By Igboeli Arinze
Though it barely makes newspaper headlines as a number of Nigerians are more seriously concerned with the question of who gets what, where and why, the stark reality before us is that the pervert culture of child molestation and sexual abuse in Nigeria is as prevalent as a number of other social vices such as armed robbery, murder, etc.
Sadly, our response to this has been a speedy or noisy reaction in our homes or on social media against the growing trend of pedophilia in Nigeria. Now, much as I may recognise this inclination of ours, the newsworthiness of such stories amidst the calls for justice are indeed welcome but we seem to be short sighted as we are neither attending to how we can get help for the survivors, as well as use such cases to protect more helpless children from becoming victims.
Like Alexis de Tocqueville did once say, “we cannot stop children from been sold into slavery but we can however reduce the amount of children being sold into slavery. “ Now, child sexual abuse is akin to slavery! Ask any survivor or victim, it largely goes beyond the physical, leaving psychological scars on the abused who are not equipped to deal with it. Worse still is when these children are only seen but not heard, the are then forced to bear the trauma alone resulting in the creation of all kinds of devils needing much more beyond psychological help.
Child sexual abuse is a tragedy and a trauma we ought not to let our little kids grow into, if we say these children are leaders of tomorrow, why stand and watch while a number of them pass through this harrowing experience?
Statistics on this growing prevalence has been hard to come by, though the figure states that one out of five children have reportedly been abused. Now, in the Nigerian way of playing the ostrich we would all churn out the words “Not my portion!” Agreed, then , but whose portion is it then? Whose child is it his or her portion to be sexually molested? If you ask me, na who I go come ask?
Yet, owing to our culture where parents tend to quickly dismiss such claims by the victim as silly and even tend to help to want to cover it up when they find out that such absurd acts did occur owing to the perceived stigma they believe will befall their ward should they deal with the matter appropriately. They tend to quietly close the chapter but forget that the child’s life is not a book as well as allow a pedophile to keep doing his thing.
Besides, these parents and guardians seem not to be prepared to acknowledge the fact that children are prone to becoming sexually abused by people we care about, close relatives, family and friends and not the assumed stranger. This way parents are wrongly not on guard while that close relative is wreaking havoc on these innocent wards. Now, since child sexual abuse is a crime of access, it is commonsensical to note that the abuser needs access to the child to carry out such crimes without arousing such suspicion.
When our society comes to terms with the numerous fangs and consequences of child sexual abuses, when we assess the very measures by which childhood sexual assaults can be better handled via recognising the importance for listening to our children, allowing them to express themselves as well as conversing with them about such matters and finally exposing the predator mostly within with the determination to prevent other innocent children from falling victim, only then can we be said to be proactive.
This ought to be the message, beached on the beliefs that child sexual abuse cuts across all ethnic, socioeconomic or religious boundaries of our society, and that no one is immune to it.
Such a belief also believes that using public education, informing and teaching our children about their bodies, interacting with policy makers, large scale campaigns and the use of social media, we can do more to enable our children thrive in a healthy environment.
This article perhaps seeks to largely serve as a wakeup call to all adults, parents, guardians and policy makers to speak up for every child that has been sexually abused and to protect others from such menace, it also salutes the efforts of a number of agencies and individuals who are heeding such a call.