There has been an outrage this week by women all over. I want to break this down in the simplest way, yet my emotions are all over the place because l am angry too.
I am no saint in this regard. I have been complicit in the promotion of the system and culture that has led to this massive breakdown and outrage, albeit unknowingly, it is no excuse and I have had to unlearn a lot of things over the years. From the victim blaming to not taking people who come out with their experiences on the situation seriously.
The stories that bind us are unfortunately not pleasant ones. Son, there are multiple times l have had to give in for fear that l may not make it home in one piece. So I will walk you through what it feels like:
Your Aunt Irene’s survival card is to be overly polite once she notices an elderly man is making sexual advances that she doesn’t want. It is her way of jolting the man back to reality that she is too young. So she will “Uncle you to death”, if she has to. Your other aunts and l picked up this card hoping it works for us too. An internship opportunity we got in L200 made us realise , our card was weak because a few weeks in, one man openly blurted out: “if the reason you girls call us uncle is just so we don’t have our way with you, then you’re wrong.” This is me putting the expression he said in our local language nicely. There was a burst of laughter from other men in the room. We knew instantly we would not last in this organisation. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the one in charge of running the organisation began to send unsolicited messages to me at ungodly hours. We quit! Once you get into a position of influence, you don’t go dashing the hope of young women by suggesting the only way to achieve their goals is what lies in between their thighs. Do not join a group of men make jokes about raping women.
As a man, I have not really had to fear much about being violated in such a manner. Although it is a possibility, the chances are slim. I usually fear most of the time that I may be robbed by some ‘kwashey’ boys somewhere in the dark but imagine being a woman and having to not only fear that your phone and money may be taken away, but something you hold dear. This reminds me of one time I left home at dawn to the junction at my place. There was a woman about 50 meters in front of me. It was dark and she was scared. I wasn’t out there for her but when she turned I could see the fear in her eyes. She walked even quicker and I just had to slow down for her to go her way before I moved on. To her, everyone is a potential abuser and it’s understandable she was thinking that way because society is messed up now.
Son, anytime I chance on a rape story, my mind instantly goes back to a time when l was a lot younger. We were done with junior high school. Going to the mall was a big deal then. So it’s no surprise we decided to go to the mall after our graduation. We hung out there for a while and began to leave in various groups home. Since your Uncle Nii, Aunt Nessa, Aunt Maame & l lived in the same neighborhood we left the mall together. The troski we took alighted us at the shell station, close to the washing bay where l used to live. As we strolled down the street, laughing over the day’s event and the memories we had made, a car that had parked at the other side of the road motioned for your Uncle Nii to come over. We naively assumed he wanted directions. I remember the car, it’s color and inscription on the number plate vividly to this day. We saw your Uncle Nii shake his head a number of times and now we were not so sure if our earlier prediction of this stranger asking for directions was right. Uncle Nii crosses over to our side of-the road and tells us he is going to walk us as close to our homes as possible but we need to take different directions and run home. If you’re confused at this point, so were we. We could not understand how a beautiful moment by young people was suddenly turning into a Milo Marathon. Then your uncle broke it to us, the man was offering him money to help him lure us into his car. Although he refused and told him we were just teens, he would not back down. So true to his word, he walked us a while and then signaled when we needed to run and for the first time in my life, l ran through the neighborhood l had grown to love like a thief being pursued. I have never been so scared. Your Aunt Nessa spotted the same man days after in our neighborhood, almost as if he was looking for us. So son if l have not forgotten this incident, can you imagine what it feels like for a woman to live with being raped? Some of us don’t even make it to tell our stories. You should read about Uwa from Nigeria.
There is also something you should note. A No is a No. However, not only a No is a no. Anything that hints at a slight disinterest is a No as well and must be taken as such. Sexual abuse may have already been committed way before penetration so be very careful.
Son, another incident happened after senior high school that I blamed myself for because l could not protect my friend. This friend of mine,l would like to call Esaba to protect her identity. Esaba was clearly the opposite of me. A young woman who you can describe as the life of the party, quite the extrovert and full of life. She had a knack for bringing joy to us in class. So it was no surprise she knew the popular young men in other senior high schools. Esaba was also a really smart young woman but then she met him and things went south. This young man, l would like to call Edem. It was clear he was manipulating her and lying to our friend but you know the expression; “to be young and in love”. Esaba had become too trusting of this young man. It had become an endless cycle of her crying and forgiving him. I also think, she slowly began to shut us out as friends as his manipulation went on.
So after we had finished senior high school ,a few weeks after Esaba reached out to me and apparently to other friends, she was ending things with Edem . We were glad for growth. The only details Esaba left out was that Edem had her nudes, passwords to her social media accounts, which he had changed and was threatening to release her photos if she left him. Esaba called his bluff and the results were Edem putting up Esaba’s pictures on her social media account. Read that again slowly. Esaba’s nudes was on her social media account and Edem had changed the passwords. I woke up that morning to pictures, missed calls and snide messages of is this your friend? There were groups created to mock Esaba. I blamed myself because l felt l should have talked her out of avoiding relationships then . That maybe if l urged her to avoid it all together, maybe just maybe she won’t be so trusting. All through that day, l was defending my friend’s honour and consoling her. Then around 9pm, my friend’s younger brother calls me that she has run away from home and so was calling to find out if she was with me. I was scared. I called Esaba to ask of her whereabouts and she said she was just walking, walking where, she won’t say, going where, she won’t say. She wanted to end it. l begged her to return home. I was restless the days after. But Esaba has persevered after that and is still one of the most beautiful people l know. Son, do not demand for a woman’s nudes, join others to share it or send nudes of yourself to women. The internet is easily accessible for most women now, if they want to see naked men, they know where to find them.
I look back at times where people I know or didn’t know, shared nudes of people, mostly in a bid to shame someone they had a falling out with, on social media and even though I wasn’t involved in the sharing and spread of these things, not calling them out equally made me a part of this and I wish I had done better. So know what to do and rightfully call them out for their cowardice. Also, the rape jokes are not just jokes and whatever a woman is wearing or wherever she is does not make her deserving of such wickedness. It is quite sad a while back, I thought a woman going back home with a man from the club or something automatically meant she was there for that and probably deserved it. That is not the case however, as people are being raped in the church and three month old babies are being raped for just existing. Thank God I unlearned such a dangerous opinion. You should also know that you should not empathize with victims only because it could be your sister, wife or daughter but because she is simply human and that should be enough to get her respected.
Son, as you grow you may have your dream board with your goals and maybe in your personal life you may want to have to have a wife and children too. Whenever l think about that aspect of my life , l tell myself l would want God to bless me with just male children. For a long time if anyone asked me why, l would say l was quite a sassy little girl with an attitude who had a smart mouth and l don’t think l can handle a little version of that or even a double of it. The truth is son, l am afraid I may not be able to fully protect a girl child. I do not know where she can go, that my heart can be at peace, that she will be truly safe, neither at church, nor at school or the workplace, in a niqab or a diaper, we have to walk around with a sixth sense.
Son, way before l met your dad, to get out of a potentially dangerous situation. I used “the l have a boyfriend” card even when l was not dating because more often than not, these men were willing to back off and respect another man they have not met than the answer NO. Even that is not enough.
Son there is so much to say , we would have to share in another letter to you.