Stop Victim Shaming: Let Her Speak!

A friend once shared a story with me. She told me about a girl who got raped in her apartment. However, when the girl made an attempt to give a report at the police station, she was shunned and discouraged by close friends and relatives. “It will dent your image jare.” “People will start treating…

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A friend once shared a story with me. She told me about a girl who got raped in her apartment. However, when the girl made an attempt to give a report at the police station, she was shunned and discouraged by close friends and relatives.

“It will dent your image jare.

“People will start treating you differently.”

“No man will want to marry you.”

These were some of the replies she got, and it totally discouraged her from speaking up. But really, would you blame them?

Our society is one where girls who are victims of rape are often seen as damaged goods. They go around with a burden of shame and stigma placed on them by others, and because it a taboo to talk about it, they keep quiet, nurture their wounds in secret and try to move on.

Many girls are sexually abused by their fathers, brothers, uncles and other close relatives, and it is kept a secret because it is a “family matter”; and because the issue is never properly addressed, these girls grow up being bitter, insecure, sex averse, and many struggle with complex and self-esteem issues as well. Sadly, most of them go into prostitution, and many others battle with depression.

The societal narrative towards abuse is also too skewed towards victim shaming and blaming. A lady pays a guy a visit and ends up being sexually assaulted or raped by the guy, and the blame is placed on her.

“What was she doing alone with him?”

“Why was she dressed like that?”

“Why didn’t she stop him?”

“Why did she visit him at the first place?”

Comments like these are made, and while the perpetrator of the act takes pride in what he had done, the victim is blamed. What it does is that it provides the perpetrator with justifications for the abuse, and gives other potential perpetrators reasons to believe they can also get away with doing same.

Ours is a society where girls are taught that whatever happens to them in the hands of a man is her fault. I once had such similar experience. It was around 2012. I was 15, still fresh from high school and awaiting my admission into the university. During that period, a male friend of mine paid me a visit. Both my parents and my siblings had all gone out, I was the only one at home.

After the pleasantries, there were so many things to catch up on; how we missed high school, the crushes we had, the party we had after our final exam… To cut the long story short, the music changed, and the dude attempted to sexually assault me. Honestly, I never knew I was such a good fighter until the moment came for me to defend myself.

I fought, I screamed, neighbors intervened, dude took to his heels. My parents got back; the ordeal was narrated to them. Later that day, I was given a good beating. Yes, you read right. They kept telling me it was my fault; that perhaps I was dressed indecently or was flirting with him. All my attempts to explain what happened were shunned, as they were in no mood to believe me.

I had expected my dad to ask about the guy’s residential address. I expected him to confront him with the police and probably put him behind bars. He never did any of that though, which was shocking, because I wasn’t only his daughter, the assault also took place under his roof. Ultimately, I took the blame alone, which should never have been the case.

I know there are many girls who have had similar experiences. When they had the courage to speak up, they were either told they are lying or are coerced and compelled into keeping quiet about it.

While we teach the girls how not to get raped, perhaps we should teach the boys how not to rape. We should make them understand that their dignity doesn’t lie in how many ladies they have slept with, and how they ought to respect a woman’s “no”.

Instead of blaming and put the onus of responsibility on the victim, let’s face the act and punish the offender. Let’s stop this act of shaming rape victims, because it only serves as ammunition for perpetrators.

 

Responses

  1. Msray
    The shame culture in this country plays a huge role in stifling the voices of our real stories. For instance, the restraints of society on what a woman’s place is and should be has built a mindset that makes it hard for women to speak up about certain realities of their lives without being hypocritically condemned for it. This has subjected allot of women to lives of pretence, social media validation and worst of all silence. (Funny enough this also affects men, the constraints of culture, tradition, expectations of society have made them seem weak if they speak up about their challenges, this leads to allot of frustration, double standards and outright denial of the real life issues they face everyday)
    1. Bkd
      I love you . At last a female who shares my views. I have had countless arguments with some so called feminists about how the best way to fight such social trends Ian to get rid-or at least change- religion and tradition. Our actions(or inactions) as Africans especially, are borne of gender roles as dictated by the religious and traditional institutions of our society. The status qui has to be systematically changed to achieve gender equality, racial equality etc.
      Imagine if women weren’t under such pressure to be married or to conform to the many expectations for her gender. Then she can speak out without fear of, drawing from this piece:
      . Her image being dented; or being seen differently by people or not being wanted by any man for a wife…
      Like I keep saying again and again, any feminist who fights for girl right she and still holds on to tradition and religion and all of the social stereotypes that exist in our immediate society is just basically grandstanding. Kill religion and tradition, and our society’s partriachy patriarchy dies a natural death. It’s a double edged sword. Besides setting the stage for the entrenchment of female rights, it’ll also free most male folk from the social pressures that often push them to carry such despicable acts.
      I support feminism but
      I wish there’s a better way to say this.

      PS:
      I’m amused at Thebes’s fact that feminists think the menfolk are their enemies whereas they have more enemies in the womenfolk than the menfolk. You need to put Korea effort in getting the women on your side before your can actually get the men in board

      1. Larz
        The interpretation of religion and culture is subject to ppl’s collective value. Even if you kill them both, as long as you are dealing with the same set ppl, they will find another way to bring in a system to endorse their patriarchal values.

        Let’s look at religion for example, some say religion has evolved in Nigeria over the past few generations, but has it really?

        Our ancestors used to go to carry sacrifices in the middle of the night, but we do midnight vigil.

        Our ancestors used to go collect water or oil from their native men. We collect holy waters / some ointments (oil etc) from our pastors or imams.

        They used to curse their enemies, most ppl spend considerable time praying for their enemies collapse or demise

        If you go to other countries (say developed countries), their values are well reflected in how their worship or serve God

      2. Morris
        It’s very easier said;kill religion and tradition; than done. I mean how do you even kill people’s religion and tradition?, It is in their hearts.

        So, you sayin feminist with religion and traditions do it for applause is just…

        1. Bkd
          @morris … You should read my comments again. I said, “kill or change religion/tradition”. I believe religion can be killed; and tradition changed.
          I’m only saying that you can’t push feminism while holding on to the same religion/transitions that entrenched the patriarchal values feminism is trying to fight in the first place. I’m asking them to go after the root cause of the problem instead of just placating the symptoms.
          Yes it’s easier said than done but it’s not impossible.

          The Crime of Womanhood in Nigeria

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