The past few days in the Nigerian social media space has been extremely telling. A popular photographer outed a popular pastor for sexually defiling her as a child. While several perspectives have been heard on the issue similar to the #metoo campaign, It’s about time we take these conversations and steer them to actual results. It is extremely repulsive that people are being abused by those who should know and do better. It is equally sad that the society through its silencing approach has institutionalised rape. There are no grey areas when it comes to sexual harassment, violence or defilement. Any type of sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. From those who thrive on the power imbalance such as lecturers to their students, employers to their employees, religious leaders to members of their sect, to those who are rape apologists or even silencers, these are unacceptable norms.
Consent should never be assumed or implied. It is not silence or the absence of “no”. It cannot be given if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs, or unconscious It cannot ever be obtained through threats or coercion. It can be withdrawn for at any time. It cannot be given if the perpetrator abuses a position of trust, power or authority. It cannot be given by anyone other than the person participating in the sexual activity (e.g. your parent, brother or sister, girlfriend or boyfriend, spouse, friend etc., cannot consent for you or on your behalf).
Facts about sexual violence
- Rape is about power and control, not sex
- Clothes are not a risk factor. What someone is wearing is never an indication of anything other than their fashion choice.
- That the perpetrator is your friend does not make his/her crime acceptable
- Uninvited touching and/or comments are never acceptable
As parents, it is time to start having these conversations with our kids and stop protecting the perpetrators. We should also teach our children what it means to give consent and what it means when consent is withdrawn. Also, when a child reaches out to you with sensitive information, listen and ask questions, reassure the child- if possible include therapy and counselling and take decisive steps in bringing the perpetrator to book(regardless of your relationship with the perpetrator).It starts with a single individual, the responsibility to effect the change we want in the world cannot be outsourced. We are all responsible.