By Dame Julie Okah Donli
Incest is one form of sexual abuse that most people often overlook and shy away from talking about. How abominable it sounds to my ears when I listen to young girls and even boys narrate how they were raped by their fathers, uncles, aunties and other family relations. Before I go into practical cases, like I always like to do, let me quickly define incest. Incest is any sexual activity between family members or close relatives. In other words, all sexual activity between people with blood ties (consanguinity) including those related by affinity (marriage or step family), adoption, clan, or lineage. This definition is all encompassing because I have heard many people say “oh, she is an adopted child, so if her step father rapes her, it is not incest” you can imagine my reaction when I hear such things. I feel disgusted, absolute disgust.
Not quite long ago, I participated in a round table discussion organized by the Association of Nigerian Female Students and one of the guest speakers narrated to us how she was handling an incest case involving a twelve-year-old child who was severally raped by her biological father and contracted genital warts in the process. This is not the end; she has to undergo surgery to reconstruct her vagina. How pathetic!
There are lots of unprintable incest cases that happen daily and funny enough, these abominable acts are being swept under the carpet by people who ought to take on the roles of parents and guardians. Incest is one scourge that proves that how a girl is dressed is not an excuse for her to be raped. Many rape apologists make excuses for rapist by saying women and girls are raped because of the indecent dresses they wear. And then I begin to wonder, how in the world can your daughter’s mode of dressing arouse you as a father? If it is about dressing, how come babies and infants also get raped? What did infant victims do to unleash the monster in paedophiles? Well, this is a topic for another day. Incest on its own is already a big topic, adding paedophile to it makes it overwhelming.
Many fathers, uncles, brothers, nephews etc. have cajoled and threatened their victims into silence and some mothers have aided and abetted this crime just for the sake of protecting their marriages.
There is the case of a girl who was sexually molested by her father who threatened to shoot her with a gun any time she opened up to anyone about what he was doing to her.
The cases are so many and a lot of persons need to be given a voice because the society and the so called family integrity keep drowning their voices. When it happens in other places, people are quick to speak out and condemn the act but when it happens in their families, they cover up and use emotional and psychological blackmail to manipulate the victim into silence.
Another trend in incest is that fathers go as far as giving their children contraceptives to prevent pregnancy so that they can always have unlimited access to them. These things are happening and nobody is saying anything about it because everyone wants to look the other way and allow people to settle their family issues.
As if the sacrilege committed by some fathers is not enough, mothers have also received the baton by helping their daughters procure abortions to conceal the incest that happens right under their noses. This is one ugly trend that we should nip in the bud. We cannot pretend not to notice that many mothers accompany their daughters and wards to the hospital so that the illegitimate seeds planted by their husbands are terminated just so they can maintain their marriage and so called family name.
Recently, there has been a lot of advocacy on the need for parents to have sex discussions with their children. Everybody is lending their voices on the need for parents to have sex education with their children but we neglect the fact that sex education can also be done with negative intentions. Oh yes! These things are happening right under our noses. The fact remains that when I write, I do so from a truckload of experience. As a lawyer, administrator, former Director General of one of the most crucial and specialized agencies in this country and as a human rights activist, I have had the opportunity to interact with people from different walks of life. For instance, we once had the case of a girl who said her parents had have lots of sex education talks with them and because she got so used to having them discuss such things with her, she didn’t suspect a thing when her father decided to start having such personal discussions with her. It was during the course of this discussion that her father deceived her and molested her. He told her he needed to have sex with her so that making love to her husband when she eventually gets married wouldn’t be difficult. Young, naïve and innocent, the little girl who had no reason to doubt her father gave in and that marked the beginning of a series of sexual molestation by her father.
These real-life stories go on and on and I know that there are several people out there who have stories to share but they cannot due to fear and the stigma associated with this experience. A lot of people who had such traumatic childhood experiences end up depressed and suicidal with very low self-esteem and until we begin to also address this issue like we are doing to other forms of abuse, we may be building the society on faulty foundation.
If you are ready to speak up and have any of such experience, please contact us at the Roost Foundation now.