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Kingsley Obom-Egbulem: Why Do Men Find It Difficult to Condemn Rape & Sexual Assault?

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Whenever a case of sexual assault is reported in the news and women are kicking, screaming and protesting, I always get disturbed about the silence of men. I often wonder why men aren’t protesting. Every abused woman or girl has at least a father, brother, uncle, male friend, colleague or pastor.

So why are these men not disturbed by these savage acts done by men to women? Why are they so comfortable in their silence in the face of these crimes against women?

At such times, I often imagine a John Momoh making an eloquent statement against rape. I imagine a Tony Elemelu tweeting against sexual assault. I imagine a Segun Agbaje writing a letter to GTBank customers, especially on International Women’s Day, expressing solidarity and condemning all forms of violence against women and girls. Of course, I imagine Aliko Dangote, Wale Tinubu, Femi Otedola, Enoch Adeboye, David Oyedepo and so on, speaking up and challenging all men to say No to rape, to all forms of sexual assault.

But this won’t happen. These men, just like you, have more important things to bother about.

Issues like rape would distort their brands. They are business moguls and renowned men of God, you know, and they don’t concern themselves with “soft, feminine issues” like sexual assault and domestic abuse. They would rather dwell on more urgent issues like the economy and growing their businesses or ministries, than descend so low as to discuss women issues.

I don’t care what you feel, but I have always believed that there is something not right about the silence of eloquent and powerful men. I feel there is something fishy about men who can’t openly speak up and show support for women and children traumatized by the effect of rape and sexual violence. For me, their silence is a position – a loathsome one at that, challenging their claim to manhood. And I believe any man who is too decent or ashamed to speak openly against acts of sexual assault is either suppressing guilt of past crimes against women or potentially a sexual predator just waiting in the wings.

And I can prove this.

Sometime in 2009, I had this idea about starting a radio show for men. I had just returned from Kampala, Uganda, where I spent about six weeks, part of which was at a shelter set up for women and children fleeing all kinds of abuse perpetrated by men. It was at this shelter that I first learned about “marital rape” and the fact that a wife could be raped by her husband.

I met this particular woman who had feared that her philandering husband would contract HIV and infect her if she didn’t do something to protect herself. She gave excuses or insisted that they use condoms just to avoid having sex with him. The man resorted to the use of brute force whenever he wanted to have sex with her. Just like she feared, she got infected with HIV and only found out when she got pregnant and needed to register for antenatal clinic.

By the time I was leaving Kampala, she told me her husband had died and she was certain it was a result of AIDS-related complications.
I got back to Nigeria and couldn’t keep all the cold memories of that trip to myself, hence the idea of the radio show. The show was designed to turn the light on issues that men face, while addressing other issues that affect those whose lives are influenced by men: women, children, their families, etc.

We were to address issues such as drug addiction and substance abuse, male sex addiction, mental health (suicide and depression), rape and sexual assault, infidelity, paternity crisis, adoption, and so on. I approached a radio station I thought would love the show given their target
audience. Besides, the show was thought to be interesting based on the feedback from the pilot episode.

“Kingsley, don’t bother going to Mr. X, he won’t accept this your show,” a friend of mine who worked as the Senior Producer in that station told me point blank. She was referring to the stations General Manager.

My countenance changed. “But you just told me the show is great.” I said, not sure what she was up to.

“Yes, Kingsley, this show is good and sounds like what any sane program manager would want to have on air, but I can swear with my life that Mr. X would rather die than have this show on air, even with all the sponsorship in this world,” she said.

My spirit was deflated.

“Kingsley, Mr. X is a bloody womaniser who gropes female OAPs and sleeps with cleaners. I can bet he won’t allow a show that would be tormenting and pricking his conscience on air.”

I couldn’t believe it.

In my usual manner, I went on to meet with Mr. X. We discussed the show and I gave him a copy of the pilot episode. The pilot episode focused on erectile dysfunction, hidden causes, self-medication and the danger in aphrodisiacs.

“This is good, Kingsley. I love the treatment of the issue. But do you have sponsorship or you want us to do a partnership?” he said right there.

“I have sponsorship, sir,” I responded.

“Oh. That’s good then. Let me review again and get back to you.”

I left his office, elated.

The next time I heard from him, it was a different story. “O boy, this your show won’t fly o,” he said smiling and trying to hide what I was expecting him to say next.

“We had a meeting to review the pilot again and we weren’t too sure the show would appeal to our audience. And you know how dangerous it is to lose your audience due to wrong programming.”

I got the message, and I arrived at my conclusions too.

There is no neutral ground when it comes to crimes against humanity, of which women and children are an integral part. And silence in the face of heinous crimes against women and children says a lot about who we really are as men.

I also concluded that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth either speaks or keeps shut. Hence, rapists won’t find it comfortable speaking out against rape, and men who truly despise sexual assault can’t afford to keep silent.

It is difficult to imagine that a child would have been raped last night or would be raped tonight by an uncle or an influential male adult. But that’s what many minors are going through and will continue to go through in the homes of evil men unless good men do something as little as lending a voice to condemn these acts.

You may not actually be raping an eight year old. Of course not. But as a man, you partake in the act through your silence – your decision to remain neutral and mind your business when you hear about child sexual abuse and sexual assault against women. You are not better than the rapist you refuse to confront or condemn.

When good men keep silent in the face of evil done to women and children, they are as guilty as the savages who perpetrate these crimes.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Kingsley Obom-Egbulem is a social entrepreneur, author, radio talk show host and an advocate for positive masculinity and gender violence prevention. He is host of MANHOOD- a weekend talk show dedicated to addressing issues that affects MEN, fathers and boys. He's the author of When Fishes Climb Trees - a book that helps parents discover their children’s purpose by connecting their passion with their talents

19 Comments

  1. Nana

    November 15, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    Thank you for writing this. You’ve said it all. Most men don’t speak up against sexual assault or domestic violence because doing so would mean they’d have to reckon with their personal history of misconduct. And they are not ready for that kind of soul-searching. I see this all too often in this country. Another thing that baffles me is the way men ar quick to defend badly behaved men – whether or not they know them in person. If women had such a sororal bond we would run the world. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in both men and women. It can be heartbreaking at times. Something’s got to give.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      November 18, 2018 at 1:30 am

      Recently, and given the rise of women using online mediums as a preferable space to open up about near and actual rape experiences, I’ve been idly wondering – if we promised anonymity and freedom from any repercussion to all Nigerian men and took a poll, how many of them will we find to be guilty of forceful sexual assault on women? My honest belief is that the number would be in the highest of percentages.

      I definitely caught the writer’s shade in paragraph 5. Definitely – well played, sir… well played. And for every name you’ve quoted, I can give you 5-10 good reasons why they’ll never speak up openly on the subject. Never and not even the hope of a peep from them (also, did I see Otedola somewhere in there? A man so notorious for trading in the pleasures of female flesh as chattel that his very fibre will eject the idea of castigating crimes against women? BN, if you like moderate my comment, as a close friend to the family that you are).

      When I hear people rant against the tide of feminism gradually gaining new strength in Nigeria, I laugh. It’s this very key issue of neglect that’s making women even angrier and society saw this same fury with the British suffragettes almost a 100years ago. And the civil rights movement of the American 1960s. You keep ignoring wrongs done to women and children, while the personal pain ferments until it comes back to you like a ball of fire. So men, keep on being quiet if you choose to. Hit the ignore button as repeatedly as you please while the anger flares. Either way or the other, society will sit up and recognise this fight for dignity, with or without your cooperation.

  2. Aare

    November 15, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    It is a good question. But some of your assertions are wrong. For example, in this essay, you mentioned names of powerful people, but those people will rather focus on acquiring more power and wealth, and speaking against rape may not have any bearing on that trajectory. Nigeria is obviously not really a self-less nation, the rich will look after the rich and their wealth. Now if you mention men who are in the minority who have been marginalized or oppressed to come out and support human rights then I may think you are on to something.

    • Ajala & Foodie

      November 16, 2018 at 12:27 am

      @Aare, I am not sure I get your point with this your response. You don’t agree with the author’s assertion , no scratch that, the author’s assertion ARE WRONG because according to you the powerful people he mentioned “will rather focus on acquiring more power and wealth, and speaking against rape may not have any bearing on that trajectory.” Is that not exactly what the author wrote, “But this won’t happen. These men, just like you, have more important things to bother about.” The “assertion” you are trying to make is actually the issue the author is trying to deal with. That we have other things going in our lives should not make us ignore the pain and hardship of others. Golly, that this powerful men have not only large platforms but the power and means to effect change but choose to remain silent is the problem!!!. So come again. what exactly is wrong? That some one is an actor does not make them less human or does it make it ok to be less empathetic to others. That Dangote it does not take away from his business acumen or brand to stand up for wrongs and ills in our society. Or what trajectory do you need to sympathize with others? This is the problem we have in Nigeria, “e don concern me until e reach my door mouth”. Or do you think this issue of rape is only restricted to the “average” family. Do you think it does not happen to the “rich” too? Forget for a moment the Tony Elumelu/Aliko Dangote/John Momoh for a moment. What about the Pastors he listed? What trajectory do they need? is that even their calling? To stand for the weak and protect them? The truth is, there is simply no trajectory needed to be human, which is what this is all about. If you can totally miss that with this your “assertion” then we can begin to understand why this issues persist and why people are still unwilling to stand up for the injustice done to many (women, girls and even young boys/men) in our society. We simply prey on the weak and act like it takes more from us to simply be compassionate,in fact the word empathy seem to elude many as proven by your comment.

    • Bayo

      November 16, 2018 at 6:27 pm

      @Aare
      As human being in general, this should matter irrespective of one’s background, status, and wealth. Men are victims of rape, sexual assault but we are told to man up, women are told to shut up.
      As men, we don’t want to deal with our emotion as victim or the bad guy. Most of these powerful men are guilty, you can’t give what you don’t have, understand and are not convinced about.
      chauvinism, abuse of our masculinity, egoistic behavior has been normalized in our society. Back in unilag, the guy who slept around with women consent or without it was respected the most, When one of my boys had gonorrhea, we celebrated it. We often joked about rape because we didnt think it was a big deal. We were so foolish.
      The twist to this is, women make it more complicated. I ask ladies straight up, do you want to have sex or not. If no, or not sure, I walk away. These same women often ask me why didn’t I press further.

      And women, let your NO be NO. Be clear and stand your ground.

    • Aare

      November 24, 2018 at 11:02 pm

      My views above is a little more general, a mixture of my personal observations and existentialism and and a believe that Nigeria suffers may be suffering from general moral decay. Basically, I veer towards the believe that human perspectives on life and motivations to act are influenced more by their past actions, works, experiences, mistakes and sufferings. Their perspective on issues become highly subjective and so whatever truly really mean when they say something is going to be motivated by avoidable and unavoidable mistakes, experiences, deeds and actions. now, the crust of his idea is close to that but I still think their is a divergence, because he concludes in speculation about past or potential future actions of men.

      On Unilag, rape is no joke,but I will say it is ignorance and lack of exposure to victims of rape. But ultimately, It is a failure of the university administration to provide necessary environment to protect ladies and prosecute rapists because that is part of their task or duty or should be part of their job description. Rape victims probably need more attention because of the traumatic experience and university administration should have done more to educate people and seek out the rustification and prosecution of alleged rapists. You see the actions of a rapist shows lack of care for fellow human being and a rapist has the potential to commit further actions either rape or something more sinister while the victim may also suffer in the future as a result of the trauma. if Nigerian administrators, police force or people whose actions are to protect citizens are not seeking active ways to prosecute rapists then they may place less value on evil acts and people committing violations of privacy. Down the line are the wealthy people whose activity or public acts have less to do with ensuring security of persons.

  3. Jennietobbie

    November 15, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    My, oh, my. Kingsley I’m in love with you. “I don’t care what you feel…” is all the love portion from you that I need. What a mighty BOLD man. Thank you for walking your talk by writing this audacious article. And baby boy, screw the radio stations and start a podcast. This baby girl gonna be your No. 1 subbie ❤️❤️❤️❤️ (Send your groom price ??? if no baby girl has already scooped your deliciousness yet ??? 30 billi, so no worries. I got you)

  4. Cyn

    November 15, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Because a lot of men are not guilt free. They have at some point in their lives been molesters or behaved innappropriately. Back then in boarding school, if it was dark and Nepa took light, boys will go around touching girls, pressing boobs and what not, and they’d boast about it. Is it the same Nigerian men that will now speak up? When our society has taught them that girls are there for their pleasure.

    There needs to be a lot of unlearning in Nigeria.

  5. Ajala & Foodie

    November 16, 2018 at 1:30 am

    I have a story so una go bear with me:

    So a few years ago, I brought up a situation I had learned about to my family. A former senior pastor of our church had been accused by a junior pastor’s wife of having an affair with her and fathering her then pregnancy, now child.. I brought this up because my dad WAS good friends with this Senior Pastor and when this incident happened we were way too young, we however, had liked the junior pastor, he was a good children’s pastor but we knew he left under bad circumstances and did not understand why because he was the best kids pastor we had and thought the leaders of the Church ought to see and understand that. We even tried protesting his leaving but to no avail. Anyway, years later, married, my MIL who was also in the church and still has a relationship with the Junior Pastor’s now ex-wife visits and tells me and my husband this story. The junior pastor eventually left his wife but this woman still tries to get in touch with the “Senior Pastor” to get him to take care of “his kid” I use “” here because no proof of paternity. Senior Pastor moved over 2 decades ago to the US with his family but anytime he visits Nigeria (which he does often) this woman will track him down asking that he cater to this child. She is a single mum and her now ex husband has made it clear he wants nothing to do with this particular child but caters for the other kids. Why am I telling this story?

    Well, when i brought up the story, well my daddy was like yeah that happened that in fact he (my dad) had been appointed to look into the matter by the Church. Guess what my dad did not!!! Instead, pronounced both the junior pastor and his wife liars. We all turned to him shocked and asked why? he said well because it was the Junior Pastor that actually blew the whistle on the whole deal and to him that just raised a red flag. He said that the man should have been mad, upset instead at the time, he appeared to stand by his wife and they were both just pointing fingers at the Senior Pastor. So to him it just looked like extortion or trying to take down a “MOG”. We were like he should still have done the job he was put in place to do. The crux of the matter, my dad is from a society given to patriarchy, and that colored his judgment. Simply put, dude was biased. He did not even go to the hotel the younger couple gave that was supposedly the meeting point for the tryst. For the purpose of better understanding into this story this woman was the senior pastor’s secretary at the time i.e avenue for something like this to have indeed taken place. Anyway, after telling my dad that Junior pastor has since left his wife over the infidelity and refuses to cater to this child needs and the woman still hunts this man down. My dad now start rethinking things, he began seeing somethings he had ignored earlier like when my dad visited this Senior Pastor in the US this man treated my father like a king. My dad had to ask why he has acting this way. He only told my dad that he wouldn’t understand what he did for him. My dad kept wondering what did he do, he even mentioned this incident to me. Now, he understands “what he did” or should I say did not do. Some other things came to light as my brother is good friend’s with one of his sons. Things I will not go into because they have more to do with the family but it speaks to the character of this “Senior pastor”. One would think that knowing all of this, my dad will at least feel bad, but the words that came out of his mouth at the end….my parents have never had issues arguing in our presence, we know they have misunderstanding, but I have never seen such disgust on my mum’s face, she wanted to sucker punch my dad. My dad said and I quote, “I saved the woman from shame, she is the one that would have had to carry the shame all her life”. I gave up, so did my sister. My brother was the one that tried to explain what was intrinsically wrong with not just that statement but that train of thought.

    This man was not only her boss, he was her husband’s boss, therefore the one with power and authority. In a civilized society he should have more to loose. This woman has not been speared the shame, but she alone bears the shame for what THEY BOTH did. But more importantly, an innocent child who is now a young adult now bears the shame too. Those were the things my brother had to explain to my father.

    As for rape in marriage, that one I have seen videos of African “Pastors” not one or 2 and these are both male and female encourage this non sense. They teach both men and women that a marriage license is license to force or allow a man have his way with you even if you do not want to or feel safe. They teach that all you have to do is get married then you can do no wrong even if it involves forcing your self on your partner. I mean it is all done in the sanctity of marriage right??? How will men even begin speaking against injustice like this when many women still subscribe to this train of thought? You now expect the people “enjoying” the fruits of such misguided train of thought to speak up when victims themselves are shouting it is ok, it is allowed, it is the right thing” from the roof top.

    The whole point of my spiel: I don’t know the solution to this problem, but first, we women need to have 1 voice of this issue. We need to speak with 1 voice. Even women with big platforms and means, how many have used it to speak against rape? Even if we cannot have 1 voice (because we know there will always be the few) if the majority at least agree and speak then maybe more men will be willing to help us carry our cross.

    • didi

      November 16, 2018 at 8:39 am

      @ ajala& foodie I have a question related to this story, was the JUNIOR PASTOR’S WIFE RAPED? Or was she sexually harassed? If she wasnt then partially your dad is right and in a way wrong. A woman bears more shame not just because she’s seen as the inferior gender but at the end of this story that child will hold the mum responsible for his complicated life and the end product of this wrong behaviour is physically borne by the woman. I wonder why a woman will know this and still let men misuse her body.

    • Elle

      November 17, 2018 at 11:26 am

      I hope your dad realizes he is going to answer to God one day for what he did. It’s never too late for him to do the right thing. Never.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      November 18, 2018 at 1:40 am

      Re your final point, you absolutely right. A lot of Nigerian women who’re highly influential are also notoriously silent on the subject of these particular issues. Of course, many of them are obvious beneficiaries of the patriarchy that they’re now mandated to kowtow to. Very obviously.

      And as for the senior pastor debacle…. very unfortunately, this is a completely familiar story rewritten time and time again in different parishes of different ministries. The church has been an incredible disappointment when it comes to upholding truth and moral justice in Nigerian society.

  6. didi

    November 16, 2018 at 9:06 am

    We can only have one voice if we have the same BELIEFS. Your story is quite unrelated to this article. I get what you mean that, everyone always blame the woman which is very true and should be changed but i believe theres a power that resides in every woman,mother, wife,sister, niece etc START RIGHT i know if mothers who are more DETAILED and OBSERVANT than fathers will give more attention to their children’s welfare rape will reduce and this includes getting THEIR FATHERS involved. Our focus these days is even taking us away from our children. When we spend time searching for who to blame and whose responsibility it is to be caregivers we miss the point. FATHERS ARE MORE PROTECTIVE OF THEIR DAUGHTERS than mothers. Men in general dont voice their opinions they believe in doing something about the situation than talking about it.

    • Ajala & Foodie

      November 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      @did I, first the purpose of my spiel is to show how far gone and wrong our reasoning is as a society when it comes to this topic, i.e of rape AND Sexual harassment. Even my dad, that has never forced himself on my mum and will tell our husbands that if they maltreat his girls, he has no problem taking his children back, still blamed her. Secondly, now let me explain what my brother explained to my dad. Sexual harassment transcends just rape. The reason I stated that he was not only the lady’s boss but also her husband’s boss is to illustrate the position of authority this guy had. Like my brother stated that day, when someone in position of authority/power prepositions a person in position of lesser power, it is grounds for sexual harassment now I don’t know if she coerced into it. I don’t want to state things that are not factual i.e she said, he said, because like I said unfortunately, my dad never did his due diligence. But isn’t it quite interesting that men that want to prey on women don’t usually go for women that are on equal grounds with them, they go for women that they have power and authority over. These are the things my brother had to point out to my dad. Why are they are not attracted to women of equal means and authority? Now, the point is not to say romance can not begin that way but it is also one of the reasons many companies ask that one or the other party be removed if a situation like that should happen. Nevertheless, I don’t get your comment about the woman being the “inferior” gender. What makes you think the child will only blame her mum? Why do we think that because yes a woman is left carrying the physical proof of a sexual tryst the buck therefore stops with her? What makes you think you know the mind of this child enough that she will not be more enlightened to understand that yes, her mum made a mistake but stuck around and carried her responsibilities as a mother AND father but the dead beat sperm donor was no where to be found? The buck does not and should not stop with us women. Like I said it is only in society such as ours that such reasoning holds true. The person with more to loose is the person with power and authority. Why do you think stories of infidelity garner such attention especially with men in position of authority? Why do you think people women still hold Hillary Clinton accountable for saying the things she has said about Monica while touting herself as women’s advocate? See Arnold Schwarzenegger who lost more? This is exactly what I mean when I say we women cannot ask that men speak up for us, if you as a woman cannot understand these things and realize that sexual harassment does not have to include actual rape, then how do we begin to educate our partners and more importantly our sons. This article does not only address rape like the title but speaks to harrassment too.

    • didi

      November 16, 2018 at 6:24 pm

      That woman was not harassed, it was an affair she was enjoying because if she wasn’t enjoying it at least ohh she would have told her husband about it. I have witness and heard soo many cases where married women who dont feel satisfied with their husband target married men in higher positions because of their money or connections. So dear where your dad only got it wrong was taking anybody’s side though i sense it because he thought if this affair was consensual why would the woman team up with her husband to attack the senior pastor and this thought ould make anyone think he is on the side of the senior pastor. There are still a lot of FAITHFUL and WONDERFUL men, fathers, husbands and uncles out there that have never harrased or raped a woman and they have become victims of so many bitter and pained women just because of the bad eggs Theres a man i know in my neighbourhood whose daughter was raped in his hotel, he almost committed murder on the guy who did it. This news went everywhere and its been over a decade now but that rape story goes with the girl which to me make people associate her with PITY and sometimes i wonder if we dont also consider the aftermath of the victims life when the whole world knows she was raped. So i believe this is what most fathers think its better to dela with the culprit personally and protect the image of your child.

  7. Asa

    November 16, 2018 at 9:44 am

    This thing is everywhere o! Every freaking where! My brother told me a story of a girl that invited a man to sleep over at her place and in the night, this man raped her. He strongly condemned the girl for inviting a stranger to sleep over. He remembered to tell me that the girl met the guy at a “me too” rally and told me that as a “me too” proponent, the girl should have shown better wisdom. I was pissed!

    People trust people and invite people into their homes all the time, for oyibo people, strangers sleeping over is not even a big deal. Should the woman now be raped for showing poor judgment? How is rape even commensurate with her decision? So does inviting a man to sleep over justify rape? No he said, but she should not have invited him. I tried to tell him that his outrage was misplaced that the main focus should have been on the act of rape not on the issues that led to it. That a rapist is a rapist anywhere the opportunity presents itself and that this man will grab people of the streets if he could…. That his argument is like saying “she dressed seductively so. deserved to be raped”

    This matter tire person jare.

    • Pearl

      November 16, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      I actually agree with your brother, and I don’t think his argument can be likened to a women who dressed seductively and therefore deserved to be raped. In our fight against rape, sexual assault etc. we owe it to ourselves to avoid any and every situation that may result in it. It’s bad enough that when such things happen, the woman is usually blamed. This blame occurs even where she was covered from head to toe and did not welcome any advances whatsoever, talkless of when you invite a man into your home? I’m not saying her rape is justified, but in this fight against rape, we women should do our best to avoid certain situations.

  8. Dr.N

    November 16, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    The problem is that you can’t even trust a man just because he is a loud voice against rape or women oppression. In fact some use it as a cover for nefarious activities so it is just to expect men to speak up for women but if they won’t; no problem.
    Women are rising to the task and eventually the equation will balance. While men are analyzing we just get things done. So thanks to all the men who have fought for victims both male and female but the failure of a few people to get involved will not set anything back.

  9. CHI

    November 16, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    It is a rather sad reality that whenever there is a case of sexual harassment the default thinking of most people especially in this part of the world is to look for excuses and loopholes in which the perpetrators can be excused and even when there is none many still find it reasonable to hold the victims responsible,as if there is an unwritten law somewhere that says a victim is guilty until no risk or wrong judgment can be found on her part. And many people,both male and female,shy away from the topic as if the slightest involvement (whether in support or against) in such matters would stain them for ever.

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