The subject of rape is a very sensitive one, both for the victim and the culprit. We read about different experiences the victims go through. Worse, our society has over time learned to tilt the table in favor of the culprit, while further victimizing the victim. Although there have been numerous instances where people have used the false accusation of rape as a weapon, causing havoc in the lives of many, tarnishing their reputation and damaging the credibility of those who are actual victims of rape.
Findings from a National Survey carried out in 2014 on Violence Against Children in Nigeria confirmed one in four girls reported experiencing sexual violence in childhood with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident of sexual violence. In the same study, it was found that 24.8% of female victims, between 18 to 24 years old, experienced sexual abuse prior to age 18 of which 5.0% sought help, with only 3.5% receiving any services.
The gory part of it all was stated by Evans Ufeli, a Human Rights Lawyer at the 5th edition of ‘The Conversation,’ a quarterly public dialogue that focuses on child abuse and parenting in Lagos: “The Nigerian criminal code recommends life imprisonment for rape convicts and 14 years for attempted rape, but only 18 people have ever been convicted in Nigeria,” said Mr. Ufeli, who has been handling sexual assault cases for over a decade. It is traumatic enough to go through the horrific experience that is rape, only to become the subject of societal blame & stigma and then watch the culprit walk free.
With regards the legal structure on rape, Nigeria is greatly lagging behind. We are yet to acknowledge the paradigm shift of societal change where men are raped as well as women, and the various instruments of rape currently in use. Reforms are needed to meet up with current trends.
However, while we await the life changing reforms from the National Assembly, it is important that we make do with what we have by pointing out ways to help rape victims cope with the aftermath of the horrific ordeal:
First, rape is a criminal offense and can only be prosecuted by the state on behalf of the victim. If, as a victim, you wish to have recourse to the judiciary, your best bet would be suing for sexual assault as a civil wrong, which is much easier to prove and would give the victim the opportunity to pursue the case diligently.
Secondly, it is important to preserve the evidence available. It is understandable that after the ordeal, the first thought is to wash off, in a bid to cleanse oneself of the physical and mental filth the victim may feel. This isn’t a good idea. It is advisable to go to a close and reasonable friend, a lawyer, a trustworthy relative and take snapshots of whatever physical evidence, from scratches to bites, torn clothes, everything! In most advanced countries, rape kits are given to victims for the purpose of collecting and preserving evidence in preparation for an investigation and subsequent trial.
Thirdly, after snapshots have been taken, it is advisable that you get immediate medical attention. This would help prevent any disease or infection that may have been contracted and as well provide a medical history which would indicate that rape had indeed occurred. This is preferably done in a government hospital (for authenticity and admissibility in court).
Fourthly and most importantly, there should be some level of psychological assistance. This is also known as Post-Rape Psychological Support. As was stated above, rape is indeed a sensitive issue. Numerous cases have been reported where victims committed or attempted suicide after the ordeal. Majority are left traumatized, especially when, as is common in most cases, the culprit was one in whom trust was reposed. It is important that the victim be surrounded by supportive family members, providing a healing environment.
Lastly, have in mind that it was not your fault, no matter the type of dress you had on, the place you walked by or where you found yourself. On no account should the victim take responsibility for rape. I believe the first step to tackling this issue is by pointing fingers at the culprits, and them only. Victims should be given the opportunity to speak up, without fear, shame, stigma or hindrance. This would not only paint rape as the non-excusable offense that it is, but it would be the first healing step for its victims.
 Women at Risk International Foundation. www.warifng.org.
 Rape kits are specialized packages used for the purpose of collecting fiber, hair and DNA samples from rape victims for the purpose of preservation and trial.
About the Author
This blog post is written by Onyedikachukwu Uzoamaka Ebe, the team lead for the legal team at Share Anonymous Initiative. She is a Lawyer, Corporate Governance Professional, and a Writer. She loves to travel, listen to music, and write.
The post is edited by Usman Shamaki. A Legal Practitioner, Proof Reader, Writer, and Founder: Blu Phoenix Literary