I woke up Friday morning to several posts, reposts and reactions (good and bad) on social media, all of them about Busola Dakolo’s four-part interview, during which she recounts the rape incidents (yes incidents, plural – it happened twice) she suffered from Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, the Senior Pastor of COZA Ministries, one of Nigeria’s mega protestant churches.
This issue of rape/sexual assault, especially on the heels of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, is met with mixed reactions whenever it comes up. It’s either the survivor is immediately believed and has a lot of people supporting him/her, or the allegations and stories are met with flat out disbelief, and then some people proceed to call the survivor all sorts of names. Victim blaming commences, and the survivor ends up being shamed into silence and regrets ever speaking up. Then there are those that are sort of on the fence about it, who first try to make sense of the story by asking as many questions as possible before they decide who and what to believe.
When I saw the interview itself, I wasn’t that surprised. I sort of saw it coming, because her husband, Timi Dakolo, had previously spoken out about the issue of rape/sexual abuse by pastors, and had called out this pastor specifically, several weeks ago. Busola herself had also put up a peculiar post on Instagram just yesterday that I took to mean something big was coming.
The issues surrounding sexual abuse and rape, its prevalence, lack of justice/punishment for the perpetrators, report time, consent, and the culture of silencing and shaming of victims are currently being addressed across all social media platforms, and are perhaps a topic for a different day. However, some of the reactions to Busola’s interview that I have seen are what have me riled up.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people cannot bring themselves to begin to process or fathom that a religious figure (pastor, priest, bishop, nun, etc.) could ever engage in such shameful, criminal (and sinful) behaviour. Crazy, right? But I understand it because:
1. Cognitive dissonance: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously (Merriam-Webster dictionary). This is usually for friends and family of the perpetrator, or those that hold them in high regard.
2. Some people have sadly undergone the same abuse, and are not ready to acknowledge what happened to them.
3. Some people have unfortunately tied the basis of their faith and spirituality to these religious figures, and so acknowledging or believing such allegations will shake their faith. This is what I want to address today.
We are all human beings. Men of God included. Yes, they might read/understand the Bible more than others. Yes, they are charismatic and know how to get a message across. Yes, they might be able to get spiritual revelations, or possess certain gifts of the Holy Spirit. But, at the end of the day, they are just men. In fact, if anything, they are in a better position to be the perpetrators of such sexual misconducts. Why? Because, among many reasons:
1. Rape is about power, and they possess tremendous power.
2. They believe they will get away with it, because for so long, they have.
3. Rape, sometimes, is a crime of opportunity, and between the adulation and undue attention they get from their followers, the opportunity will present itself somehow, and they will take advantage of it.
I am not a member of this church, and sadly I only heard about them after the allegations against their founder started. So, I sympathise with anyone whose world seems shaken by this. But, please, let us all remember that these people are only human beings like you and me. They are not God, they are only a mouth-piece, and no one is above sin or mistakes. Please, please, please, do not let your faith in God be shaken by this.
I am Catholic, proudly so. And yes, the Catholic Church has had its own share of sex scandals that spans centuries, especially involving the sexual abuse of younger boys by priests. I have also had my fair share of abuse and molestation from religious figures that occurred when I was much younger (sometimes in my own home), and I only recently opened up to my family and friends about it. And no one had no clue.
When we are able to see past their titles and positions, one thing is clear: sexual assault/rape can happen to anyone, by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Hopefully, when we all come to this realization, we can better prevent, manage and tackle these issues so that they don’t keep happening, and so that the perpetrators don’t go unpunished.
I commend Busola for speaking her truth. It takes a special kind of courage and bravery to speak up about something like this, especially considering her status in the society, and being a mom of three not-so-young kids. I hope she is able to find healing and peace from this. Also, kudos to her husband, Timi, for standing by her and putting himself and his reputation out there for the greater cause.
I sincerely hope that as a country, we are able to finally hold powerful people accountable, and that this man is brought to justice. And if indeed there is a different side to this story (I highly doubt it – this is not the first allegation against him), then said pastor should come out and tell it.