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Sexual Abuse is Coming For Us All…Now is the Time to Speak Up – Chinma Eke

When Ochanya’s story broke, it was befuddling to read that the extended family wanted to suppress the case. When Busola’s story broke, many – till today, made excuses for the abuser. When Ondo state opened a sexual offenders register and commenced the naming and shaming of sexual offenders, it was cringe-worthy to see the number of people who were more sympathetic towards the family of the abuser than the abused.

Fight the powerMy colleagues and I were discussing the current spate of sexual abuse allegations and we are outraged at the perversity of the situation. All of us in the room were very righteous in our anger; we couldn’t believe how the ones charged with guiding, protecting and leading us are the ones abusing us.

Then a wrench was thrown in the conversation and the question was asked – you know we have these abusers among us? Right here in this office. Or did we build a special screening into our recruitment process to weed out the abusers? Then the conversation dwindled, because we could suddenly see the other four fingers pointing back at us, either as the abusers or the enablers.

The widespread perversity of these allegations leads one to the conclusion that we are all sitting on our pedestal because the book of remembrance hasn’t gotten to our page!

For a people as moralistic as Nigerians, the number of sexual harassment stories we’re hearing is alarming!

For a people as moralistic as we are, the number of corruption and fraud cases is alarming!

Or, should be alarming. Perhaps we are the ones making a bigger deal of it that it is.

From the father to the brother, to the sister, uncle, aunt, Driver, Teacher, Pastor, Imam, Doctor… Tales abound of abuse. It’s so bad that we have internalized it and it has become… normal.

Yes, normal!

What do you call something that is so pervasive and widespread in the society? What do you call something that with every pair, one has been a victim, witness or abuser?

With each story that comes to light, we shout and scream and rage, and tomorrow, it comes for someone else.

It’s coming for us all! Yes, it is. As enablers, as abusers – it’s coming for us all. Because we turned a blind eye, because we covered it up, because we suppressed it; we emboldened the abuser and they continued their spate of abuse. Then the abused became the abuser; perpetuating that culture of abuse, the witness also went on to commit his/her own pervasion – after all, uncle lagbaja got away with it, why won’t I?

We have a culture of sexual abuse.

There, I said it. Can we accept it and move on? It’s a culture as ingrained as our cultural attires and food. It’s a culture as old as time.

I can hear the rape apologists taking up their arms. I can hear the ‘moralistic Nigerians’ clearing their throats to refute this claim, I can hear the voices saying but it’s not just in Nigeria! I can hear them all. But I can also hear the voices of the abused; and what’s funny about the voices of the abused is that some of them have been conditioned to believe it’s normal and it’s their fault. Their voices are united with the voices of the apologists and this only serves to strengthen my point…we have a culture of sexual abuse.

When Ochanya’s story broke, it was befuddling to read that the extended family wanted to suppress the case. When Busola’s story broke, many – till today, made excuses for the abuser. When Ondo state opened a sexual offenders register and commenced the naming and shaming of sexual offenders, it was cringe-worthy to see the number of people who were more sympathetic towards the family of the abuser than the abused. When the #SexForGrades story broke, many, as usual, blamed the exploited girls. Have you seen how they dress? Even a saint will be tempted! These girls offer themselves to the lecturers for grades! On and on the excuses go…

I could go on citing examples. It’s all cringe-worthy and makes one just want to bathe self in a mixture of hot salt water and bleach, in a bid to get clean of the bile we spew, or to bury one’s head in the sand.

The reality is: these people, these abusers, are us. Your partner whom you can vouch for his/her purity is/was someone’s abuser. Your parent, whom you believe hung the stars is harassing the office cleaner, secretary, junior colleague, contractor. Your sibling, who will do anything for you, abused the child in the neighboring flat. Your friend, your ride or die, who says all the right things and joins you in taking up arms against the sexual abuser is equally guilty. These abusers are us!

Ex-colleagues from one of the big four accounting firms were reminiscing on the escapades of their ex-bosses and some conditions for progression and my eyes literally bulged out of its sockets! Huh? All-of-them sleek suit-wearing, polished people are also demanding sexual favors?

The day the book of remembrance will get to that page…

Someone asked why all of these are coming to light now; is it a new culture, a sign of the times?

The answer to that is an emphatic NO. It’s not coming to light because it’s a recent trend; it is coming to light now because we are speaking up. As someone said, we didn’t inherit our mothers’ silence and timidity.

And for those who have a problem with all of the sexual abuse coming to light, I hope it isn’t because you have skeletons you would rather remain buried? Because if you do, berra be prepared, it’s coming for us all.

Just ensure that you aren’t on the wrong side of a #MeToo campaign!

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