Sexual assault on minors: A silent epidemic

 

It appears the girl child is fast becoming an endangered species as abuse of infants enjoys an uncanny boom around the country in recent times. It is not only thriving but deepening its roots by the day in the Nigerian society. The act, according to Isioma Madike in this report, knows no boundaries of geography, age, culture, education and economic status. It involves people parents know, love and trust. The menace, which has somewhat become endemic, also has a myriad of health concerns

 

 

 

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This seems to be an unusual times as spine-tingling occurrence has somewhat become a pastime in Nigeria. Sexual assault on infants is seemingly on the increase around the country, with a number of cases hugging headlines in the media on a daily basis.

One of such weird happenings occurred on February 27, when a 27-year-old man allegedly raped his 11-months-old niece in his care.  He was arrested by the police in Ogun State. The man, identified simply as Ibrahim, left the infant bleeding brutally after the cruel act.

According to Total Media, which reported the incident, the abominable deed happened in the Ijebu Igbo area of the state while the mother of the baby was away in the market to buy some foodstuffs for the family. It was gathered that Ibrahim, seizing the opportunity of being left alone with the infant, first used his fingers to defile her before trying to penetrate her with his manhood.

It was the cries of pains by the baby, the report said, that attracted neighbours who rushed to the scene only to find the suspect on top of the child. He was promptly arrested and handed over to the police. An eyewitness, who allegedly narrated how the suspect was caught, said: “We heard the usually quiet girl crying in pains and a neighbour went to see why she was crying at the top of her voice.

“That was when Ibrahim was caught trying to force his manhood into the baby who is his niece. It was at this point that we shouted and that attracted the attention of other neighbours and he was nabbed before he could escape.”

Ibrahim’s incident, though tragic, is not an isolated one. There have been more disheartening cases. In what looked like a repeat performance, detectives from Owutu Division of the Lagos State Police Command also arrested a 47-year-old Emmanuel Magbatie, for allegedly defiling an 18-month-old baby. The suspect lives at 23, Adebayo Street Owutu, Ikorodu, with the parents of the infant.

According to the mother of the victim, who narrated the incident to the police, the incident happened on August 5, 2016. Her daughter, she said, went to play in the suspect’s room as usual, but was shocked to meet the suspect fingering the infant when she went to pick her up. “The suspect, who blamed his action on the devil, has since been charged to court,” the police said.

Another eight-month-old baby, name withheld, was also abused sexually by her father. Her mother, in her confusion attracted attention of her neighbours when she discovered that her husband had repeatedly raped their baby.

She had observed that her husband often had an erection when he carried their daughter on his laps. He would also purposefully send her out of the house just to be alone with their daughter to carry out his evil deeds without suspicion. But the infant would let out loud shouts of pain when alone with her father.

Her suspicions were heightened when her daughter screamed out after her husband told her to go get him water. When she confronted him, he denied any wrongdoing and explained that he just scared her with a scary face, but the mother checked her child only to see semen dripping from her privates and raised the alarm.

Another paedophile, Daniel Paul, 26, from Akwa Ibom State reportedly did the unthinkable by raping a one-and-a-half-year-old girl living in the same compound with him. He was arrested in Benin, the Edo State capital, for his misconduct. According to reports, Paul lured her into his room, and turned up the volume of the music to reduce the baby’s cries. He then proceeded to sexually assault the girl.

After he let the girl go, her mother, who was selling outside the compound, noticed her child crying in anguish when she wanted to pass urine. When the mother noticed blood around her child’s private part, she called the police and arrested Paul after which he confessed to the crime. The doctor who was confirmed that the little girl had been molested also said her hymen was broken. There were bruises and bleeding around her private part.

Paul, who later admitted the crime, said:  “I sleep with am.” When police asked him how he slept with the girl, he said: “I put my thing. As my thing no enter, I want to push am e no fit enter, I come use hand. My hand enter.”

Aside these, two brothers who are children of a pastor in Ebonyi State, were equally arrested for raping two sisters, Favour and Uloma, aged seven and nine respectively. The brothers allegedly enticed the unsuspecting sisters to a corner in their father’s church and forcefully had carnal knowledge of them. Apart from the desecration of a holy place where the act of criminality took place, many see it as an indictment on the kids’ father.

There are many more of the rising cases of sexual violence against minors in the country. It is becoming scarier as some fathers continuously abuse their infants these days. Since January, about 13 victims were reportedly treated at Funtua General Hospital in Katsina State. The hospital’s medical director, Dr Tijjani Bakori, said: “Most of the cases were severe with victims requiring surgery in the hospital.”

The medical director lamented that the rising cases of sexual abuse of minors signifies the magnitude of the problem in Nigeria. He said it is important for all stakeholders to intensify efforts to address the menace. According to him, all the victims were below the age of 13 and mostly from less privileged families.

In Enugu State, the Women Aid Collective (WACOL), also expressed concern lately over the increasing cases of sexual attacks in the state. The organisation said that 32 cases are in court, out of which one conviction was recorded. The victims were mainly minors. They are either raped by one person or a gang. Some of them became HIV positive.

On January 18, 2016, a Yaba Chief Magistrate’s Court, Lagos State, arraigned a 35-year-old man, Oladele Oladunmoni, who allegedly inserted his fingers into the private part of a three-month-old baby at his residence. Oladunmoni was said to be briefly in contact with the infant when he committed the offence.  A medical doctor, who examined the baby, confirmed that she was defiled.

Also on Friday, December 23, of the same year, a 25-year-old bricklayer, identified simply as Saliu, allegedly had canal knowledge of another three-year-old girl, identified only as Hummi in Minna, Niger State. Her parents lived the next door to Salisu at Angwan Daji, Chanchaga Local Government Area of the state. The suspect was said to have lured the little girl into the premises of Nuru Islam Primary School in the neighbourhood, tore her pants and forced his way into her. It was the loud painful cries of the girl that attracted the attention of passersby, who stormed the hideout to rescue the girl and handed the culprit over to the police.

Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is not left out of this as a two-year-old girl in the city suburb at Karu town, was reportedly abused by a tenant in the house where her father was a security guard. The rapist allegedly defiled the toddler after offering to buy her sweets. And in Gombe State, a man reportedly had carnal knowledge of his two daughters. He is said to be a habitual incestuous rapist. The two young women later escaped and reported their plight to neighbours.

In Ado-Ekiti, it was a church Pastor, Gabriel Asateru, who was remanded in prison custody for allegedly defiling a five-year-old girl. He was said to have committed the offence on December 23, 2016, at Ifishin-Ekiti. Asateru, 53, on the said date petted her to sit on his laps. Yet, in Bayelsa State, another 38-year-old pastor and six others were paraded by the Police for alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl and defilement of two minors aged eight. The cleric was identified as Ogbomo Jerry.

Another 12-year-old girl, who was allegedly raped by a man identified as Alo at Koloba area of Ayobo in Ipaja, Lagos State, said: “He forced me to pull off my panties and licked my private part while he slept with my friend and defiled her too. He subsequently gave us N50 and threatened to kill us if we reported the matter.”

Long before now, sexual violence on minors was almost alien in this clime, so also was anti-social behaviour. But not anymore! Within the last few years, Nigerians have been entertained with gory stories of infant abuses. In some cases, even headmasters were being accused of abusing the pupils in their schools. Day in, day out, newspapers are punctuated with reports of these detestable acts.

Disturbed by the rampant cases of sexual assault involving infants in Nigeria, the then state branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Ransom Bello, canvassed stiffer punishment for offenders. Bello described the development as alarming. He pointed out that it was a major index of moral decadence in the society. He urged government to prescribe at least life sentence for rapists, which he said is a heinous crime in the society.

In many homes, including those of the elite across the nation, the sad tales are replicated as the girl child often undergo debasement and de-humanisation as victims of sexual abuse by their mistresses’ husbands or children. Even those who hawk wares on the streets also run the risk of being prey to those referred to as animals in human skin.

The girl child devourers prey on the ignorance, self-worth and vulnerability as well as the innocence of victims who, often end up nursing their sorrow in solitude. Stories abound of husbands raping house maids, and their wife’s relations and the daughters of neighbours while teachers feast on their female students, who, in normal societies are supposed to be under their care.

Incidentally, the growing cases of sexual abuse of minors have been considered, in some quarters, as a consequence of parents’ neglect of their roles to their children. Many parents and guardians are believed to have abandoned their duties of imparting morality to their children and wards. They are said to be so busy with their material pursuit as well as closing their eyes and ears to whatever their randy husbands do to their kids.

Though, documentation of the prevalence of sexual abuse has been very challenging, as a few attempts to capture it in surveys such as the annual National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS), being done by CLEEN Foundation, an NGO and Project Alert reflected ridiculously low rates. The socio-economic cost of this shameful deed in Nigeria is, according to experts, immeasurable.

It is, perhaps, in this light that the executive director of Project Alert, Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, said a national study on this silent epidemic is urgently needed, with a view to developing a national plan of action and intervention strategies. Not too long ago, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, also advocated the cutting off of genitals of infant-rapists.

She said: “Those involved shouldn’t be allowed the pleasure of using their organs anymore. That, to me, is the proper way to end this evil in the society.”

In like manner, the Managing Partner at Partnership for Justice and Founder, Mirabel Centre, Mrs Itoro Eze-Anaba, said that the situation had reached a stage that girls are no longer safe in their homes since fathers and uncles now abuse them. However, as NGOs in Nigeria are struggling to make sure these victims get justice and recover from their ordeals, many of their efforts are being thwarted by the families of the sufferers, who insist on shielding them from societal stigmatisation.

“Nowhere seems to be safe again for the girl child anymore. The churches, schools and even homes are no longer a safe haven for these children whose innocence is being taken away on a regular basis. It is worrisome. And our justice system has not helped matters. It is not only sluggish, but out of reach of the victims,” Effah-Chukwuma said.

To the World Health Organisation (WHO), sexual violence is “any act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances against a person’s sexuality using coercion by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”

It noted that the health consequences of sexual assault are myriad.  In addition to the injuries that may be sustained as a result of the physical force that may have accompanied the assault, victims could sustain genital wounds and gynaelogical complications such as bleeding, chronic pelvic pain and urinary tract infections.

Other medical experts have also said the act could have a wide range of psychological and emotional impacts including shock, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.  “Victims often are fearful and anxious; experience disturbed sleep, have low self-esteem, sexual dysfunctions and behavioural disorders,” one doctor, said.

The doctor also said that victims are more likely to attempt or commit suicide and may replay the attack over and over in their minds. “They may equally have problems with trust and be wary of becoming involved with others. For instance, they are more likely to smoke; abuse alcohol, use drugs, and engage in risky sexual activity.”

On November 25, 2012, the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in his message in commemoration of International Day on Violence Against Women, said: “Women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of impunity. We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims. All too often, culprits go unpunished.”

 

Risk reduction for girls (quick read)

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
  • Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
  • Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
  • Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
  • Make sure your cell phone is with you, charged and that you have cab money.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
  • Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking.
  • Do not accept a drink already opened. This is very important when you go out with friends, classmates and colleagues. Also, if you leave your drink and go to the restroom, do not touch it when you return.
  • Report any advances directed at you that you feel is inappropriate.
  • Remember women/young girls are prone to abuse (sexual & physical) from people they know, love and trust.

       Source: Project Alert.

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