In Nigeria as is in many other African countries, a child is regarded as the property of the community. However, in recent times it appears the community is no longer able or willing to care for the well -being of their ‘property’ as every day children are being abused and broken. A slew of sexual predators keep emerging and are constantly launching attacks on the Nigerian child. BIWOM IKLAKI reports…
According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2015, one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigerian had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. But that was in 2015, we are made to understand that the numbers are not so low any more.
According to Christianah Akindole, a Child Safety Advocate and Founder of the Christianah Faith Foundation, which is an organisation that creates awareness and educates people on Child Abuse; the numbers are much higher.
“My team and I started with awareness and prevention nine years ago, but here we are doing crises response. It has been hectic for my organisation in the past three months; maybe these abusers have decided to go on rampage this year,” she said.
She cited many cases of child sexual abuse that her organisation has been called to work with and each is more pathetic than the last.
“First a father has been abusing his four-year-old daughter since last year. The sad thing is that the mother of the child is aware but the pastor had begged her to forgive him, she didn’t report and the abuse continued.
It took an observant teacher to report the case. Unfortunately, the child already has STD. Thankfully, the man is in prison now,” she added.
The Christianah Fate Foundation is one of a handful of NGOs like Child Protection Network of Nigeria, Mirabel Centre and others that are devoted to educating and being the first responders in these situations of child abuse. They approach the education holistically by organising workshops where they educate the parents on prevention, signs of abuse in their children or wards and how to identify predators.
They also train teachers in schools and churches because sometimes, the children are more open with them. They empower the children that no one should touch their private parts and what to do if this happens; because the adults may not always be with them and when they are alone is when they are most vulnerable.
In a workshop held recently by the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) where issues of gender and sexual based violence were addressed, Director of the Directorate of Citizens’ Rights, Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Clara Ibirogba, who spoke about genderbased violence, child abuse as well as sexual assault, said all the issues are public health issues
“In Nigeria, there is a rise in cases of domestic violence and child abuse, not because there is an increase in the crime, but because more survivors are coming forward and there is more reporting (in the media) of such cases.” She explained some reasons for the reluctance of survivors to come forward as “associated stigma, confidentiality, privacy and fear of repercussions”.
The Deputy Superintendent of Police and former Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos State, Dolapo Badmus, who is a passionate advocate of the sexually abused, as is evident on her social media, was also a resource person. She took her lecture from the police angle.
She lamented the difficulty for survivors to report cases of violence and abuse because most of them are perpetrated by family members. In some cases, the survivors are coerced to pull back by things like cash, beverages and food items. Sometimes even parents of survivors tend to shield the perpetrators from the hand of the law because they do not want the family name to go to ruins.
So it is obvious that there are more cases out there than are reported even though the reported cases seem to be alarming lately. On best practices by the media, she cautioned on the need to report these cases with a sense of responsibility rather than seizing it as a chance to win awards.
Dr. Olive Ogedegbe, a Clinical Psychologist, spoke on the psychological aspect of Sexual Gender Based Violence which include but are not limited to emotional imbalance; in which case the child would be withdrawn, prone to violence, timid, low self-esteem and tend to internalise domestic violence as the best way to handle conflict. Mrs. Akindolie cited a teenage girl who was brought to her because she had slit her wrists attempting to commit suicide after going through harrowing experiences.
“The girl had suffered so much abuse and could no longer handle the physical and psychological trauma, she wanted to die.” On what may be responsible for the increase in cases of child abuse, Mrs. Akindolie opined: “Many parents don’t have time for children anymore due to economic demands and making ends meet. They delegate duties to relatives or domestic staff who often take advantage of the children.
“There was a case of a man who abused five children; three were his relatives. People are too unaware and trusting. It should not hurt to be a child.” Also, the trend of internet and pornography after watching these, predators would pounce on the children.
The five abused children said he showed them these videos before turning on them. Parents allowed their children to be too accessible. On the way forward, Mrs. Akindolie lamented that the job has been left for only NGOs. The government has not been too supportive except for Lagos State which is more pro-active in terms of enacting laws to fight the scourge.
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