Frances Okoro: Start Calling Out Adults Who Sexually Abuse Children
I was on holiday after writing my J.S 3 exams when I met brother Desmond again. I met him at the market where my dad sent me to buy some things. He had a shop where he sold baby things or so.
It felt great to meet him again; we had moved from the house where we used to live on the same street. He was a handsome man to my eyes then; you know how young girls used to just look at people bigger than themselves and analyse them, that was the way it was for me then.
Brother Desmond always seemed like a well put together guy and I remember we used to watch movies at their house even though my mom forbade us to do so… ah, those days of disobedience and getting a flogging afterwards.
Anyway, here was Brother Desmond again after more than 4 years and he asked me all the usual questions as I sat in his shop. “How are you?” “Where are you now?” “How are your mom and dad?”
I answered all the questions, and then suddenly he started telling me that his sales girl was jealous because he was sitting with me. I wondered why, with my naive brain. Then, I think he said we should go to the inner room of the shop. I cannot remember clearly, because I tend to bury memories, but I do remember the feel of his lips crushing mine inside the shop. I remember being so afraid. I had no idea what just happened. I was paralyzed for a bit, then I found my voice, made excuses and said I needed to go home. I ran out of there like a flash.
I later saw him again at the market, but when he called my name, I walked faster and melted into the crowd.
I never told anyone about that incident; even though I didn’t know where it was leading, something in it just didn’t feel right. My heart was practically in my throat during those few moments when he kissed me. I didn’t shout; I didn’t know if I should have.
I had another forceful sexual experience when I was in the University, but that was a bit different from Brother Desmond’s own. I was a child when Brother Desmond did what he did; and granted I had fully formed boobs, I know he must have had an idea of how old I was. After all, when we were living close to them, I was maybe 7/8 with dry chest.
I have tried to wonder about men (and women) like Brother Desmond. What exactly is it in a child that gives them the thrills?
I know a boy then, who when asked about a particular aunty would say “she did something to me, I won’t tell anybody sha”.
I never understood what it was till I was older and it was confirmed that it was sexual abuse. With his child brain then, he couldn’t understand what it was. Worse, she probably told him they were doing something good, which was why he could say “she did something to me but I won’t tell you”. Almost as though they were doing something great that he didn’t want anyone to be privy to.
I met another man who was abused when he was little and consequently he grew to have a dysfunctional relationship with sex. Even after becoming born again, he constantly struggled with sleeping with different women.
I met yet another amazing friend who was abused when she was 8.
For crying out loud.
And these things didn’t start with the advent of modernity; when some persons in their fifties tell their stories, you will realize that the perversion that exists in some hearts with regards to children didn’t start today.
What can we do to stop this epidemic?
What can be done collectively by society and individually by parents?
What can we even say when some parents are the ones who perpetuate this act against their own children?
What do we say when society feeds the sexual perversion in men and women? Men are told to “not let a girl go like that if she comes to visit you oh” and women are told to “express their sexuality, you can also have and sleep with whoever you want, it is no longer just a man’s world”.
I wonder if expressing sexuality by being promiscuous or sleeping with anyone you fancy is proof of how powerful you are. What these notions serve to do is to further widen the circle of what is and isn’t allowed sexually and now we have people who love to be sexually intimate with children and give valid reasons for their stand.
What do we do?
What is the solution?
I cannot give one specific solution, but with this article I would love to speak to parents; African parents especially.
Too many parents have an authoritarian relationship with their kids. The child is not allowed to relate with the father and mother as friends. The poor kid keeps looking for love in different places and when hurt, cannot even tell mommy and daddy because mommy and daddy are too busy with other things to bother about them.
There is nothing wrong with cultivating a friendship with your child.
Some African parents raise up children with an unspoken clause – unspoken but it’s there anyway.
The clause is “when you do good we are behind you but if you ever do anything bad, we will wash our hands off of you”-
Unconditional love that makes the child shy away from daddy and mommy when he feels like he has failed.
There are all sorts of reasons that will make a child blame himself if he is abused and when that sets in, he would feel reticent about telling daddy because daddy may never love him again.
God has made children to crave approval from their parents, especially the father.
A child draws something at school and cannot wait to show his dad at home. He wants to hear “well done”. This power God has given to parents have not truly been understood and wielded to the benefit of the child.
If parents would draw their kids closer; if they would ditch the authoritarian mentality that has been passed down from generation, perhaps children would be able to become friends with their parents, enough to tell them anything, including child abuse.
Are you a parent right now? Do you know if you are simply reliving how you were brought up under a dictatorial home with your own child?
What can you do to bridge the gap between you and your child today?
Have you been abused before? Have you found healing? Please share with us on how you worked past the pain.
To former child abusers: I know that we have most of you who are sorry. The kind of life I have lived makes me unable to condemn anyone. If you have ever abused anyone sexually in the past.. if you are now a changed man/woman… I know society tends to crucify you, but today I pray you open your heart to receive forgiveness from the Lord for your past sins.
God loves you and I believe that there just maybe a way you can help tone down the menace of child abuse with your experience.
If you ever find a way to do this; please don’t hide under condemnation. You can help other people, who trapped in this epidemic, find healing.