Rape in Nigeria is gradually becoming a norm but people seem to quickly indulge in heated debates, trying to find who should be blamed for it.
Often, people rush to victim-blaming- when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them.
They justify the rapist’s action, blaming it on the victim’s way of dressing, places they go to, late nights among others.
Rape, irrespective of the driving force must be blamed on the perpetrators, says Cephas Bahago, a lecturer at the department of youth ministry, and counselling, at ECWA Theological Seminary, Jos.
“The rapist is the perpetrator of rape and must be blamed, and prosecuted. The rapist remains responsible for his/her actions and must face the consequences.” He emphasized.
He lamented the trend of attributing the cause of rape to the victim for some unfounded reason.
“I doubt if a rapist can get an acquittal on account of what the victim did or did not do. Rape is not self-defense.”
While the victim may be accountable for whatever role they have played, Bahago attributed the cause of rape to “moral corruption (the deadness of the conscience), which leads to all forms of deviance, perversion, and evil.”
Daily reports of rape and other sex-related crimes have been taking the spotlight after strings of high-profile incidents broke out.
The rise in moral corruption has birthed several protests in many cities across the country, moving all 36 state governors in resolving to declare a state of emergency on rape and other gender-based violence against women and children.
The national assembly recently proposed a stiffer punishment for rape, as others proposed castration for rapists.
How will all these effectively cure a nation where an old man finds it comfortable to sexually abuse a two-month-old baby?
Bahago advised that parents must educate their children about rape right from childhood, along with cultivating an environment of personal support and open communication within the family.
“Parents must begin to introduce children to issues of personal privacy, the sanctity of life, self-defense, and early warning signs. Families should teach their children that their bodies belong to them and that it is inappropriate for other people to try to gain access to their private parts. These lessons should include the definition of consent and boundaries.”
He also advised that parents should educate themselves on the signs and characteristics of a potential abuser and teach the same to their children to spot and avoid predators that may want to prey on them.
The long-term effect of rape “comes with an unexplainable sense of loss that becomes hard to navigate, hence attacking the sense of self-worth.”
Another psychologist, Ayak Adon said victim-blaming in rape is becoming a normal culture. He said “victim blaming has led to the culture of silence, the fear of embarrassment when they speak out or report a case.”
He insisted that the perpetrator of rape should be blamed for the act not the victim.
Speaking on the effects rape victims experience, Adon outlined the following,” feelings of vulnerability, unworthiness and mistrust, shame, guilt, trauma, withdrawal from people, and in some it leads to suicidal idealization.”
He noted that rape can be traumatizing, leading to mental disorder.
The legal perspective
Ignorance of what rape means and what the law says about it have robbed so many victims the voice to speak out and demand justice.
Barrister Benham Afeti defined and explained rape under the law as: “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threat or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of the offence which is call rape.”
He further explained that a woman does not possess the organ of rape- penis, thus the offence of rape can be committed against woman virginal only, and not against the other part of the female physiology.
“The offence of rape suffices by mere penile penetration of the virginal without ejaculation; rupture of the hymen is immaterial,” he said.
Afeti added that the Constitution under fundamental human rights provisions; Section 34(1)(a) provides that: Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.
He explained, “This goes to show that certain acts of rape must qualify also as a violation of the victim’s fundamental human rights. What could be more torture, inhuman, degrading and lacking of respect to the human person as rape?”
Tips on reporting rape
On tips to properly report a rape case, Afeti advised that victims must first report to the hospital to get the sperm of the perpetrator preserved and keep other visible items as proof.
“I’ve handled five separate rape cases but there was no single conviction because there was no proof beyond reasonable doubt. Most of the victims report to the police station instead of a hospital to preserve the evidence, i.e. the sperm from the perpetrator, the finger prints and clothes of the victim as exhibits.”
He lamented the increasing rate of rape in Nigeria, while calling on law makers to holistically broaden the definition of rape and provide a stiffer penal sanction.
Speaking on who should be blamed for rape, Afeti said under legal parlance” the man i.e. the sexual offender is absolutely liable for the offence of rape, for so long as he committed the sexual intercourse contrary to the law.”
However, he explained that a woman can also be held liable for conspiracy to commit rape, when she assists the man to insert the man’s sexual organ into her virginal.
Flower might have gotten the justice she deserves, if only every female knows what to do after being raped.