In recent times, research has shown that rape is on the increase with minors as victims of the ungodly act. There are cases where female perpetrators have been arrested too.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with Joy Onoriose, a counselor at Mirabel Centre where rape survivors run for refuge. We also bring to you the story of an eight year survivor who was molested by a neighbour.
Thanks to a good samaritan ‘Precious’ who took over the case and has been doing all in her power to ensure this innocent little girl gets good treatment and justice.
Tell us about Mirabel Centre?
Mirabel Centre is a sexual assault referral center that gives holistic services to victims of sexual assault.
Holistic in the sense that we give both medical and psycho social support. We call them clients and survivors not victims. When a case is reported and they come, they are able to access medical help that will include medical examinations, tests and treatment. We have trained counselors to help them through the trauma of rape. Rape is not just a crime against the body, but a crime against the person’s emotions too. The person has the physical and emotional aspect to deal with.
The services we offer at the center are absolutely free. From the testing, to the treatment and the drugs is free. In selected cases, we provide transportation to clients from far distances. Some will not access help because they are not financially able to do so. We encourage them financially so that they can come.
We also have a pool of partners we work with. Where there are services we cannot render, we will refer clients to our partners. Rape comes with a lot of issues ,for example, the person might need to report to the police. We link them up with the police. However, we found that, majority of clients that come in were referred to us by the police.
We also get referrals through word of mouth, there are various ways people get to know us. There are some clients who want justice, for people like that, we send them to the Office of the Defender, Domestic and Social Violence Response Team, Lagos State Ministry of Justice. We also have NGO’s we refer clients to for help.
Based on your experience, will you say there is an increase in rape?
There are two schools of thought. Some say, there is more reporting these days than it used to be but some people will argue that rape cases is incredibly high. I think both are correct. Rape has increased and the truth of the matter is, there is more awareness about it. People are feeling a bit more comfortable to report cases. In as much as we have that, we still know that out of two cases that have been reported, there are probably eight out there that have not been reported. Is it high, yes it is. Is there more reporting. Yes, absolutely.
What do you think is actually responsible for rape?
A lot! The truth of the matter is, the youth of these days are exposed to a lot more than our fathers were exposed to. You have the entertainment content, internet to grapple with, a lot of sex content to handle. There is so much bombarding. X-rated movies used to be a taboo in those days but if you go through the phones of nine out of 10 teenagers, you will be surprised what you will find there. I wouldn’t want to blame it on parents. But at times, I want to ask, what our parents teach their children because, it is this young boys that perpetrate the act. Now, we have seen female perpetrators too. Men assaulting men, men assaulting young boys. Are we teaching them to respect people, do they understand that no means no. Do they understand that if they are playing with their sister and she says “stop it” they should stop it because that is where it starts. If they know that from a young age, they wouldn’t give excuse when they become teenagers. Some will say, she said no but I thought she didn’t meant it. It still goes back to the values we have imbibed in our children. The things that are right to them and what is wrong. What is acceptable and what is not acceptable. How do they giggle when some boys are talking nasty about some other girls. How funny is that to them. How does it look to them that for you to be a man, you need to have power over the woman.
Among the young men, some will say, if I bought her drinks and dinner, she should be able to do something. These are things that perpetrate rape culture.
What about cases of a 70 year old assaulting a minor?
It is just perversion. There is no excuse for it. You find a lot of people saying, we should talk to her about what she wears. But, what will a six year old wear? Does she have boobs? What did a 10 month old baby wear? There is a serious perversion in the society. A 60 year old man still thinking of assaulting an eight year old girl. It is a big problem. We have had a 70 year old grandmother coming here, she was raped. Rape, we have come to find out, is a crime of violence. It is like killing someone with a gun.
Rape survivors don’t get justice, why is that so?
We have found a lot of that. There is a fault in the system. I will say, it can be frustrating. The system frustrates. At the center, we have been able to record only three convictions. There is a drag and a drag.
Some clients tell their guardians to forget it because, they will grow old going to court.
There is the fact that even when a client wants justice, societal sentiments step in. If your mother will not beg you because of the breast she gave you, your family will beg so as to protect their name or the community will beg so as not to shame your child. But, it is the perpetrator that should be ashamed. Some will say, judgment belongs to the Lord and the pastor will start preaching, at the end, they will make the person look like a devil. They hammer the clients weary on sentiments so, such might let it go. Letting go will give opportunity for the guy to molest another person.
We had a case of a guy that molested a young lady. They begged and begged and the guy became born again. They agreed to settle it out of court. Two months later, I had another case with the same guy. The level of violence increases, he got away for the first time and he repeats it. Should we wait until somebody dies before taking the necessary steps?
What is the percentage that come for help?
Majority are minors, 70 percent are minors, a little percent of boys. We have had male clients, female perpetrators, teachers sticking pencils, spoons into the vagina of little girls.
How easy is it getting a client to talk about it?
When they come, I approach them, walk them to the room. First, it is important to get them comfortable talking. It is necessary for them to see that you are open, that you wouldn’t judge them. That is what every other person has been doing. We make them know that we don’t judge but we accept them and help them through the journey. We don’t promise to take it away because we can’t, we just promise to be there for them. When they see that, they relax and they talk.
When was Mirabel Center established?
We opened July 2013, we are two years plus. However, the dream was conceived in 2003. She had a dream for a place where someone can get help from rape assault. It is a long 10 years of planning and working. We work hand in hand with the government and various ministries – Ministry of Justice, Women Affairs, Youth and Social Development, LASUTH has been very helpful and supportive.
What do you say to parents and teenagers out there?
Working with Mirabel Center has exposed me to the fact that rape cuts across class, culture and age. It has nothing to do with money. Anybody can be raped. To a very large extent, perpetrators look for opportunities. It is an opportunity crime. You may not be making yourself a prey. It might be you are in a wrong place, somewhere supposedly right before. It happens anywhere to anybody.
There are few things you can do to protect yourself. There are points where you can hold somebody while you are being attacked, you can hit the person at those points so as to run. We teach students that of recent.
I tell parents, most especially mothers to be more vigilant. Rape thrives where perpetrators get away the first time, he will do it again. Some children are saved from repeat crimes because their mothers asked questions. The children were not able to say because perpetrators always threaten to kill them and the children will believe that. He may even threaten to kill their parents.
Build confidence in your children. Let them be assertive so that if anything happens, they have confidence to run and tell you.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to a rape survivor and her mother…
RAPE SURVIVOR’S MOTHER (M.A)
How exactly did it happen?
I am a wine seller, I also sell beer too. We came back from church on Sunday, I was at my shop when my sister in law said she wanted to see my daughter. She said she wanted to send her on errand. That was how we started looking for my daughter everywhere. As we were looking for her, I noticed a slippers at the entrance of the landlord’s door, I just felt somehow but left. When we didn’t find her, I decided to go to the sitting room where I saw the slippers by the door. When I entered, I saw my daughter and Larry Atipo, he was on top of my daughter. I started screaming but was told not to scream, I had to call people to come and people started gathering. One Alhaji called the police but Larry ran away and we started looking for him. We later found him under the cupboard in the sitting room. He started begging that it was the devil. They took him to the police station and police took down our statement. They then directed us to where we would get treatment for my daughter. The police also told us the case will be transferred to Panti.
How did your daughter leave your shop without you noticing?
She told me she was going to use the toilet and I allowed her go.
Do you know Larry before the crime took place?
Yes, he used to buy drinks once in a while. Sometimes, he will even steal my drinks. He often begged people for money whenever he comes over. He once told me the landlord is his uncle.
What lessons have you learnt from this ordeal?
I have learnt a lot of lessons. People have insulted me a lot. I don’t like it. Some will just talk to me anyhow.
What about your daughter’s father or relations?
I don’t want to talk about him. His mother called and was insulting me on phone. They don’t care about her. They are not responsible in any way for her.
Why did the land lord threaten you?
The rapist (Larry) lives in his house and perpetrated the crime in his house as well. The land lord owns the place where I sell drinks.
What actually happened?
After we came back from church, my mom was washing plates and I wanted to help her but she said no. One uncle (Larry) came and said I should come and help him buy something. So, I went to meet him. He took me to his house and asked me to remove my clothes. He asked me to lie down and he now laid on me.
When he wanted to do that, did you scream?
Nobody was around.
Is it the first time he did that to you?
Why didn’t you tell your mother about it?
I was scared, he used to tell me that he will kill me if I tell my mother. I tried to tell my mother once but she was not patient to listen to me, she told me she was busy.
How many times has he slept with you?
Was that the first time he will be sending you to buy something for him?
No, he used to send me for cigarette. It is when I take it to his house that he will ask me to remove my clothes.
How old are you?
I am eight years old.
-SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN and TINUOLA JOSEPH