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Sexual Assault, Depression And Human Rights. Blessing Aseminaso

Mary-Ann, a tall, fair- complexioned damsel who prefers to be called “Annie” by friends  resides with her mum in Owerri.

The Owerri Polytechnic fresher, aged 18, who is a beauty to behold  is the beloved child of Charity Okafor, a single mum and retired primary school teacher, known for her brilliancy as evident in the multiple awards won in various competitions while in secondary school.

 Annie was only 4 years old when her dad abandoned her and her mum to start up a new family, leaving them with no form of support. Growing up as a child wasn’t rosy for poor Annie.

This influenced her negatively towards the opposite sex, resulting in her snobbish  attitude. Annie had a compulsory evaluation test to write in school by 8:00am on Monday and hurriedly left home. Not too long, afterwards it began to rain cat and dog.

Annie, who had dropped from a taxi without an umbrella had to seek shade in a mini market few  to the school gate. Aware of the consequences of missing her test, she stood close to the door with her eyes popping while she focused confusedly at the heavy rain which seemed not to stop anytime soon.

“Hello dear”, a young dark looking man, smiling and neatly dressed in designer clothings called out to Annie, “Can I help you?” she replied in a harsh tone “You look worried”, he said, “Do you need a ride?” “No thanks”, she immediately responded. “I’m actually driving into school, I could give you a lift if you want. I just want to help”, he reacted.

After a few seconds pondering  whether or not to accept the offer. Annie accepted and was driven to her department by the stranger in a Toyota Highlander.

“Thank you” she said, as she hurriedly jumps out of the car (before he could introduce himself) running towards the lecture hall. Two weeks later, they coincidentally meet at the school library “Hi, remember me?” she asked. “Oh yes! The one I gave a lift the other day. How have you been?” he asked. By the way, I’m Nathan and you are?” “Annie”, she replied as they shook hands and exchanged contacts, and soon, became close friends with Nathan assisting mostly in her studies.

One fateful day, Annie received a call from Nathan who claimed to be ill from malaria and typhoid and needed her assistance in getting some prescribed drugs from a pharmacy. Naive Annie, out of pitty hurried into a taxi to his home, but was shocked to see him in good condition, well sitted on his couch while he focused on the television, with a glass of what seems to be alcohol in his hand.

“What’s the meaning of this? Thought you said you were ill”, she asked angrily. Nathan who was on a short and white singlet, stood up and tried to grope her but received a hot slap in return.

Not too long, two haggard looking guys entered the room pointing a gun at Annie. “You slapped my boss?” said one, and immediately, Annie began to shiver. “Please don’t hurt me” she said with tears rolling down her eyes. “I Love you Annie, and I want you”, said Nathan as he fiddles her all over. “But you are my friend, how can you do this”, she asked vibrating in fear. Nathan who was already naked, forced himself into Annie while his boys watched and captured the action on their phones.

Heartbroken Annie was later released to go home after being threatened of an upload of the video on social media, should anyone hear the incident.

“What have I done?” she asked herself quietly on her bed soaked in tears. “I have been defiled and derailed by someone I trusted. I can never forgive myself. I’ve disappointed my poor mum. What if he posts the video on social media or the school’s site? What will people say? What if he’s infected? What if I get pregnant? People would laugh at me for the rest of my life. Oh God, maybe I should just end my life to avoid this shame I’ve brought upon myself”, she says  as she stirs at a bottle of snipper insecticide kept at a corner of her room.

This story depicts the startling occurrence of sexual assault in our society. All over the world sexual violence has continued infringe on the human rights of women and female children thus endangering their lives. Statistics by the United Nations posits that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence by a non partner at some point in their lives.

Sexual assault entails any nonconsensual sexual act that violates the sexual integrity and safety of the victims, as in the case of rape, incest, sexual harassment, child abuse, forcible Sodomy, etc.

In Nigeria today, we continue to battle the increasing number of such cases with children and adolescents constituting a higher percent of the victims. In 2018, Lagos State alone recorded a total of 3,089 rape and domestic violence cases by the State Domestic Sexual Violence Responds Team (DSVRT) in eight months, which brings the reality of the intense rate of the aforementioned abuse home for all especially, if one was to compute the total statistics or figures of such occurrence in every state of the nation.

Although, thousands of such cases are said to have been recorded, it is vital to note that a majority still go unreported by victims due to fear of stigmatisation and prejudice by members of the society. Justice most times, is also not been served for most reported cases as stories of a successful prosecution of perpetrators are hard to come by.

An example is the case of a 13-year-old girl, Elizabeth Ochanya, who allegedly suffered sexual assaults from father and son in Makurdi, Benue State and lost her life from complications of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF), that broke the media in 2018, with many human rights activists seeking justice for her departed soul. Nevertheless, swift prosecution of the perpetrators is yet to be executed.

Other cases have also been recorded of perpetrators of such crimes been released based on lack of evidence or inability of the victim to afford the needed prerequisites to obtain justice.   

It is vital to note that for the purpose of sound health and mind, medical and professional help is imperative for such victims as it could result in  physical and psychological effects like depression, sexual transmitted diseases, severe anxiety, self blame, substance abuse, suicide, anti-social behaviours etc.

Research has proven that psychological effect amidst the negative aftermaths of sexual assault, constitutes a major treat to victims. This is confirmed in a report on sexual violence by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) that “the deepest wound for a sexual violence survivor are often the ones that are visible, with the trauma having long lasting effects on a person’s ability to function and carry on with their lives”.

Cases like depression or post traumatic stress disorder resulting from rape, has the ability to complicate the life of the victim through aggressive tendencies, drug or alcohol abuse, and in some cases, memory impairment, which is why the fight to curb such menace must be taken seriously.

Psychological support (counseling) aimed at reducing the impact of trauma related to such violence is therefore vital.

It is also imperative that sexual assault victims be encouraged to speak out boldly in order to gain a voice for the possible prosecution of perpetrators which would in turn help in the reduction and prevention of others from been victims.

Recently, the commendable rise in the advocacy of human rights (to end sexual violence), through various support groups like #Metoo Movement, Stand To End Rape, Women at Risk International Foundation amongst others, demonstrates the intense quest for “change” by reasonable citizens who have had enough of the insane act, and are determined to work towards the reduction, if not eradication of such assaults and to ensure identified victims get justice.

It is very important however, to note that the purpose of the aforementioned advocacy can mainly be achieved with all hands on deck, not only to the NGOs.

A woman’s body is not a playground, and as such must be respected. As a society, we must join forces to exhibit zero tolerance for such acts by making sure adequate punishment are meted out to perpetrators.

The government must apply strict and swift measures in the enforcement of human right laws, as well as provide adequate help for victims. The media must also be actively involved using their agenda setting, to give prominence to the subject matter. Women should also note the importance of been friendly but with caution. Together, we must in one voice take action and ensure Nigeria becomes a better and safer place for our women and children.

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