-‘I was ashamed for years, and everyone told me not to talk about it’
-‘I was traumatized so much I had to see a psychiatrist’
ON Thursday, May 14, 2015, ENCOMIUM Weekly was at the Omole, Lagos home of star actress, Foluke Daramola-Salako, where we had an exclusive interview with the famous thespian on the launch of her new movie, Cobwebs and unveiling of her foundation, Passion Against Rape in Africa (PARA), coming up on Sunday, May 24, 2015, at Timesquare Event Centre, Ikeja, Lagos. She, however, recaptured her traumatic experience as a rape victim which incidentally informed the formation of the foundation.
We also had a chat with her hubby, Ezekiel Kayode Salako on the event and more.
On Sunday, May 24, 2015, all roads will lead to Timesquare Event Centre, Ajao Road, off Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, where you will be launching your first English movie, Cobwebs and unveiling your foundation, Passion Against Rape in Africa (PARA). What are the preparations in respect of the twin event?
It’s quite hectic putting everything together towards the success of the event. In everything I do, I always try to make a difference. And I try to put a bit of bar and also get to attract every crab. So, I talk to myself concerning the movie I am about to launch and the foundation which I call Passion Against Rape in Africa (PARA), that the whole thing will be packaged because of the rape victims and will also appeal to the grassroots which is where I started from or I am known for more now. So, preparation is in top gear because I have a lot of people coming to identify with me that day. My movie, Cobwebs, has rape in it. It was premiered in July last year but will be officially launched on Sunday, May 24, 2015. I always make sure my script is relevant to what’s happening in the society. It must be a movie that addresses an ill in our society. So far it has to do with rape, I now planned everything so that I can also do it together with the official launching of my foundation.
People will say you floating a foundation against rape was borne out of your personal experience about rape. Would you also subscribe to that?
Yes, I would say to a large extent. It constitutes about 70 per cent of the reasons for floating the foundation. I am not ashamed to say it. Even when I drop the invites for the event, I make it known to them the reasons for establishing the foundation. For instance, when I gave the invite to Yeye Kemi Nelson, she told me the foundation is not a common one. The same thing with the wife of Osun State governor, Alhaja Sherifat Aregbesola, and should be well supported because in Africa, we like sweeping this kind of foundation under the carpet. We don’t believe that rape exists. And the main reason we’re trying to create an awareness is because of the girls, not the Chibok girls but those that were brought out of Sambisa Forest, almost all of them are pregnant. So, we want to use the platform to give back to these girls because we know that in the northern part where they were born, a lot of them don’t believe in abortion and they don’t also have the wherewithal to take care of themselves, let alone the children they’re going to bring to life. So, what we do basically in PARA Foundation is to take care of rape victims. Whatever thing we can do we would definitely do them to ensure we give them hope and new beginning. That’s why I tagged the event, The Morning After. It’s a kind of situation that you have the dark side and you believe all hope is lost. So, it’s going to be the morning after for all the rape victims that have gone through one or two nasty things.
Do you see rape as one of the major problems in our society right now?
Yes, it’s major. Just as I said, in Africa, we try to sweep this thing under the carpet. You’re from a broken home, you have a kid and that child is being abused by your new husband and nothing is done about it. You keep saying it’s the girl that’s at fault. Meanwhile, that child is all bottled up. Even when a young girl is raped, and she builds up the courage to report the case to the law enforcement agents, you find out that the law enforcement agents will still be handling her in a way to make her feel as if she’s actually the cause of her situation. The victim will almost feel guilty. When it happened to me, everybody told me to be quiet. They advised me not to talk about it. It affected me for a long time. It affected me till I got into my first marriage. And eventually, when I was able to get out, I decided within myself, this had an impact in my life. I had to see a psychiatrist. And our belief in Africa is that anybody that sees a psychiatrist is mad. But I had a friend that advised me to visit a psychiatrist. So, I went to see a psychiatrist and went through some therapy. And in the course of the therapy, I discovered that it helps to talk about it, it heals faster when you talk about it, rather than keep it within yourself. A lot of homes are broken due to those ills. Some women, if you ask them, they deny for years because they don’t understand what it means to be pleasurable. Some they abused when they were young are still suffering from the effect till date.
For instance, some prostitutes out there, if you have a one-on-one chat with them, you find out that either they have been raped or striped out of their innocence one way or the other. And they believe that the only way they can express the monstrous part of them is to just continue to inflict that pain on others. Some even get diseases from there. Some are HIV positive as a result of the fact that they were raped. Some might even be raped by armed robbers and all that. But because we see it as a major stigma in Africa, we sweep it under the carpet. I can remember the first time I had an interview on my rape experience, I got a lot of phone calls. People were asking me why I had to talk about it knowing very well the kind of society we are. But I told them no, by talking about it, I am going to be helping that next girl that’s feeling miserable and terrible that she can’t have a life anymore. She believes she has to live the rest of her life in misery. At the end of the day, most rape victims are all bottled up that they feel they don’t have any hope. And when they see a man that wants to get close to them, they just feel so frightened.
Even when they have kids, they still have this phobia for any man coming near their girls because they believe that what happened to them may happen to those girls. A lot of crimes like that are so nonchalant that we sweep them under the carpet in Africa. But in the Western world, it’s not like that. If you rape a woman, you go to jail. Even as a husband, you can rape your wife but many people don’t know all these. If you take a woman against her will, I mean sex of a thing not coming from her heart, it’s also called rape in the Western world. But in Africa, it’s not like that. People think it’s evil to talk maybe your stepfather raped you. They would say if you say it out, that means you want to scatter your mother’s home. It’s assumed so. And some mothers are so nonchalant that they won’t even notice the behavioural pattern of their daughters. As a woman, these are the things we intend dealing with because we understand the fact that such things have been taken for granted. For instance, a family with children living in one room, what do you do in such a situation? I went for a conference about rape in the UK and asked the question, what that lady said to me was that even it’s only one room, there can still be a demarcation. The room can be demarcated with a curtain, then the male children will sleep out while the female will sleep inside. Whatever that may be going on among the female children inside, the men won’t see what is not supposed to be seen because men are aroused with what they see and women are aroused with what they hear. So, all these things shouldn’t be taken for granted. And when a girl is approaching her teenage years, she shouldn’t be allowed to bathe outside. Mothers should also not allow their teenage daughters to play with strangers, I mean male ones or sit on their laps. If you see anything strange in your female child, ask questions. All these things don’t come with money. So, this is our vision, mission and passion in PARA because we believe that we have to put a stop to rape in Africa.
How do you pass this message across to those in power and if that’s done, do you think they will listen to you?
That’s why I invited more of first ladies because I know that we women, when we have a passion for something, we will follow our hearts. Aside the fact that as a mother, we know the pains of motherhood. Although, we have some rape victims that are male as well, it’s more to the female gender than the male. So, I believe that if I tell our first ladies and my chief speaker of the day, Her Excellency, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, my passion and the reasons behind PARA, I think they all should share the same view with me because we have to wake up from the slumber of the belief that rape doesn’t exist in Africa. It’s all a mirage. If you open the dailies, you must surely find one or two things about rape. Hardly could you see a day they don’t report a rape case in our national newspapers.
It has been reported that some fathers rape their children?
Yes, exactly. That’s why we must take it very serious. To tell you the truth, the rate of rape cases in Nigeria is more than armed robbery cases now. It has become a serious problem. And how many foundations do we have on rape?
But a lot of people will say all these foundations are purposely to raise funds and such fund are not channeled towards the purpose for which they are established at the end of it all. How is PARA going to be different from all others?
First, just like I told all the first ladies, it’s not all about money. You can have food, clothing and all that. And aside all these, we also need training. We need awareness programmes for grassroots women. It’s only an enlightened woman that can understand what we’re saying but an average market woman may not. A woman that’s not enlightened can send her girl child on errand, even to a man. And if the child refuses to go, she won’t want to understand why. She may even beat that little girl, and force her to go. And maybe that girl is already being abused where she said she should go but she doesn’t have the courage to tell her mother. So, it’s not really about money, it’s more of awareness which PARA intends to do. We intend to go to the grassroots, the northern part, the eastern part and every other place in the country to be able to champion a cause, just like a crusade where we have a movie that we will show on rape and then we will start talking to them on the way to do things. Even if you don’t have, it doesn’t mean you should make yourself vulnerable to such monsters. There are ways they can be curbed.
For instance, a child that her father or stepfather is sleeping with, the chance of such a child to make it is slim. And if that child should make it, psychologically, she won’t be balanced except she goes through a psychiatrist and therapy classes. But how many people are that exposed to be able to understand that. So, PARA Foundation is not all about money making. We have our merry merry but the truth of the matter is we believe more in training and letting the grassroots, common woman on the street understand that there is what’s called rape, and it’s real. And it’s not like when a girl is raped she should now be demonized or stigmatized. And even the law enforcement agents, if the girl summons courage to tell them that she has been raped, they should show love, it doesn’t cost anything. If possible, they should have a department for that, maybe a woman’s department where counseling will be done for such a victim.
You’re a victim of rape, would you say you have put the traumatic experience behind you?
Very well. I have put it behind me. It’s an experience I never thought I would put behind so quickly. I had it at either 16 or 17. I had even started acting. I just started with my teenage talk show. And because it’s a first experience, it was nasty. So, my own belief about sexual intercourse was bad. I felt frightened anytime I have a reason to do it.
Does that make you have phobia for sex?
Exactly! So, I just had to cope through it. And by the time I came out of it, I came out a better person. It even affected my psyche and confidence because I was always so afraid. When a man discusses relationship with me, I see it like there is trouble. So, at the end of the day I can say conveniently that I have put it behind me. And the person I married today has helped me because I speak about it. If I don’t speak about it, there’s no how I would come out of it like that. Each time I speak about it, I am loosening up every form of the pain and guilt and all that because I used to feel guilty that I am the one that caused it to happen to me. And I can tell you authoritatively that I go to a conference to talk about rape, at each time I have had women telling me that either it had happened to them or their children but they don’t know how to discuss it with anybody other than their pastors. So, PARA wants an avenue where people can freely come out and discuss their problems, especially rape.
Cobwebs is a multimillion naira flick, what efforts are you putting in place to ensure the movie is not pirated?
So far, we can only pray to God right now. That’s just the truth of the matter. If I tell you I am doing anything to stop piracy, I will be lying to you. I tried it with my last movie and I ran at a major loss. Not even loss, I ran into a huge debt. The truth of the matter is that there is no how we can curb piracy in Nigeria if the government doesn’t do anything.
What’re you doing now to save this movie from the menace?
Like I told someone that if you can’t beat them, you join them. How do you join them? I intend to sell the movie to someone for a year, whatever I get from that one, I will just agree that okay, we’re hoping that the government is going to take something up. But the truth of the matter is that I am afraid and that’s why at the end of the day we do premiere, launching and all that so as to recoup the money invested in the movie, though it can’t be all. The kind of situation we found ourselves in the industry concerning piracy of a thing is really killing our creativity because when you think about all the shortcomings, you will really do a rethink.
Recently, there was an anti-piracy protest which you’re a part of, do you think that has sent any warning signal to pirates and the government?
Honestly, not to the pirates, maybe the government. Pirates have become very desperate and I don’t think they even felt our presence on the street. When you go on the streets, you still see the pirated copies of our movies everywhere and these people walk freely.
What do you now think should be done?
There should be check and balance. The government should come up with a stringent law against piracy, and there shouldn’t be any option of fine. Violators of anti-piracy law must be punished well. There will be a time we will all take law into our hands if nothing serious is done about it.
Are you also of the opinion that Alaba market should be shut down?
Yes, it should be shut down, should even be razed down because these people are just living on other people’s sweat. For instance, look at me now, I have spent millions of naira on the movie and I am afraid of releasing it. And if care is not taken, if I leave it for too long, some idiots will just pirate it. And nothing will be done about it. So, Alaba should be shut down. I believe in the incoming government in helping us to fight piracy but if the government is also not doing something right, I won’t be an obedient child at all. We all want change but we know it’s not an overnight thing. But if we exercise patience and we don’t get what we want, it won’t be business as usual.
– TADE ASIFAT