Last week we talked about Child Sexual Abuse(CSA), If you missed it, click here…Today is a continuation on the topic.
Does CSA Happen in Nigeria?
The prevalence of CSA in Nigeria is something that we are in the dark about mainly because most cases are not reported and there is hardly any large-scale research on this issue. It is also a very sensitive topic and sort of hard to research. I will borrow research data from other countries and make speculation about the occurrence in Nigeria based on our context. According to the NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children), 1 in 20 children in England have been sexually abused and 90% of children who experienced sexual abuse were abused by someone they know and trust. My speculation is that this number will be significantly higher in Nigeria for the following reasons:
– Most abuse is done by someone older than the victim and in a more powerful position than the victim (parents, uncles, aunties, maids, neighbors, pastors, etc.). We are taught to obey and literally reverence those older than us in our culture (which is good) but when those people we are taught to ‘reverence’ abuse their authority or position, by asking a child to be quiet or not tell anyone while he/she touches the child in their private part, has sex with the child or put their private parts in the child’s mouth, the child will do what they’ve been told because they have been taught to obey their elders.
Our culture is such that children are to be seen and not heard. There is this underlying assumption that children do not know anything while elders know everything and as such they are always wrong while their elders are right. We may not realise this but children are also aware of these things and as a result are less likely to report experiences of abuse. Children in such situations feel helpless.
– We have a ‘blame the victim’ culture especially when it comes to female victims. I’ve heard mothers threaten their daughters that they will put pepper in their private part if they catch them in a compromising position with a boy/man. A lot of parents believe that it is through threat that they can protect their child but in fact they put that child in a very terrible position. On the one hand, someone is molesting and hurting them, they should be able to confide in someone who can protect them but the person who should be able to protect them on the other hand has already indicated that they will be punished for it. Such a child will be unable to open up when someone cajoles them or forcefully uses them for sexual pleasure. That child would believe that it is her fault and rather die in silence than report that incidence to her parents. This has very damaging effects on the child and empowers the abuser because they have a sense of security in knowing that they will not be found out or penalised for their actions.
– Undue exposure of children to the world. The rate of poverty in Nigeria is quite high and as a result of that, parents make children as young as 7 years old, go out on the streets and hawk things in order to make ends meet. Such parents are oblivious of the dangers these children are exposed to out on the streets. Those they meet out there have the leeway to do with these kids as they please because no one is there to protect these kids. In 2008, a research was conducted in Anambara state to find out about the prevalence of sexual abuse among female street hawkers. The participants of this research were between the ages of 7 and 16. Out of the 186 participants of this research, 130 (70%) of participants reported that they had experienced a form of sexual abuse while hawking.
– Our legal system does not pay attention to or cater to victims of sexual abuse. Though there is the Child Rights Law, which has been enacted in a few states, we do not have family courts that can prosecute perpetrators of child sexual abuse (paedophiles) so even when the police arrests an offender, the penalty for the offence is next to nothing.
– The nature of housing in many parts of Nigeria is what we popularly call ‘face-me-I-face-you’ is such that CSA can happen unnoticed because people practically live with one another in such houses. A child can innocently be running an errand to his/her neighbour’s house or even go there to play with his/her peers and have their neighbour molest them. However, it will be wrong to assume that this will happen in only ‘face-me-I-face-you-houses’. It might just be more frequent in such settings because children are more likely to spend time with their neighbours unmonitored by their parents or family. We must also remembered that paedophiles are usually someone the child trusts (eg uncles, aunties, mum/dad, etc.) therefore in many cases a child is sexually abused in his/her own home.
– In our culture, it is viewed as a taboo for a child to talk about sex or sexual activity because it is assumed that ‘they are not supposed to know about it’. If we lived in a beautiful world were all things are as they should be, it will be right to assume that children don’t know about sex or sexual activity, but we live in a broken world. Therefore not expecting a child to know or say anything relating to sex is to cause the child to be silent when he/she experiences undue sexual intrusion. This empowers paedophiles.
– Parents tend to lie to their children about sex, sexual organs and often fail to give their children the right sex education. For some children the only sexual education they get is when they start their menstruation and the only thing they are told is that ‘if any man/boy touches them they will get pregnant’ (unwanted pregnancy being the ‘worst crime’ known to mankind). This is not helpful at all and will make the child condone sexual abuse and remain silent about it because they do not know what to do when faced with such situations.
– Finally, the culture in some parts of Nigeria permit children to be married thereby endorsing CSA. The fact that a culture accepts CSA does not in any way minimise the effects it has on victims/survivors.
Watch out next week for EFFECT OF CSABy Biebele Alex-hart