What Did She Do?
Put Her Rapist Uncle in Jail
From Victim to Victor: Life is funny. Sometimes, it brings these very unfortunate events that completely change the course of our lives for the worst, or for the better (if you are so lucky). I was not one of the lucky ones. I was only 11 years old. I don’t remember much about what life was at that age. My parents were both bankers. They lived very busy lives and I barely saw them at home during the weekdays. We had a nanny who took care of myself and my younger brother. She was an elderly woman. She would come pick us from school every afternoon, help us with lunch, homework and dinner, and just when my Mum or Dad woud return from work, she would go back home to her family. My uncle came from the village to visit my parents that week. He was a highly revered clergyman in the family. A ‘spiritual leader’ who was rumored to have been the one who 'broke the yolk' of barrenness in my mother before she gave birth to me. My mum was so happy to welcome him. It was like the king was visiting. “Samantha, hug your daddy now”, Mummy said as she welcomed him that evening. A weird looking man with grey hair, a giant pot belly and an awkward smell. I quickly ran to my room and went to bed. Who would have thought that would have been the last time I would go to bed with my innocence? The next day after school, Nanny Mercy picked us up, served us lunch and helped with our homework as usual. We were waiting for Mum or Dad to come back home when the Reverend came back home. Relieved that it was not going to be another long night of waiting, Nanny Mercy tucked me and my brother into bed and said farewell. I had barely been asleep for thirty minutes when I felt the weight of somebody over me. It was the Reverend. I did not understand what was going on. “Naughty girl” he said with a demonic look in his eyes. I was filled with fear and started crying. I still did not understand what was going on, until he tried to place his lips on mine. I was just 11 years old. I screamed for my mother and he covered my face with his huge hands. I could not breathe. I kept struggling to breathe and trying to push him back with my little, powerless hands, as he tore my clothes off my body. I could not see anymore with all the tears in my eyes, when I felt a sharp pain in my privates, it was like I was being stabbed. I was in so much pain. I could not understand why this was happening to me. I thought I was going to pass out but I didn’t, all I did was cry for my Mum. When the terror finally came to an end, I was already so numb I did not move. He walked out of the room and came back a few minutes later with a towel and began to clean me up. My body burnt as he did. I was still in a state of shock. Just before he walked out of the room he said “Not a word from this to anyone, or I would do something spiritual to you that you would never forget. Remember I am a man of God”. I do not know what scared me more, the fact that he had just defiled me or that I thought he actually had the power to harm me ‘spiritually’. Whatever it was, I never spoke a word about that night to anyone. I held it in and tried to wipe it off my memory, until one day, I just had enough.
How Did She Do it?
Alone and Fearlessly Seeking Justice
From Victim to Victor: It was about 7 years after the incident. I had managed to go through life without telling anyone this sad secret. Not even my best friends. But I never forgot about it. It haunted me for years. My dear Aunt was going to get married. We had just arrived at the venue when I saw him. He looked the exact same way. Only more disgusting. “Samantha, hug your uncle now”, Mother started again. “I WILL NOT!” I screamed so loudly to the hearing of people around. I walked away from the scene as tears started to form in my eyes. I could hear my mother frantically apologizing to him. I stayed in the car for the rest of the wedding. I did not want to see that man’s face again. On the ride home, my Mother and Father kept going on and on about how I embarrassed them. “He raped me! That man raped! I was just 11!” I screamed in deep agony. It was as if years of suppressed anguish came gushing out my eyes as I cried. My parents were in shock and didn’t say a word the rest of the drive home. I expected them to say or do something about it, but nothing happened. The first day passed, then the second day. By the third day, I was so perplexed, I barged into my parents’ room and demanded answers. “Samantha, are you sure?”, “This is a powerful man of God”, “What do you want us to do?”, they asked as I demanded help and answers. I was in a state of shock. In that moment, I knew I was all alone, but I vowed that I would get my justice even if it took me years to.
When I was 26, I had finally got to the point in my life where I could file a law suit against him. It took 3 years of back and forth with the Nigerian legal system, a severed relationship with my parents and the rest of my extended family who were against my actions, over a million Naira in legal fees, and a traumatizing testimony on the witness stand, but it was all worth it when the judge called the verdict. “Guilty”. The reverend was going to spend the rest of his life in jail. Of course, getting justice did not change anything, but it made me feel justified and free. That was enough.
A Moment That Tested Her
Living with The Trauma
From Victim to Victor: There is nothing worse than being raped. I still cannot think about that moment without the trauma. I pray no one ever has to go through what I did. It is a wound that just would not heal.
Her Eureka Moment?
Returning the Shame Back to the Offender
From Victim to Victor: I had been living in fear and disgrace all those years I refused to speak up about being raped. I just did not want to live with the stigma and sympathy that came along with being a rape victim. I hid it because it embarrassed me. But, when my parents failed to fight for me, because they were also ashamed, it was like a bomb went off in me. I could either choose to live my life in shame, or put the shame back where it belonged, with the offender. He will spend the rest of his life in jail carrying his shame, not me. I had been living in fear and disgrace all those years I refused to speak up about being raped. I just did not want to live with the stigma and sympathy that came along with being a rape victim anymore. I decided that I could either choose to live my life in shame, or put the shame back where it belonged. He will spend the rest of his life in jail carrying his shame, not me.
What She Learnt
From Victim to Victor:
A lot of victims of rape are living in silence because of the shame of being a victim. I just want the strong women and girls who are dying in silence to speak up. Please find the strength to speak up. When you speak up and stand your ground, you will put the shame back where it belongs.
Are you or anyone you know staying silent on a case of rape or sexual violence? Speak up about it! Reach out any of the following centres helping women who have faced sexual violence:
Project Alert on Violence Against Women
17/21 Akinsanya Street off Isheri Road,
Telephone: 234-1-8209387; 08052004698; 08180091072
26 Bamenda Street, Off Abidjan Street, Wuse Zone 3
Media Concern Initiative
15A Bolodeoku Crescent, Dideolu Estate
By Sweet Sensation, Ijaiye Road,
Tel: 01-8944915, 08058208164
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre
Department of Family Medicine
Lagos State University Teaching Hospital
Ikeja-Lagos Tel: 08056268573
Office of the Public Defender
Lagos State Ministry of Justice
2/8 Iyun Street (Barracks Bus-stop)
By National Stadium
Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs
Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa-Ikeja
Child Abuse Help Lines: 08085753932, 08102678442
Women Empowerment and Legal Aid
25, Adekunle Fajuyi Way,
GRA Ikeja, Lagos.
08021063232, 08120799122, 08058143602
Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC
9B James Oluleye Crescent
Off Adeniyi Jones Street, Ikeja-Lagos
Domestic And Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Lagos State.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotlines: 112 , 08056268573 , 07080601080 , 08085754226 , 07032165181, 08137960048.
Where to report: Police Stations with Special Family Units
Adeniji Adele – 0810-498-2245
Isokoko – 08081774694
Ilupeju – 08033137432
Panti – 0807-440-8863
Office of the Public Defender – 0708-0601-080
Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation – 0808-575-4226
Ministry of Justice – 0703-837-9705
Your voice may save the next girl’s life.