By Suaad Faruq

­­Sexual assault, a case where being home is not a guarantee for safety.

Being a lady, one of my greatest fears is that of being sexually assaulted. This is one fear that most, if not all, women go through every day of their lives. Sexual abuse, according to the American Psychological Association, is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.

Unfortunately, not every girl or woman is lucky enough to be relieved once the doors of their home are shut. For many, this is where the real horror lies. Many girls are being assaulted in their homes and are either sworn or threatened to into silence, even worse when they gather the strength and courage to finally say something, they are shut off or pleaded with to bear and live with this miserable atrocity.

Findings from a national survey[1] in Nigeria confirmed that one in four females reported experiencing sexual violence in childhood with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident of sexual violence. In the same study, it was found that 24.8% of females ages 18 to 24 years old, experienced sexual abuse prior to age 18 of which 5% sought help, with only 3.5% receiving any help.

Sometimes the abuse happens once, other times it keeps reoccurring, either way, it is a life-damaging experience that no one should have to live with and even worse when it’s being done by someone you call a friend or family. This madness in the name of sexual pleasure has led to countless unwanted pregnancies in teen girls, leading to abortions which can result in death, dysfunctional wombs or many other unpredictable turn of events, or at its simplest, a child being born of hatred to a mother that would rather not live another day than raise it.

Such inhumane acts have destroyed too many lives, scarring them permanently, resulting in depression, suicide or at the very least an empty life filled with insecurity, scars, trauma, self-hate, self-blame and absolute negativity.

According to the Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) [2], Africa has the highest prevalence rate of child sexual abuse of about 34.4%. Also, ten thousand girls were being raped daily across the continent as of November 2017. Imagine the girls living under the roof of a monster that chooses to take their lives away one night at a time. The world is going through more than enough as it is, our girls have to be safe in their homes, it’s the least they can have in a world that’s not willing to give them a second to catch their breath.

Fathers, uncles, brothers, guardians, friends, nannies, neighbours and strangers, please stop to ask yourselves what excuse you could possibly have for ruining a life all in the name of a few minutes of pleasure. Whatever urges you might have, quench them in any other way that wouldn’t make the world harder than it already is. I urge you to stop taking advantage of young girls and women, call up that one person that wouldn’t mind having you, lock yourself in a room until you can think clearly, take a walk, get some help, do anything but ruin a life.

Mothers, aunties, sisters, guardians, friends, nannies and strangers, when a victim of such assault gathers the impossible courage to speak up, you have to do everything in your power to be of help, no matter what the situation is. You cannot shut them off. You cannot judge them. You cannot insinuate they caused it. You cannot doubt them. You cannot plead with them to let go. You cannot and should not do anything but be of help. Get them the help they need, whatever it is for them to be safe and heal, get them the help they need! If you find your husband or father assaulting your child or sibling, get help. As Martin Luther King said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

To the strongest of all, the world might call you a victim, you might even believe you are one, and as a matter of fact, you are. You’ve been a victim of injustice. A victim of terror. A victim of inhumanity. A victim of distastefulness. A victim of the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone. Yet, you are also a hero. You are not scarred for life, you are not ruined, it wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t the way you dressed, it wasn’t something you said or in the way

you walked, it wasn’t your fault and it is not your fault.

If you are being abused in any way, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been sworn to secrecy, it doesn’t matter who it is that is assaulting you, it doesn’t matter if they have threatened you, don’t protect them. If they were worthy of your protection, they would not be doing this to you. Please speak to someone about this, confide in someone, get help, call out to the right bodies, escape your trauma and choose to heal.

It might not seem possible right now, but someday you will be glad you did.

This is me telling you, you are stronger than you think, you can do it.

You can get the help you need.

 

[1] National Survey on Violence Against Children in Nigeria, 2014

[2] https://warifng.org/rape-stats-in-nigeria/

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