Changing the Nigerian narrative on Sexual Abuse, et al (1)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The lid on Pandora's Box in Nigeria regarding rape, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual abuse is finally being chipped at. Small-small.

Credits: www.genius.com 
Ese Walters. Sugabelly. They had their part to play. They spoke out.

Perhaps, it is because they come from the slightly ‘advantaged’ part of the society that their individual stories were heard. But their story got out.

No court of law has entertained either case. No verdict has been given. It would be a tad bit irresponsible to give a blanket "He did it". We were not there. I was not there. I do not have ALL the facts.

But this is not about them.

This is concerned with the fact that they SPOKE out. And now, we as a country are seriously talking (in general terms) about this big-headed monster called Rape/Sexual Abuse.

Opinions differ. Is it rape, where there was consent initially? Is it rape when she's in love with him? Is it rape just because he was in a position of authority?

People are talking, analyzing, exchanging opinions. This means we are no more in the catatonic/passive slumber we were in. Active mode has been activated. We are aware. This is good. This is a step in the right direction. Even if it a baby-lizard step.

The next step is: how do we keep this going? How do we keep people engaged in this discourse, and perhaps, stumble upon a solution.

We must first change the narrative.

What is the narrative?

Narrative 1 (Or the Chapter known as "How could it have happened")

Mum & Dad are hardworking up and coming middle-class income earners who close work rather late. Nicey Neighbour has a daughter attending their daughter’s school. Mum & Dad are grateful Nicey Neighbour can pick their daughter and keep her till 7pm when they return. Sometimes, it’s 9pm.

Nicey neighbour also has a husband.

Or…

Mum and Dad live in the ‘sub-urbs’. Life here is 'hard'. This is not the life they want for their 9 year old Suburban daughter. So mum and Dad allow her to go back with Big City Aunty and Uncle, back to the city, as their help. In search of a better life for her.

Aunty and Uncle have a testosterone-filled adolescent son.

Or…

Pretty Young Tina (PYT) works in the church office. She genuinely loves the Church, and has found solace in there. The church has promised to sponsor her through the University, since she is orphaned. The Church is her home. Barely15, she feels like she's been in the Church for a hundred years.

Pretty Young Tina absolutely trusts her mentor, Brother Churchill.

Or...

Boss Gruff is very gruffly. No matter how much Diligent Dolly tries to stay out of his way, and perform her work meticulously, he always finds some fault. He spends at least an extra thirty minutes at office meetings, to let everyone know how incompetent she is. He keeps her working till late. She needs the job. Her self-confidence is in tatters. But she needs this job.

Boss Gruff is indeed a tough boss.

Or…

All other (possible) unfortunate circumstances that form part of this Narrative. Known and unknown.

Narrative 2 (Or the Part known as "What really went down")

Nicey Neighbour's husband is nice. Very nice. To hardworking Mum & Dad's daughter. He always carries her on his lap. Even when no one's around. (Especially when no one is around). He makes her feel really comfortable. Once in a while, he touches her thighs. The touching gets a little less infrequent. It has become a staple. It's their 'little secret', he tells her. That thing – he says - that makes her special. Especially when he undresses her, and takes her to bed…

Or...

Big city Cousin is really cool. Suburban niece is in awe of his coolness. One day, he tells her he loves her. She melts. He whispers it to her when he creeps in at night into her room. She suspects it is wrong; she knows it is wrong, but who else will love her? It hurt once … and hurt over and over again for the next 7 years. But he loves her. Or so she thinks. She's not sure anymore. He doesn’t tell her so often anymore. He doesn’t come into her room anymore. Even though she now begs him to. But he doesn’t. She's only 17... but she feels like her life is over…

Or…

PYT works in church so late, day in day out. Brother Churchill works equally late. He gives her lifts home. They talk a lot on the drive home. Sometimes, he caresses her fingers. Just to share his anointing with her. She doesn’t feel quite right. But he's Brother Churchill ... he can do no wrong. Everyone knows. He also reminds her how he can never be wrong. Even when he pins down the car lock and 'convinces' her that this is a good thing…

Or…

One day, Diligent Dolly was exceptionally stupid. She did her best. But Boss Gruff berated her all day. And kept her working till very late. He's hardworking, and also works very late.
He called her in to his office. She's quaking in fear … ready to meet her fate. Her fear is all over her face. She is still quaking when he begins to kiss her. He need not have even threatened to fire her. She submitted, 'willingly'. After all, she needs this job. She's worthless. She's stupid. Who else will hire her??

Or…

All other (possible) unfortunate circumstances that form part of this Narrative. Known and unknown.

Narrative 3: (Or the part known as "Why did you never say anything?"... but is really the part where "They tried. You just weren't listening".)

"Mum, Dad, I really would love you to pick me up from school yourselves. I do not want to go to the Niceys’ anymore"
"What do you mean? Are you not lucky you have someone to look after you when school closes? This is the last time you will complain about this. And who gave you permission to talk, when adults are having a conversation at the table? Where is your respect?? Go to your room, and do not come down again today or talk to anyone"

Or...

Did you notice that our Suburban niece has lost so much weight? She's withdrawn, and looks sad all the time. Anyway, I'm not her mother I can't deal'.

Or…

“This letter from you scares me. All these things you are claiming that Uncle's son has done to you, you need to be careful. If you keep talking like this, Uncle may send you back. And you need to stay there to get the better life. You need to learn to endure in life, and keep quiet. We have all endured some suffering or the other. It is just for a while”.

Or...

“It's not possible that PYT's allegation is true. Brother Churchill is the epitome of sainthood. He cannot look at a woman, little more impregnant one. She is a gold digger. And a witch. She should be excommunicated”.

Or...

Year End Appraisal for Diligent Dilly: She's lacking in self-confidence, and does not seem to think outside the box. Her turnaround time has greatly dropped. And she appears to be immensely timid, especially during meetings with all the Bosses. Her Boss has done everything to help her, even staying back after work to assist her. But she's not improving. We had high hopes when she started, but we may begin to consider letting her go.

Or...

All other (possible) unfortunate circumstances that form part of this Narrative. Known and unknown.

Narrative 4: (Or the part known as "What happened after". Also known as "The Aha! moment").

Daughter of hardworking parents has learnt that older men can be nice, when she's nice and quiet too. That's how she got her gig as a runs girl.

And...

Suburban niece now has a boyfriend of her own. He tells her he loves her. Even though he beats her, and has his way when she's not in the mood, she stays. He loves her. That's all that matters.

And...

[Not so] PYT has learnt that the rich people are nicer when they see her daughter on her back while begging. The proceeds are not enough to pay for a very decent house, but she can at least get by...

And…

Diligent Dolly now works in the shelf room of the local postal agency. Although she has a College Degree, she knows she's worth nothing; she can get nothing right, and likes this job because she has little or no contact with people. She has no gruffly Boss to report to. She is content.

And…

All other ‘regular’ circumstances, that sadly, form part of this Narrative.

All of the foregoing form part of one huge narrative in Nigeria. Or so we are learning.

Truth is we may never truly know all the dynamics. But we are beginning to have an idea. People are speaking up and speaking out.

Now that we do, how do we prevent this? How do we 'un-configure' this Narrative from the scratch??


(Continued, next post).

Paz,

Meg.

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4 comments

  1. This canker worm called rape needs to be checked. It takes lots of guts and strength to actually speak out that you've been raped. An average girl us vulnerable to rape and It's on record that at least 1 out of 3 females have at one time or the other gotten raped or harassed sexually before the age of 18. If more people can come out to talk and our laws are effectively implemented to get culprits prosecuted, the occurrence of rape would be checked in our society. This days it has gone beyond asking parents to always know what their children are upto because there have been situations of some fathers (dogs) raping their own daughters. Effective implementation of our laws and rape would be almost non-exustent. And on a last note, Schinnel I'm a fan of ur work. I read one of your  post and had to read all the post on the blog. This is a beautiful piece. I can't wait for the concluding part. Keep it going...

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Hugo. The concluding part coming up soon.

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  2. Enter your comment...well written

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