Karima Abdullah (not real name) has been my friend since that September day in 1999. We met on the first day of school at Secondary School.  She is a friend who has become a sister, a part of me and a strong pillar for me. We have been through so much over the years. Karima is one of the most beautiful souls you will ever come across in this life. When we were in JS2, my friend Karima was raped by a senior boy. He put something in her Fanta, raped her and threatened her. She never told anybody this incident until one day…

We were in University; I think it was third year, when we both ran into her rapist on campus. Her reaction was so strong I knew something was up. She froze at the sight of him; she was sweating and pulling my hand like ‘Zara let us go’. She dragged me back to an empty class and she broke down telling me the sordid details. All these years she could not share this horrible experience with anyone. Not even her parents. She was dealing with all the horrible trauma and it’s effects all alone. For more than two months, she moved on campus in fear, terrified that he would surface again. I still remember how relieved she was when we learnt he had been visiting a friend on campus and that he was actually attending university in the UK.

After she calmed down, I asked her why she hadn’t told anyone or even reported him to the school Authorities; she told me it would be too much to bear the shame. But which shame? Needless to say this hurt me deeply.

Something happened to this innocent child and she is the one who will bear the shame. Somebody violated her innocence and yet she is the one who will be blamed and shamed. Where is the sense in that?

Several years later, no one in her family knows about this experience she had. Not even her husband. She is still afraid to open up. Meanwhile her rapist has gone on to become a successful architect with a beautiful family. Living his life , as if nothing happened. I shudder to think whether he continued to rape women throughout his life. Or maybe he repented after Karima. Only God knows but for now he is a devoted husband and father. I know because I  follow him on Instagram.

Sadly, Karima is not unique. So many women are suffering silently after being victims of a sexual assault because it would be a thing of shame to speak up. The stigma that is attached to rape victims is something that has enabled rape to thrive. In our society we protect rapists and condemn the victims to a life of shame and ridicule. But WHY?

Every single day, there is a rape story in the papers, rape of minors by grown men, rape of women, rape rape rape everywhere! Because we refuse as a society to do the right thing: shaming and punishing the rapists. We don’t encourage rape victims to get justice because we see them as ‘damaged’ ‘defiled’ ‘dirty’ etc. We need to carry that six letter word-stigma and hang on the neck of those despicable rapists, not the rape victims.

For instance: This is from LEADERSHIP newspaper January 11 Edition:

“The annual crime report in Kano State that was recently released by the state police command gave the number of rape cases that were recorded specifically in 2014 as high as 214 cases. This number represents the reported rape cases that the police were aware of in 2014. But quite a number of rape cases remained unknown to the police command as some of the victims shied away from public knowledge of what they had gone through in the hands of their captors, and this has to do more with cultural reasons or simply fear of stigmatisation, especially of young victims. What remains unclear to many people is that, in a state like Kano with a population of about 15 million people, having such a figure of 214 as reported cases in a year is a cause for alarm, as most incidents were never reported.

It would be recalled that Kano commissioner for justice, Barrister Maliki Kuliya Umar, had in January 2014, disclosed that there were more than 100 reported cases of rape between November and December 2013 alone in Kano courts, as many more of such reported cases were settled outside courtrooms within the same period.

Barrister Umar emphasised that the number of reported cases was so high now because people were more aware of the need to report rape cases to the police, unlike before when victims’ parents or guardians remained silent because of the stigma.

In his words, more than 40 rapists were convicted and are now serving terms in prison. “Rape is becoming problematic, not only in Kano or Nigeria, but also globally,” he insisted.

According to him, report from the ministry of justice also revealed that the number of rape cases received by courts in the state within the period of two and a half years of the present administration, under the category of public prosecution, was 1,185, while civil litigation cases increased to 186, out of which 72 were concluded. He further revealed that under the category of citizens’ rights, about 126 cases were received in 2013, and 45 cases were settled.

One of the landmark successes of addressing rape cases was the speed and accuracy with which judges adjudicated the cases. In this New Year, a Kano high court has sentenced a 35-year old man, Dan Bala Musa, an indigene of Kano, to 10 years imprisonment. The same court also convicted a young man, aged 25, of Kiru town in Kiru local government area to 14 years jail term for raping a minor, Hafsat Ibrahim.

Alhaji Ibrahim Kiru, a farmer and unionist, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that for anybody to rape another person’s daughter is a painful and shameful thing to do. Alhaji Kiru informed that he worked so hard until the case in Kiru appeared before the court of law and the rapist got what he deserved. According to him, the situation was becoming unbearable, and that led him to give out the custody of his daughter, aged eight, to his aged mother, adding that he could not stand the emotional pain whenever he was at home and saw her.

Similar concern was raised by Malam Muhammad of Hotoro area of Kano, whose daughter was allegedly raped by his neighbour. Muhammad said he could hardly forget the incident, and anytime he recalled the experience, he became devastated. According to Muhammad, his daughter was raped by a 50-year old man, who happened to be a driver with a bank.

Ever since then, he has continued to regret not being there for his daughter, which was the reason the old man could take the opportunity to destroy her life. The angry father wondered how on earth somebody of that age could rape a minor and expect anything good in his life, while viewing the situation as incurable, especially for him.

LEADERSHIP Sunday’s encounter with the father of another victim that was allegedly raped, murdered and abandoned in an uncompleted building was very revealing of the danger that the incident of raping has rubbed on the society. The father, who sought for anonymity, stated in tears that he suffered from the inhumane treatments on his daughter, who was raped and killed by her assailants. He added that whenever he reflected on what had happened to his late daughter, his position happened to be precarious and he could hardly get out of it in a short time. The bereaved father added that he had sent his wife packing for not doing her best to protect his late daughter, until intervention from some friends that calmed him down led to his forgiving her, and accepting her back into his home; saying he has left the judgement to the creator.”

See how warped and pointless the stigma is? Rapists are busy destroying families and futures yet we punish the victims??!!

Online and offline, there is always that group of people that blame a victim for being raped. These misguided ones argue that a woman’s dressing led to her rape and it’s her fault for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This sort of thinking completely absolves the disgusting rapist of any responsibility or blame. This argument crumbles when you realize that there is nothing seductive about a school uniform, neither is there anything enticing about a 6 year Old’s dressing.

I mean that poor 4 year old in Kaduna that was continuously raped for a year could not have been seductively dressed, since all the rapes occurred on her way to and from Islamiyya. Anyone who has carnal desire for a child belongs in a mental institution and/or prison. Anyone who prefers to violate and assault belongs in prison not on the streets.

We must start being compassionate and sympathetic towards rape victims- it is the worst thing that can happen to a person (especially a child), to have your innocence taken in a violent manner. Rape has a lot of physical and  psychological trauma that a victim often has to deal with alone, without support. This is wrong. A rape victim needs compassion and sympathy not judgement and stigma. Read that line again and let it sink in. Now read it again.

I remember reading of a case in Ondo where a traditional ruler was accused of raping a corper, and I was so disgusted at how the poor girl was harassed in court to prove that His Highness had indeed raped her. Imagine being told in open court to undress and show the court where exactly the rape occurred. To add insult to injury, the victim was asked to prove if she had been a virgin before the rape occurred! Like seriously?

What nonsense! This sort of approach will definitely discourage victims from seeking justice. We need to change.

It is high time; we woke up to the reality and frequency of rape in the community. It is all around us. It is not something that happens to scantily clad girls. It is happening in our homes, to our sisters, our daughters, our sons and our brothers, it is happening to us. We must confront this monstrous cancer by encouraging rape victims to come forward, to shame the rapists, to get justice.

If you are a rape victim, know that you are not damaged. You are beautiful. It happened to you because of an irresponsible, demonic and vile person, not because there was something wrong with you. Know that you can rise above all the pain and discouragement. Know that there is nothing filthy or undesirable about you. Know that God loves you. Do NOT allow what happened to you define you. Do NOT let it control you. Rise above it.You are far far too precious to let it control you.

If you are reading this, know that the only person who should be drowning in shame and guilt is the monster that raped you. Know that healing is possible. Know that you are worthy of being loved and cherished. You should know that you are capable of living life with fulfillment and purpose.

Know that I am here and I think you are beautiful. Know that I love you. Know that I no dey shame for you. Know that I care.

Because Adda B Say So!

 

 

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