They are victims of all shapes and forms of sexual abuse. Nevertheless, they were lucky to have turned their ashes into beauty, even though, it was not an easy experience for them. At a recent event/ walk, tagged “War Against Child Molestation”, organised by Queen Moremi Ajasoro, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) in conjunction with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the victims recounted their ordeal in the hands of rapists. Oluwatosin Omoniyi reports
Anthonia Ojenagbon, a sexual abuse survivor, has not only turned ashes into beauty, she has really risen above the ashes of her adversity. The emotional intelligence coach and counselor has turned the proverbial lemon thrown at her into lemonade.
She has turned herself into voice for the voiceless, defender of the defenseless, she now help victims of sexual abuse find a voice by encouraging them to speak up and break the silence of violence against them. For years, Ojenagbon was slave to sex abuse. She was consistently sexually abused from age 12 by her uncle who was her guardian. Consequently, she lost her self-esteem and for years, lived with guilt.
“The trauma and psychological effects of my abuse was grievous and filled with hatred and bitterness. I was ashamed and felt guilty because l could not understand why this happened to me despite the fact that l was brought up by Christian parents. I battled severe depression for a long time and eventually checked myself into a depression facility to seek professional help,” she said.
According to her, the abuse started when she went to her uncle’s place in Lagos from Port Harcourt in 1992. She explained that she came to her uncle’s place because her dad could no longer afford to take care of her and her siblings.
The drama started one night when the uncle went to her room, defiled her and it became a reoccurring events of her life for years. Unfortunately, there was no one for her to report to or share her pains, hence, the pains continued.
“This is an uncle I respected so much started, unfortunately, l could not tell anyone or seek help because he always told me he would kill me if I told anyone.That got me scared.
To add to my nightmare, my father died in 1999; I could not have felt more helpless and my mum was a full-time housewife, so any hope of running away to meet my parents was all gone,” she said.
Ojenagbon continued to put up with the pains of the sex abuse until she came across a friend who took her to a pastor. She said the pastor counseled her on how to make her uncle stop the abuse against her.
“The night after the pastor spoke to me, my uncle came again but this time l shouted with all the strength inside of me, like I was having a nightmare. I kept shouting until everyone in the house woke up, trying to find out what was wrong with me. Although I did not tell them what the problem was, that was the last time he tried to touch me. But, a lot of damage and emotional harm had already been done.
I became a shadow of myself because l felt l had offended God and that was why He allowed this evil to befall me. l lost every sense of self worth and my mind was in turmoil.
I became very bitter towards men and hated them until l met my husband who is a complete gentleman. Since we got married, he has never referred to my past and has never judged me,” she narrated.
She added that, “the healing process was not easy. I had difficulty making lifesaving decisions. I had sleep problems. I got to a point where l knew l needed help but did not know where and how to get that help.
The guilt of sexual abuse and rape is such a heavy burden that must be broken.” Having overcome the consequential devastating emotional trauma decades later, she made a decision to use her knowledge and experience to help lift others out of similar situations.
In addition to setting up a support group for sexually abused people, she speaks to children and parents about sexual abuse and how to curb the menace.
“I thank God that I eventually learnt to forgive myself,” she said. For Regina Ikpe (not real name) life was hell on earth right from her childhood. Her experience was horrible! “It all started when I was a little child at the age of 10. My elder brother was the one that started it.
Anytime I got back from school, he was always monitoring me, he would call on me into the room, lure me with sweets, biscuits, and all sorts of snacks and start touching me all around my body especially my private parts. And being a small girl, I didn’t know anything about what he was doing initially, till he starts putting his manhood into my vaginal.
This was going on, until I started getting used to it. My brother would always threaten me not to tell my parents, unfortunately, my parent also would not give me a listening ear or little attention.
Eventually, I was admitted into a boarding school where I thought I was truly happy because I thought I was free from the abuse that I had gotten used to. But the thoughts kept disturbing and hunting me.
I confided in my best friend about everything that was happening to me and she encouraged me to tell my mum all about it. It was not easy to do initially; still, I summon the courage at the end.
So, after my junior secondary school, I moved to my hometown with my parents. Unfortunately, that was when phase two of my ordeal started! My area uncle raped me, weeks after; I was ganged raped by four unknown young men. At this stage, I summon the courage to tell my mum everything, by which time, I was in serious pain and was traumatised.
I was taken to the hospital because I was really injured, and was in terrible shock. After being discharged from the hospital, I was gotten a counsellor Mrs. Fatomilola and with the help and support of Mr Akindeju Kayode,another counsellor,I was counselled and lectured on how to handle it and face life with a new breath.
Going by the number of women who now dare the consequence of stigmatisation and prejudice, by coming out bodly to speak, it is certain that Nigerian women and children get sexually assaulted nearly on daily basis. According to a national survey carried out four years ago (which is believed to be underestimated), one in four girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18.
The survey reported that of those who experienced sexual violence in childhood, only 38 percent told someone about it – and as few as 5-percent sought help.
The 2014 UNICEF study, estimates that around 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about 1 in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point of their lives.
The study said that millions of more children are likely exploited in prostitution or pornography each year around the world, most of the times lured or forced into these situations through false promises and limited knowledge about the risks.
Yet the true magnitude of sexual violence is hidden because of its sensitive and illegal nature. Most children and families do not report cases of abuse and exploitation because of stigma, fear, and lack of trust in the authorities. Social tolerance and lack of awareness also contribute to under-reporting.
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