By – JamylahYusuf
The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in the times of moral crisis Dante Algheri
Sexual harassment is a topic a lot of people approach with fear, bias, insincerity or all of the aforementioned. Wikipedia defines sexual harassment as bullying or coercion of a sexual nature or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours.
Despite the existence of laws on outright sexual harassment and abuse, these laws do not generally take into cognizance simple teasing, offhand comments, or minor isolated incidence. Basically, a general civility code does not exist. This has afforded a lot of acts, statements and even body contact that should pass for sexual harassment the opportunity of being pushed under the carpet as normal or expected behaviors especially if the situation involves a female who is an employee of a male employer or a female who has lesser authority than the male who is taking advantage of his authority.
Sexual abuse could be either by a male to a female or a female to a male. Although the former is more prevalent than the latter. This, however, does not undermine the grievous nature of the offence. Sexual abuse regardless of who the offender is or the victim is should be treated for what it is. A callous act by a human on another human. Sexual abuse can range from mild transgression to actual rape. This doesnt make one a lesser abuse in any way.
Worse than the actual abuse or rape is the rape culture prevalent in a lot of cultural societies like Nigeria and India. Rape most times is about power and its abuse or trust and its abuse. Studies have shown that in most rape cases, the victim is remotely related to the offender or the offender is someone with an authority over the victim. Other times, the offender is someone with the ability to endanger the victims’ life upon the victims’ refusal. An example is an uncle of the victim if remotely related. A lecturer of a student, if the relationship is that of authority over the victim or an armed robber and a victim.
The appalling thing about sexual abuse in cultural societies like Nigeria is how the victims are hushed. Most times, the offenders get to roam the street in the glory of their crime and the victim hides in shame for fear of further victimization. Rape or sexual abuse is not an urgent and unexpected sexual desire that needs to be satisfied otherwise putting the offender at the risk of having exploded balls. No, in fact, most times it is premeditated and calculated.
As put by Amaka Okafor-Vanni in her article for Nigerians talk; sexual abuse from most Nigerians point of view is a girls or womans punishment for wishing to be independent. For daring the status quo, the societal power dynamics. When people excuse rape by blaming it on the victims dress, or excuse the abuse of a woman by blaming her going to a mans office then they are doing nothing but tolerating rape thereby making them accomplices to the offence.
The worst of rape culture happens in Nigerian universities where victims of sexual harassment are bullied to silence for fear of not graduating at their appointed time for fear of being labelled a liar for lack of evidence. Most times these victims, are caught unawares and do not even have the time or opportunity to gather enough evidence to support their allegation so they would rather be quiet than start what they cannot finish. Unfortunately, the victims are more often than not respected personalities of the university. So it is most times, the word of a mere student against the words of a respected university Doctor or Professor. Until this rape culture comes to an end, unless more people are willing to stand in support of the victim and not in glorification of the offender, or help in the disguise of the offender, we cannot claim to be a civil society with respect for human rights.
It is my fervent plea to all those that come across this article to stand firm against sexual offenders. They are the ones who should hide their faces in shame and not their victims. If you find yourself for any reason whatsoever trying to excuse or trivialize sexual harassment, then it is time to look inward, to really assess yourself and probably answer questions that bother on the existence of an unleashed sexual offender in you. Most importantly is the statement of Dante that; the darkest place in hell is reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. So you apparently cannot be on the fence when it comes to sexual abuse. It is either you are the offender or the victim.