We Need To Talk: Rape Culture in Enugu

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Ndi Enugu, kee way? I’ve called a family meeting to discuss a topic we’ve avoided for far too long.
On November 19, 2017, Enugu hosted its 3rd PhynoFest at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium and featured several of Nigeria’s top performing artistes. That night, a video surfaced where D’banj halted his performance halfway to rescue a young woman who had just been sexually assaulted.
That was just the beginning.

On November 20th, at least 20 girls were allegedly raped at the second half of the 2-day concert. The twitter user who revealed this information sparked both outrage and a heavy backlash. Her story was corroborated by a few other attendees, and even Phyno admitted on Twitter that there had been assaults due to issues with security. Yet many people preferred to believe it was a smear campaign and vilified the persons who exposed the incident.
Fast forward to March 31st, 2018, the day of Flavour’s concert at Okpara Square, Enugu. This time the details were more explicit; the rapists were said to be playing with their victims’ underwear. The Enugu State Police command stated on the 2nd of April that they were investigating the allegations and had a suspect in custody. On the 4th of April, the police seemingly concluded said investigation by dismissing the story as tales spread by mischief makers. That is apparently how long it takes to investigate a rape case in Enugu. Two days.

Enugu, we have a problem. The problem is called rape culture. Yes, I said it. This is no time for political correctness.
Rape culture doesn’t mean that such violence is a thing of honor in our community. Rape culture refers to the stereotypes, the attitudes and norms that provide an enabling environment for sexual abuse to thrive. Rape culture is when all the blame is heaped on the victims and the perpetrators are exonerated, even supported by the society. Questions like ‘what was she wearing, ‘good girls don’t go outside at night’, ‘men can’t be raped’; these are the little things that encourage rapists and silence victims.
This is not a conclusion drawn solely from the three concert incidents. The rates of different forms of sexual abuse in Enugu are astonishingly high. Astonishing, because you would never suspect such a dark, sordid secret to be festering beneath Enugu’s placid, charming exterior. Such things can’t happen here.

But they do. Between 2014 and 2016, Enugu State alone recorded 472 cases of rape, defilement, sexual assault and domestic violence. Female child rape accounted for 6.6% of gynaecological emergencies in ESUT Teaching Hospital in 2015, and since rape is a severely under-reported crime, only God knows how many more children are actually affected. There are also the issues of sexual harassment in universities, dating violence, and the rape of male children by househelps.
Enugu, this is a huge problem. How do we begin tackling it, individually and collectively?
Well first of all, we need to actually talk about it. Most people know next to nothing about sexual abuse.
We need to talk about sexual abuse in its various forms. We need to understand that ANYONE can be a victim. Even old people. Even reverend sisters. Even men. We need to learn how harmful stereotypes and rape myths can eventually endanger the people in our lives. We need to know about early warning signals of abusive people, how to identify perpetrators etc. We need to discuss the effects of sexual abuse on the victims, and how to care for them. We need to discuss rape as a criminal offence that needs to be treated with the same gravity as an armed robbery case. We need to discuss strategies for defending ourselves, and helping our friends and family. We need to talk about how to safeguard our children at school and at home.

We need to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions about our attitudes towards the opposite sex. We need to understand that no matter how defensive some men may get, sexual abuse is a gendered crime due to the patriarchal nature of our society.
Silence is too expensive. We need these conversations in order to upgrade our knowledge of sexual abuse, challenge wrong assumptions and foster positive changes. Enugu has a reputation for being the safest place in the South East. We cannot keep that reputation by pretending everything’s fine when our girls cannot even go to support their favourite musicians without harassment.
If you are interested in learning more about sexual abuse, how to help victims, basic safety measures and other related topics, watch this space and tweet with the hashtag #WeNeedToTalk042. We intend to keep this conversation going both online and offline. Alternatively follow accounts such as @StandtoEndRape and @DSVRT for short tips on sexual and domestic violence.
Thanks for listening.

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