On one particular morning, as the bell rang to signal their Recess, I happened to be parking my car behind the School Block. As I walked into the main compound, two of my female SS3 students were approaching me from the direction of their classrooms and walking toward a waiting car.
I noticed a slight discomfort in their expressions as they saw me, so I immediately asked them where they were going. With shaky voices, they told me they were going on an errand for their parents, and the man in the car, was their driver.
I laughed within myself as I realized that these girls must be under the impression that I’m just entering Lagos from the Bus Park right now. I nodded as they told me the cock and bull story and then made them almost wet their pants as I asked them to take me to speak to their driver.
With shaky legs, they directed me to the car and I approached the middle-aged ‘Driver’ who was dressed in a suit. He regarded me with a blank stare as I introduced myself to him as their Teacher and asked him to please let me know where he was taking them to.
Nonchalantly shrugging his shoulders, he told me he was taking them to get some snacks around. By this time, my girls were practically shaking in their shoes. The bolder one of them kept trying to butt into my conversation with the ‘Driver’ to let him in on her lies.
The entire picture was very clear for me to see. The guy was probably some person who lived in their neighborhood, whom they had arranged this ‘pick me up from school’ rendezvous with, or some random guy they met on the streets who had given them a lift to school sometime.
He wasn’t even hiding the fact that his intentions toward them were nothing short of lewd; the only issue with the whole set-up was obviously this nosy Teacher who was trying to spoil their runs.
I asked the ‘Driver’ to kindly leave the School premises and ordered the girls back to class. I felt it was my responsibility as their Teacher to do that. In my heart I knew I may have spoilt the runs for the present moment, but it wasn’t going to change much as this was clearly something these girls had accepted to be normal.
I wondered at how vulnerable young girls like my students are to predators like the ‘Driver’ I had just encountered, who would take advantage of their naivety and excitement at being treated to something as little as a Mr. Biggs lunch, to exploit their sexuality.
The behavior my girls exhibited that day was simply a manifestation of what they have learned from their environment. They would have felt it was alright for that man to fondle them a little in the car; after all he did buy them something.
How are they to know better when they have not been made aware of the fact that their bodies are not a medium of exchange, but a symbol of their womanhood, which should be preserved with dignity and purity?
As far as they were concerned, I was just trying to enforce my authority as their Teacher by not allowing them to go and ‘enjoy’.
How do you explain to these girls, 10 years down the line, when they have begun to feel the pressures of financial responsibilities, or be confronted with the flashiness of the world around them, that their bodies are not the legal tender into the next level of comfort that they seek?
As a society, we fail to understand the extent of the damage caused by sexual abuse in young children (especially females). Apparently, even arousing a child sexually has the capacity to rob that child of her innocence, as it awakens hormones and emotions in her which should be reserved for Adulthood.
Where are those people whose duty it is to protect the child?
An astounding 90% of perpetrators in sexual abuse against children are by people they know and trust, even here in Nigeria, according to the Media Concern Initiative for Women & Children. The hordes of perpetrators don’t limit their acts to the homes, as a Study of Sexual Abuse among Female Street Hawkers in Anambra state revealed.
Out of 186 respondents between the ages 13 and 22 years old, 130 had been sexually abused. Some of them had been raped, others submitted willingly as an incentive to buy the goods they were hawking. All these abuses were committed by adults.
I personally remember a particular situation when a guest of my parents had drawn a naïve 8year old me close to himself, and whispered in my ear that he ‘loved me’.
Even my tender instinct knew there was something terribly wrong with the way in which he had pulled me close, and besides why did it have to be a secret between he and I that he ‘loved me’? I knew not to play too close to him from that point on.
But mine, is just one mild case amongst a million gory ones. Situations of sexual abuse against children happen every single day in this country, and no-one is speaking up about it because of the fear of being labeled or reproached for being a promiscuous child.
It’s almost unbelievable to accept as truth, that a parent can be unaware of continuous abuse against their female (and even male) children. I’m not a parent yet, but I share a very close relationship with my nephew and niece, which allows me the benefit of being able to identify when there is anything even slightly disturbing to them.
Or is it possible for a child to mask such a deep hurt so cleverly?
Deep inside every troubled woman, lies a child who is seeking the safely assuring arms of her father. She wants to be loved; she wants to be affirmed; she wants to once again laugh carelessly as she is thrown high up into the air, with the confidence that those arms will be there to catch her.
She wants to be protected and to know that her Father will take care of every need she has; emotional, psychological and material. So her unconscious search for her father takes her into the deceptive web of Illusions created by Predators with Promises.
Every new gift she receives from a masked Predator is an affirmation of love for her. She understands the language of ‘if you love me, you will take care of me’.
She wants to be made to feel like a Princess. She wants to be catered to.
She is blinded to the fact that she may be compromising herself in the situation, because she is consumed in the false idea that she has to give herself up to enjoy the benefits of a good life.
And these are the values being communicated everyday through all the various forms of personal and interpersonal media, to the millions of young Nigerian female children.
Do we now blame or judge her for developing into a woman who is a direct product of what her environment turned her into? What other choices was she given? Was she told that any other choices even existed?
Maybe the problem is that no-one but the Predators seem to be making any promises.
Please share your thoughts about this all-important issue…
Photo Credit: LaJames
Tari’s blog is www.tariere.blogspot.com; also follow TariEkiyor on Twitter