A home is and should be the safe heaven for every child. However, UNICEF projected in 2015 that 1 in 3 children abused are being abused in their homes. The home where a child is supposed to be safe and protected often becomes a torture chamber as they are repeatedly abused. A lot of people have been sexually abused by their neighbours, cousins, uncles, house helps and even fathers.
So now the question is; how do we deal with the menace then? How do we ensure that children are safe in the homes and not victims of sexual predators?
- We must first educate ourselves. We must learn and know that when someone is sexually violated, it is not their fault but the fault of the abuser. We must understand that a person does not get abused because she is too light skinned or because she is too ‘physically mature’ for her age. Nobody gets sexually violated because they are ogbanje or possessed by marine spirit, it is not her fault because she wore a short dress. We must learn and accept that a smile is not an invitation and we must understand that anyone can be a perpetrator just as anyone can be a victim.
- Build a relationship with your child or ward. As parents and guardians, we must develop and maintain a cordial and close relationship with our children so that they can trust us and be able to confide in us. A lot of times, abused children are unable to open to to their parents and let them know what they are going through. Let your children be comfortable with you enough to tell you anything.
- We must also be very vigilant. Watch out for signs that your child is troubled. If a vivacious, gregarious and full-of-life suddenly becomes sullen and withdrawn, try to find out why. It may be as a result of abuse or sexual violence. If there is an adult that your child does not like, try to find out why instead of beating the child for not ‘greeting uncle properly’. Children are intuitive and they may not like a person based on their gut feeling or if said person has said or done something inappropriate to them. There are parents who have delivered their children straight into the arms of a rapist by telling the child to stop being rude and lazy and go help that adult with some task or chore. Never allow anyone call your daughter ‘my small wife’, kiss her or put her in his lap.
- Encourage children to have only formal relationships with adults. Calling people they are not related to Uncle or Aunty can give them a false sense of safety and security with that person which they may in turn exploit. Let your children understand that anyone who isn’t their parent’s sibling is NOT their Uncle or Aunty. Although, children should be taught also how to relate with blood relatives. Anyone can be a predator even an uncle or an aunty.
- Do not blacklist your child. Don’t be that parent that disbelieves and discredits his child at every opportunity. Do not make it known that you think of your child as a bad child. If you do, predators and pick up on this and use it to their advantage. They will abuse your child and then tell her “no one will believe you if you tell them what happened”. And your child would believe them because you always discredit her. I know of someone who was raped by her cousin in her house and she couldn’t tell her mother because her mother was going to blame her for it because she wore shorts and tank tops within the house.
- Teach your children. Sex education doesn’t have to be weird. Warning them about the realities of life doesn’t have to be awkward. Give your children sex education. Let them know what vagina and penis means. Calling it euphemisms only bring an air of mystery around their private parts which could make them want to find out more from the wrong person. Let them know what their genitals are and demystify sex for them before someone else shows them what it is. Also, teach them about abuse. Teacher then that abuse is wrong and can never be normalised by any society. If they know this and someone tried to abuse them, they will certainly run to you for safety.
N.B: Ayodeji Megbope was interviewed by Kemi Adetiba for the King Women series and she spoke about her abuse by a relative right under her mother’s nose. You can watch it to learn more.