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Rape, Incest & The Culture Of Silence In Nigeria

Rape, Incest & The Culture Of Silence In Nigeria
July 17, 2017 STER

Sandie Syke

Regarding rape, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP Act) 2015 clarifies that it is intentionally penetrating the private part of another person with any other part the body or anything else when the other person does not consent to the penetration. It is also rape if consent is obtained forcefully through means of threat and intimidation.

On incest, the same act explains that any form of sexual relations between people classed as being too closely related to marry each other (with or without) consent is incest, and is liable to a minimum conviction of 10 years without an option of fine. It could be with a parent, sibling, grandfather, child etc.

It is not a hidden fact that people known to the victim commit rape and other forms of sexual abuse. This is especially so when the victim is a child. In Nigeria, these rapists are often members of the child’s household, either related to the child or employed as domestic staff.

In some cases, the rapist is the parent, sibling or uncle of the child, which brings up the matter of incest. Parental rape is especially damaging to a child and their family because of the role a parent is supposed to play in a household. To a child a parent is the provider, guardian, stronghold, and the person who knows everything about everything. A child places implicit, unquestionable trust in a parent. They believe that their parents can do no wrong. So, when a parent breaches this trust by sexually abusing a child, the child is left confused and emotionally hurt. They often think that they must have done something to deserve this ‘punishment’. They feel alone, small and afraid; often feeling like there’s no one to turn to.

Parental rape has far-reaching, long-lasting effects. It can lead to psychological trauma which may manifest in newly emerging behavioural problems of a child while in school like acting out, disobedience and in older children, sexual deviance. The reverse is also possible, a child can become withdrawn, afraid and have trouble coping with school work where they used to previously excel. These problems are often carried into adulthood if a child doesn’t get the necessary help.

Parental rape can destroy a family, especially in Nigeria because of its peculiar problems. The families of children raped by their father, for example, will rather keep it a secret than open up and get care and justice for the child. All of this is usually done in a bid to “save the family name” or “prevent shame”. The physical and emotional trauma such a child is subjected to is unfortunately not the primary focus; instead it is about “what will people say?”

Our society seems to favour rapists over their victims. With incest and parental rape even when the victim is believed and the case reported, there are no measures put in place to protect said victim. There is often very little punishment meted out to the rapist and the ‘story’ is splashed across newspapers and blogs such that the family is exposed to ridicule.

But do all these problems mean that we should keep quiet and let such terrible abusers get away with their crimes? The sane and correct answer is no.

Abusers are abusers and will likely abuse again. It is our duty as a community to make sure abusers are punished for their crimes while protecting victims, regardless of whether or not they are family members. Safe havens need to be provided and guidelines put in place to ensure that people can feel safe reporting crimes of incest and parental abuse.

 

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