Stopping Rape & Its Stigma
written by Itmiya Jenis Manni in the Kuka Village Of Gwandum, Shongom Local Government, Gombe State
In northeastern Nigeria, women are traditionally expected to be docile and obedient to men, whatever the circumstance. Their personal opinions and views are often dismissed.
They often face sexual abuse and are subjected to several forms of exploitation, which include rape and other types of sexual assault. The associated stigma could lead to trauma, mental derailment or even the destruction of lives if not addressed early.
To sensitize people about RAPE as a menace to society, the Triumph Over Trauma and Stigma Initiative (TOTSI) team, on the 20th of August 2023, took its advocacy to Kuka, a small village in the Gwandum ward of Shongom Local Government Area, Gombe state.
The choice of the location was in response to a plea made to the TOTSI team by the community. The village has a high rate of sexual assault, which left many survivors traumatized and dying in silence. It shattered many dreams of young girls because of shame and the inability to speak up.
During the four-hour engagement with members of the Kuka village, a TOTSI team member, Pastor Hannatu John, drew her biblical reading from the book of ‘‘II Samuel 13:1-22.’’ She also spoke extensively on rape, highlighting its diverse causes and steps to address and reduce its prevalence. Highlighted were the need to always speak up when it occurs, the importance of reporting cases to authorities and how to treat survivors.
Pastor Hannatu spoke about the immense level of trauma, rape survivors' experience. They endure the immediate physical and mental trauma of the attack and many ongoing psychological challenges. A significant stigma from the reactions of others forces survivors to deal with additional shame.
Sometimes survivors feel like they're getting raped again because of the stigma which does as much damage to the survivors as the rape itself.
QUESTIONS RAISED BY PARTICIPANTS DURING THE INTERACTIVE SESSION.
What are the roles of parents and guardians? How can they be of help in fighting the prevalence of rape?
How can the church be of help?
What are the legal implications of rape on perpetrators?
How should the community react to and treat survivors?
Is it advisable for survivors who get pregnant because of rape to abort it?
Both the TOTSI team members and the participants discussed extensively all questions raised. Everyone shared his/her opinion. At the end, they all came to a positive conclusion, using the holy bible and their sense of morality as a guide.
In conclusion, the team ended by affirming,
“Stigma against rape survivors undermines efforts to combat sexual violence and should be strongly discouraged. Proper sensitization should be done to create awareness about the negativity attached to stigmatization. This serves as a bold step towards combating the menace of sexual violence. Ending stigma can be lifesaving and much effort should be put in ensuring the success of the fight against rape and stigma.”
Parents were advised to be vigilant with their wards:
to be security conscious,
to teach them sex education,
be watchful of the peers or people they associate with, and places they go,
and guide them and draw them closer to God through prayers and counselling.
The TOTSI team advised the community on the need for sensitivity, to be conscious of their comments and reactions towards survivors. Save the stigma for the perpetrators of such a shameful act.
They also call on the community to shower the survivors with love, and kindness, advice. Support them in every positive way they can. This will hasten and secure their healing and recovery, both physically and emotionally.
The church, too, was advised to provide a support system for the survivors. To be a safe haven to them. To organize educational programs to facilitate awareness and the personal, psychological, sociological, legal, and moral consequences of sexual assault.