-grown adults having carnal knowledge of innocent children under the age of five! You know it is an epidemic when we begin to normalise brutal violations of the private dignity of our children and women by men and boys whose hearts have been calloused by some unnameable depravities. Then, this culture of normalising rape, and even more despairing, of raking up excuses to exonerate rapists, and demonize their victims – Oh, why did she wear mini at that ungodly hour? Why did she wear such sheer dress that showed too much? Why was she in his room at such late hour? What was she looking for in that neighbourhood? Why should she come into the house of God dressed like that? Why did she get drunk or high without friends or an escort? And more seemingly idiotic excuses and mindless blames.

Our insensitivity and callousness have greatly endangered our children and women; and emboldened would-be perpetrators and unrepentant violators to strut and swagger across the landscape wreaking emotional, physical and economic devastation.

The unfortunate consequences of pampering rapists after all these decades have led to what is now in epidemic proportion. Estimates now put at 90% the number of violators who are well known to the victims prior to the crime. Irrespective of age, status or lineage, violators fired by sundry demons and deranged fantasies smoother filial and familial ties, and have their way. More often than not, they get away with it – due to all sorts of societal pressures and governmental negligence. From the seven-month infant raped by her “uncle”…to the 11-year girl serially raped and threatened by “maiguard”…to the beautiful teenager despoiled by a gang of her classmates…to the plucky entrepreneur raped and strangled in her hotel room…to the landlady raped multiple times by her young assailants, and stabbed mortally…to the 80-year old grandmother sexually violated by her drug-inspired evil grandchild… the list is morbidly long, and widespread. Yet, our government, perhaps, like majority of their people, appear indulgent, or at the very least, apathetic to the issues that surround this epidemic. One wonders, if the government had responded half as much as they have done to the Coronavirus pandemic, the broiling anguish in the land would have been severely minimized.

The situation today, in response to the epidemic of rape, is distressing. The police accuse parents of rape victims of “killing the evidence” by their acts, or inaction, in protecting their children from stigmatization, a future without responsible suitors, and plethora of other reasons. But can you honestly blame them? Cases are reported at the police stations, for those who are too disturbed to sweep it under the bed. At the station, especially if she is fairly full grown, the initial reaction is a knowing countenance (much like – “na today?”).
While the victim’s parents are expected to mobilize the police so as to invite and interrogate the suspect; find a hospital to conduct baseline examination to ascertain the assault, and treat any injury… yet that is not the end of their pain: there is hardly any public hospital with the vitally significant Rape Test Kit; perhaps a few sophisticated private hospitals may possess the kit, but at exorbitant cost.

And what about institutional support from government and non-governmental organisations, NGOs? There is hardly any victim-sensitive response protocols established by the government anywhere in Nigeria (akin to the NCDC’s protocols for combating the spread of Covid-19). Nigerians are also dying – gruesomely – from the attacks of serial and undercover rapists and murderers.

There are reportedly two forensic facilities – one in Lagos and the other in Abuja. Moderate cost of forensic investigation of rape evidence is a princely N150,000… guess who is expected to pick that bill? The victim or her parents, of course. They also have to look for funds to file court papers and execute the prosecution of the vexatious matter, if there is no institutional support from government agencies or NGOs. Yet, the vast majority of people fated by these horrible acts are largely poor and economically displaced in the society. They are forced to “kill” the evidence, and give their children the chance for a good future bereft of stigma and notoriety.

There are no special holding centres (similar to isolation centres for suspected victims of Coronavirus) where victims of rape or survivors of rape attempt can be safely “quarantined”; can receive qualitative psychological evaluation and treatment; can be nursed and prepared for rehabilitation…

despite the protestations of the relevant government agencies, some NGOs, which deal closely with these victims, have reportedly discountenanced government’s poor attempt at damage control.

The great and tortuous burden on victims and their parents by unprovoked acts and proclivities of deranged men (and women) must now be urgently arrested by governments at state and federal levels, in addition to the valiant effort of principled NGOs who have for years been derided and harassed by security officials (of all people) as meddlesome burden-carriers.

Interestingly, the circumstance, location and vileness of the recent victim, Uwa Omozuwa have opened the gates of public umbrage. More exposed individuals are coming out in support of victims of rape… Major religious leaders, celebrities, socialites, popular music and filmic stars are not just showing off, but telling off adamant procrastinators in government and power. Much talk and plenty knocks have led to countless stories flooding the media – social and traditional – with spiralling anger and outrage. This has led to revelations of acts of rape by famous dunderheads who are rightly (or wrongly) tarred with rape accusations.

The good thing about all of this is that, gradually, the cloak of stigmatization, which had kept the crime in flourishing mode, is receding. More victims are speaking, and revealing the villainous identities of their assaulters. Old victims are coming out of self-imposed closets to call out and shame their hitherto unseen “demons”. Of course, prosecution should follow, posthaste. However, one should sound a note: irresponsible joy-riders who seek fame by fingering innocent persons of raping them, if untrue, should be vigorously challenged by the “accused”, and the full weight of the law should visit such “image-wreakers”. This is critical to sustaining the momentum that hopefully will awaken the government to rise close to the Covid-19 level of emergency response, and stem the soaring curve of this epidemic.

It is clear in our mind that if the current agitations continue to move upward in the positive lane, we look forward to the tightening up of enforcement of available laws, sharp improvement in police and medical investigations, tracing, arrests and “isolation”. It may lead to a shift of burden from the parents of victims, including underage boys defiled by mad men, to the broad and deep shoulders of reformed govermental agencies and re-energised NGOs.

Hopefully, next time, we shall find answer to my initial question: Why do men rape?