People have different levels of knowledge about sexual violence, its causes and what to do when it happens. The knowledge and information that individuals have influences how they respond to the issue and the level of support they can offer to those who have experienced abuse.
To get a feel of what young people think and know about sexual violence, Growing Up spoke to some youths in Lagos and asked them to respond to the following three questions:
What do you think are the causes of sexual violence? What will you do if you find yourself in a situation where you are at risk of being abused? What would you advise someone who experiences or has experienced sexual violence to do- speak out or stay silent?
I feel that the way a lady dresses, and not being in the right place at the right time are things that can expose her to sexual violence. Walking around at ungodly hours and being amongst bad company can also expose a lady to sexual abuse. If I find that I am at risk, I will feel very bad and I will tell someone I feel can help me – like a counselor or my pastor.
No, I won’t tell someone who has experienced abuse to remain silent. I believe if they are able to tell someone, that person can help them find help because the experience can damage the person’s self-esteem and he/she will not be happy. – FUNMI SALAMI, 16 years old, Student at Yaba College of Technology
When a boy likes a girl and tries to toast her and she does not agree, the boy can plan to rape that girl because his
pride has been hurt. In the case of sexual violence in a relationship, the girl might be tired and no longer want to have sex but the boy might not be satisfied; so that can also lead to sexual violence.
If I found myself at risk, I will shout and go and report to my mother or I will report to the police.
I would not advise someone who has experienced abuse to be silent. I would advise the person to tell someone about what has happened to him/her or report the case to the police. – HABEEB COLE, 15 years old, Student at Morocco Comprehensive Junior High School
When a person is not alert to his or her environment or is not alert in an unfamiliar environment, that person can open him or herself to abuse. Boys who have low self-esteem and a false sense of their manhood tend to be sexually abusive.
I will run for my life and thereafter avoid the person or the surrounding, if I find that I am at risk!
No, I will not advise a victim to remain silent. I will tell them to report to the proper authorities and also go to the clinic to be treated in order to avoid unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and where it occurs, body injury. I will also tell them to inform their family and talk to a counselor. – LUCY EKEULU, 17 years old, Student.
I think lack of maturity is a cause of sexual violence and sometimes people tend to rush into relationships. When someone is not mature enough for a relationship and rushes into it, for the guy the next thing that comes to his mind is sex even without using protection. On the part of the lady, she might not consent to having sex because of the fear of STIs, unwanted pregnancy but the guy may force her into the act. Another thing that causes sexual violence is illiteracy. This has given rise to a lot of negative effects. If most people are educated and enlightened about sexual violence, they would not venture into it.
For me as a guy, being raped is unlikely, but if I find myself in a situation where I risk being abused, I will try to escape. If escape is impossible, I will try to raise an alarm. If raising an alarm is not going to work, I will try fighting my way through it, God help me. But the best thing is prevention. It is better than cure.
The best thing is to speak out and get advice. There is this adage that says, “two heads are better than one. Getting the right person to advice you is very key. – AKINSEYE OPEOLUWA, 23 years old, Accountancy Student.
I feel that if a girl dresses provocatively and if she is arrogant, this can lead to sexual violence. If a boy should toast a girl and the girl refuses him, he can rape her just to teach her a lesson.
If I find myself in a situation where there is risk of abuse, I will go to the nearest police station and I will report to my mother.
I will advise a person who has experienced abuse not to keep quiet. The person should report the matter in order to avoid unwanted pregnancy or contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. – OYINDAMOLA AWE, 16 years old, Student at Mainland Senior High School.
Take Away Message
All individuals, irrespective of gender, have the right to be treated with respect and to be free from all forms of sexual violence. A girl’s choice of clothing or her refusal of unwanted sexual advances should not make her the target of sexual violence or be used as a justification for violating her.
Keeping silent is not the best way to address sexual violence. Silence only fuels the abuse and encourages the perpetrator to continue the act. Although our society is one that expects and promotes silence about issues of sexuality, people who experience violence should speak out and seek appropriate medical, legal and psychosocial support. We should recognize that, in as much as it is important for a person who has experienced sexual violence to speak out, and seek help they would only feel comfortable doing this if they know they will not be stigmatized.
Being sexually violated is a traumatic experience, and whether or not a victim recovers or how fast the recovery process takes is determined by the level of support they receive. Therefore, victims of sexual violence should never be blamed for what has happened to them, instead people around should offer the best form of support to aid the healing process.