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Rejoice Abutsa: Fighting the Culture of Silence is the First Step Against Child Abuse in Nigeria

Rejoice Abutsa

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Have you seen the film “Impossible Relationship?”  It features Mercy Aigbe and Yemi Blaq in leading roles, and is directed by Morris K. Sessay. The film starts out with a mother in her kiosk trying to make ends meet. She is alerted of a neighbour’s failed attempt to molest her daughter. She hurries home to the situation. She fights and yells curse words at the pedophile. When she decides to report the case to the police, her neighbour reminds her of how underprivileged people do not seek for police protection, especially in such shameful cases; and because the pedophile did not succeed, it is enough reason to forget the issue.

What happens through the film is, she continues to share a compound with the pedophile, while directing spiteful words at him anytime they come in contact. That is the best she does. Poverty keeps them together; poverty discourages her from speaking up because she believes the law is not there for her, along with the shame of reporting such an incident. By remaining silent, she has protected the pedophile and put many other under aged girls at risk.

This incident constitutes 10 percent of the film, but it is the painful reality of child abuse. There are parents that wake up every day to the face of someone that abused their child, or made an attempt at abusing their child. They’ve let it pass, because it is too much of a burden to speak about it, or to report it. They continue to exist with hope that time will heal all wounds. In cases of abuse, time does not always heal.

Another pivotal part in this film is a scene where her male boss accompanies her daughter to the restroom. His intention is to show her the restroom, since her mother is not available. When the mother returns and finds her daughter upstairs with her boss, she gets angry, defensive and she quits her job for fear that he might have attempted to abuse her daughter.

That is a mother’s fear as a result of a past event; but her fear is the reflection of what abused children suffer. Some of them go through life in constant fear of people. They live in fear that swallows their aspiration and goals. Fear mounts them and takes potential away and it returns again when they attempt to be great.  Fear stiffens them, cages them and refuses us the privilege of reaping from what can be greatness. The internet is flooded with several stories of abused teenagers, sometimes toddlers and even babies and we hiss for a moment and move on. Where do these stories come from?  Reality has it that it happens regularly, sometimes very close to you, and you have ignored it because it is none of your business.

Most of our problems are as a result of silence. If you are poor, you should have no opinion, after all, you chose laziness. If you are below 35, you have not lived enough to share your opinion about the nation’s woes and if you are female, just shut it. That is our reality and we are thought the culture of silence as a society.

It usually starts with the rule of ‘respect your elders.’ The idea that elders are always right is enough to keep a child quiet. Children are conscious of happiness; they are conscious of disrupting family peace. When the abuser is in the family, they keep quiet about it. Sometimes, it is because they are threatened, and most times it is because they’ve considered how family will react.
Other times, abuse starts with a joke. For example, a 40 year old insists that a five year old girl is his wife. He calls her ‘my wife’ before her family and they accept this and encourage it with a smile. It is used as a trap to get her. As young as he is, as innocent as the joke is, it causes great harm.

If we get used to open discussions about the topic, then we do our future a great good.  The first step to fighting child abuse is to insist on talking about it. Talk about the problem in a way that families do not feel like it is a subject to hide if it happens.
It is important to talk about it in schools, so that children can identify it before it happens, and report it. If we insist on speaking on the topic of abuse, we fight the shame culture, that abused children and their families suffer.

Shame is the reason abused children protect their abusers. It is why we have so many abusers in our society. Some of them are victims of abuse, who were not defended and so they grow and continue the cycle. They grow without care; and because life has taught them from an early age to live without fear, or to hurry through life without pausing to think, they move along and make create other victims.
It is a complex situation; most times it is reckless, and because we sneer at children for being victims of abuse, we continue to create a culture that causes harm.

Let pedophiles die of need and starvation, but children must survive in a healthy environment that affords them proper growth, with no physical and emotional torture.
We all have a role to play in protecting the future of the child that does not belong to us. Stay alert, be observant, be snoopy and speak up.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Russell | Dreamstime.com

In 2016, I produced my first short film on rape and gender based discrimination in tertiary institutions, we called it "Victim". I have written a few more scripts since then.My weird thoughts go on my Twitter page: @RejoiceAbutsaStrategic communications Creative Content Development Social Media Management and consultation Project Management Talent Management If you want to talk business, I am available.If you will like an email, send to [email protected]

6 Comments

  1. Karma is coming

    March 12, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    You are a very imaginative and creative little girl with all kinds of dreams and hopes for the future and one day you go for confession and the priest touches you in a certain type of way and your life gets diverted in a tangent……..
    You tell mumsy, she shuts you down saying you are either watching too much Hallmark movies or you might attract the wrong attention to the family……Oh how I hated mumsy after that. I was damaged at a really young age, physically, mentally,socially. Everyone became a suspect.
    They take you to church every Sunday and you keep seeing the same priest. You don’t take communion cos you don’t believe in anything the priest says anymore and your parents think you are swimming in mortal sin for not receiving communion. They take you to a much older priest and say you may need exorcism cos you are suddenly super quiet and withdrawn. He couldnt stand my looking him straight in the eyes and keeping a stern face and not responding to any of his questions. I was busy wondering when his fingers will start wondering like his colleagues. He gave up on me…
    What mama refused to address turns an innocent little girl into a young adult very curious about sex and why all the secrecy and why mom didn’t listen. I observe as the priest is posted away from that parish, another crazy one gets posted in. He has all the looks and mannerisms of a holy man. My mum decides her problem is over. I’m about to leave high school for Uni so I need some counseling about boys, life and possibly exorcism.. Guess what? He couldn’t control himself and told me he was attracted to me the first time he laid eyes on me. I felt like I was in the movie Thornbirds, except this one is older. I look around me and no one was there and I gave him the dirtiest slap ever and fled. I expected to be killed by my parents but surprisingly I didn’t hear anything from him or my parents.
    I became the wild child. It all started with abuse when I was just 10 in church. My parents will die if I make this public now and the faithful Catholics will crucify my very organized Catholic family . I fought not to go crazy. We stay silent sometimes because it’s easier than the publicity. Not everyone will survive it.
    Besides the beloved priests are untouchables and infallible. Right??? Smh.

    • jennietobbie

      March 15, 2017 at 2:29 am

      wow. The very same reason I do not trust priests.

  2. Busayo

    March 12, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Excellent piece. I agree wholeheartedly. I had even planned to return to my alma mater this year to speak about this very topic of chid abuse. There is too much abuse experienced in schools, and this, along with the home, is the foundation for silence to manifest in a child. I have heard several horrid stories from my mates of being severely abused while in school, but they never reported it for fear of their “elders”, the seniors and the teachers. It was very disheartening to hear. I hope people will learn from this, and raise their children to be unapologetically brave to raise alarm whenever anyone attempts to abuse them. Speak up!

  3. Bellanaijarian

    March 13, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Yes. People, if you even suspect something is wrong when you’re watching an adult interacting with a child, DO SOMETHING. Get that child away from the adult, anyway you can think of without aggravating the situation. Tell someone. And parents, if your child tells you they have been abused, IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT! THEY DID NOT “SEDUCE” THEIR ABUSER. You must make sure they understand this more than anything. They did and can not by their actions bring abuse on themselves. More Nigerians need to take the rampant sexual and physical abuse of children in our society seriously. I’ve heard to any stories of boys and girls being groomed for abuse by a “special” uncle (or aunty) in their immediate environment, and adults who should have known better saw it as play. We need to protect the rights of the weakest among us, and this very much includes our children.

  4. Bellanaijarian

    March 13, 2017 at 1:27 am

    did not

  5. Annonymous

    March 13, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I am a victim of sexual abuse by my uncle. It started when I was 8 and did not stop until I was 13 when I left for boarding school in SS1. I remember praying that I should not get pregnant after each episode and this prayer haunted me when I got married and could not get pregnant for some years. I felt I had prayed against myself. I have known my husband for 17 years and been married for 16+ years, I was able to tell him only yesterday after a discussion on unforgiveness in church, My husband then opened up that he was abused by his step-mom (not sexually) and made to crouch in the station-wagon booth while the step-mum’s children sat with their mum in the car. We came to the conclusion that our parents failed us with the culture of silence then that prevented us from speaking.

    Child abuse is real and only raising children to be confident and assertive can prevent it. I am a paranoid mom and encourage my children to discuss anything with me. I mean anything.

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