Is the conversation on rape changing?
Rape scandals aren’t uncommon in secondary schools, especially public schools. Recently there was outrage in Lagos because it was discovered Secondary School boys were raping their female counterparts in broad day light as a rite of passage. Lagos State Police released a statement that said there was no evidence of sexual violence. This as after the circulation of both verbal testimonials and photo evidence. This pushes me to wonder if regular citizens are more proactive about rape cases than law enforcement officials.
However, a conversation has been ignited. More and more people are beginning to talk about rape and every form of sexual violence. We know that no one deserves to be subjected to such treatment just because they want an education.
17 years ago, I was in JS1 and there was a sex scandal in my school. One girl in SS2 had been blackmailed into sleeping with about five boys. They were caught in the act and they were all flogged and disgraced on the assembly ground. The boys claimed to have some incriminating material on her that’d have gotten her expelled if they reported her to the principal. So, in exchange for their silence, she was to have sex with each of them. Out of fear, she accepted. While they were all punished for the act, I remember people making fun of the girl, they even coined a new name for her by making penis the prefix of her Yoruba name. She became an object of ridicule in school and she became very withdrawn. We were in the same dorm, although she was my senior, I noticed the change in her attitude. She eventually changed schools and I never heard about her again.
Four years ago, during my Youth Service, I taught at a Senior Secondary School in Ibadan and there was a sex scandal. Corp members had been having sex with this particular girl since she was about 14 and in SS2.
Three of those corp members had completed their NYSC and had gone back to their respective bases. The fourth was the one whom was caught sleeping with the girl. She was one of the best students in the school and she was a favourite of many teachers, including me.When word got out that a corp member had been sleeping with her, the teachers were furious. All of them wanted the heads of those boys on a stake. The principal, an old man who was retiring that year after decades of service burst into tears. Apparently she was raped by the first Corp member. He got her alone and took advantage of her. Feeling confused, used and upset, she confided in the second Corp member, the one she had a crush on. He dried her tears, pat her back, told her the first corp member was a desperate person she should stay away from and then promptly proceeded to have his way with her too. When both corp members completed their NYSC, the third threatened to tell everyone that he knew what she had been up to with the previous two unless she slept with him too. The fourth, who was caught at it, she told me he used to send for her and that she went to him willingly. I asked if they used protection with her, she said ‘sometimes’. Had she ever gotten pregnant? She said no. Although the issue was reported to the right authority, nothing really happened or at least I didn’t hear of anything.
I still fell bad about the one that happened in Ogun State 17 years ago breaks my heart each time I remember because she was the victim but we had all made fun if her because we were uneducated. Four years ago, in Oyo State, the reaction was different, slightly better. She wasn’t blamed or judged, at least not publicly. This time around, we recognised that she was the victim here and steps were taken to apprehend the statutory rapists.
No, she didn’t get justice. No, she didn’t get all the help she needed. Even I could have done better than pack my bags and bid Ibadan goodbye after NYSC. But I was more ignorant then than I am now. We are all learning, unlearning and relearning. The conversation is changing. It could definitely get better, but it begins with you and I.