RAPE: When Does It End?

NEWS DIGEST – Nigerian women live in fear and apprehension everyday of their lives. At a young age, we are taught to cover up so as not to attract men, stay inside so as not to attract men, do not go out at night so as not become a victim- We follow these rules but we still end up victims- when does it end?

They tell us to carry a small knife, a pepper spray or a taser when we go out in order to fight off abusers and rapists but we still get raped at home and at our place of worship by the men we trust- when does it end?

Cover up, do not show skin or dress provocatively so that you won’t lure the men but the little baby girl who can’t walk yet, the hijabi and the elderly woman who can barely stand up straight got raped too- when does it end?

Nowhere is safe. Not your home, not your classroom, not your workplace, not the market, not the church nor the mosque, not even visiting male friends. No time of the day is safe- not daytime, not nighttime. When does it end? This is no way to live.

It doesn’t matter what we wear, where we go, who we are with or what time of the day it is. No woman is safe. Hashtags after hashtags, social media campaigns after the other, protests after protests, victim after victim, when does it end?

The Nigerian society has a glorified rape culture and it is inherent in every aspect of our lives. We see it everyday, we experience it everyday and sadly, we have normalized it. From boys trying to “tap current” in secondary schools, to university boys drugging drinks of their female counterparts, to market men inappropriately touching female shoppers and comedians making distasteful skits and jokes about sexual harassment and rape.

We all have a role to play in the fight against sexual abuse and rape of women in our society. We must provide a safe space for victims to be able to speak up and report their rapists and abusers. Victims are afraid to speak up because they have believed that it was inherently their fault. “What were you wearing?” “Why did you go to his house” “Why did you go to that party” “why did you go out at that time?” “Why did you lead him on?”. We must hold our friends and brothers accountable, we must stand and speak up against injustice. We must continue to create awareness and educate our people about the evil and gross human rights violation that is rape.

And while we must continue to talk about all the preventive measures and self defense tactics for women and teaching boys to do better, it will never be enough. Until there are clear and undisputed repercussions to violence against women, it will keep happening. Until we start seeing perpetrators in handcuffs and behind bars, nothing will change.
We need our politicians, leaders and lawmakers to be on our side. We need to know that our lives and safety is a priority to our leaders. We need to see policies and laws against sexual harassment, rape and abuse strengthened and put into effect. Until people begin to understand that they will get punished for sexual harassment, sexual abuse and rape against women, nothing will change.

As long as our law enforcement agencies are filled with uneducated, unenlightened and unexposed misogynists, nothing will change. As long as women’s rights and freedom remain unaddressed, nothing will change. Until our justice system stands up in the defense and protection of our girls and women, Nigerian women will continue to live in fear and apprehension.

Chisom Omeokachie
[email protected]