When we speak about sexual assault and rape in Lagos in public spaces, without fail, the #NotAllMen brigade appear first to derail the conversation by suggesting that men get raped too, second to suggest the numbers are not as pervasive as victims and their allies suggest and third (and these are the worst off the bunch) to blame victims for somehow inviting rape/assault upon themselves through some innocuous action.
It is tiring to have to constantly explain why victims need to be protected and stronger laws need to be put in place to ensure that rape/assault doesn’t happen in the first place.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is finally listening. However the circumstances that have forced him to give a public statement on the widespread assault over the last year in Lagos aren’t the kind that allow for any kind of gloating.
The death of a 14-year-old Junior Secondary School (JSS) student, Obiamaka Orakwue, from violent rape in the last week of July 2017 and the mass rape of secondary school girls that occurred outside a secondary school in Ikoyi on the 3rd of May 2017 were reasons the governor cited during the public presentation of a report titled “ Rape: Breaking the silence and saving lives”, commissioned by the Mirabel Centre, the first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Nigeria, to mark its fourth anniversary.
In this report, the Mirabel Centre records show that it had 574 recorded cases of sexual assault and rape between June 2016 – June 2017, and a total of 2342 client in the four years the centre has been active. That’s about 500 recorded cases each year, and the Mirabel Centre’s records are only a small fraction of reported cases and an even tinier fraction of all rape/assault cases in Lagos as reports suggest that as little as 1 in 20 assault cases get reported to any kind of constituted authority. The numbers if you extrapolate, are terrifying.
Ambode (represented by the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Lola Akande) has promised however to press the Federal government to give more stringent laws to punish rape and sexual assault and protect the rights of victims. The Lagos state government is already doing some of the work through the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSRVT) (which has existed in some form since the 80’s but was only given proper teeth in 2015), providing much needed legal aid and mental health counseling to victims.
With the cumulative efforts of NGO’s like the Mirabel Centre (far easier to approach that government institutions), the DSVRT Lagos (which provide much needed muscle to help at risk victims of rape and assault) and better laws, we might be able to deter people from taking advantage of at-risk women and children.
And just maybe, we might get the casual rape apologists to change as well.