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Is the Rape Crisis in Nigeria So Helpless?

June 15, 2020

Writer Dr Fisayomi Aturamu shares heartfelt thoughts about the rape crisis in Nigeria

Woman with head in her hands - in distress from an assault - rape crisis in Nigeria

All too often on social media and the news, the cries of rape seem to be louder and more frequent.  

Unfortunately, rape is a topic we must continue talking about until we overcome the rape culture in Nigeria.

We often wonder – why does rape continue to happen?

Why Society Tolerates Rape

 I have not been able to get a satisfactory answer, and I doubt I would ever get one. But what I do know is that a lot of people rape because they know they would get away with it. 

This is why we cannot afford to shut up about rape.

Rape is a menace to society.

It was Uwa in Benin last week, Barakat in Ibadan the other day and tomorrow it could be me, Fisayo in Ado-Ekiti.  

If one is not a direct victim, it might be your loved one – your sister, your cousin, your daughter, your niece, your best friend, your colleague, your mother, or your spouse.

This is how personal pain and trauma can be.  

Who Should Stop Rape

It is about us – our community and our humanity. 

We are all involved because the perpetrators and victims are part of us.

You do not have to be a victim of rape to speak up. 

Rape is a crime, and your silence is complicit; the face of injustice is complacency.   

Do not blame anyone for speaking out because they are taking responsibility to stop the culture of rape. 

Indeed, they are taking responsibility for a better community and society.

To protect you, your sisters, your daughters, your cousins, your nieces, your aunts, your wives, your friends and neighbours, and fellow human beings with rights just like you, from sexual predators. 

So please, together, let us say ‘never again’ now – because if not now, when; and if not you, who? 

Most people do not acknowledge their rape experience – if ever.

This is because of the stigma that society attaches to it. 

Because – despite the mental and physical torture the individual goes through, they still have to deal with thoughts of ‘what would people say?’.

Rape Misconceptions

She Didn’t Run

Why didn’t you run? You did not because you wanted it.

Fact: Often, victims of rape do not physically resist because they’re unconscious, really scared or unable to move.  

A 2017 study involving women visiting an emergency rape clinic in Stockholm revealed that 70% of the women reported significant tonic immobility.

Tonic immobility means a temporary and involuntary paralysis of the body resulting from intense fear.

These ladies DID NOT consent. 

Thus, their bodies responded biologically to a threat. Therefore, no one deserves blame.

for not fighting off their rapist hard enough.[1]

It only happens to Women

Only women and girls can be sexually assaulted.

Fact: A lot of men have been sexually abused as children or raped as adults, but unfortunately, a lot do not view it as rape.

You should not be surprised to learn male sexual assault is part of the rape crisis in Nigeria. In conservative societies like this, men reporting rape are few and far between.

Only Strangers Rape

Most rapists are strangers.

Fact: Rape and sexual assault are more likely to occur at home and perpetuated by someone familiar.[2]

Only about 10% of rape is committed by strangers.[3]

A prior relationship means it’s not really rape

It is not rape if you have had sex with a person before.

Fact: Every individual has the sole right over their body. They can give or withdraw consent at any time.

No need to Teach Kids about Sex Abuse

Children do not need to know about child sexual abuse and would be scared if spoken to about it.

Fact: It is essential to teach children about body autonomy, consent, and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches. [4]

 Do not shush them when they come to you with questions about their body parts and sex. Teach them to name body parts appropriately.

Actions to Stop The Rape Crisis In Nigeria

We need to break the silence surrounding rape, and this starts with every individual.   

Do better, be better.   

If you are out and you see someone being assaulted, don’t just look away. Try to intervene and report the situation. 

I’m sure you would want someone to do the same for you if you were in that situation. 

Rape is a crime of violence that involves the violation of an individual.

Do not make excuses for rapists.

Rapists thrive on the fact that there is a lot of silence and stigma associated with rape.

Therefore, it is vitally important to keep having these discussions to stop the stigma.

Children are being molested and raped, as well. 

Consequently, it is crucial to have conversations about sex and rape in an age-appropriate manner with children regardless of their gender.   

Sex education is incomplete without teaching about consent.

What Else We Should Do

I believe that parents must establish a good rapport with their children and friends with each other.   

Rape victims do not tell of their experiences most times because they feel no one would believe them. 

Be a person of integrity that the next individual can count on. 

Protect your neighbours and friends. If you want to address the rape crisis in Nigeria, do not cover up for rapists or be a rape apologist.

Protection for Children

As a parent or someone around kids, if you have an opportunity to educate children about sex, do not focus on one gender while leaving out the other.

This is because children are like sponges and are generally usually curious.

 If you give off a vibe that a man can always get what he wants, little boys are likely to pick that up.  

There have been reported cases of children or teenagers raping other younger children. 

Therefore, no child should be left out of sex education while emphasising consent.  

Twenty-three per cent (23 %) of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18. [4]

Always pay attention to children around you and teach them body autonomy by letting them know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. 

Allow them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways, such as politely refusing hugs and saying no to suggestive touching. 

Especially as this could be a red flag whenever they do not want to be touched by a particular person. [4]

Teach them to know that it is not usual to need help with private body parts or have someone else touch their body parts. 

So, they do not need another adult or older children for help with their private parts. [4]

Local Government

There is a role for traditional and religious leaders. 

They should lead in changing the culture of rape in their community by condemning rape and reporting it (it is a crime) to the Police.

Sadly some are involved in the cover-up of cases, especially when it involves the influential rich and powerful.

To successfully address the rape crisis in Nigeria, cover-ups should be challenged.

Both formal and informal leaders can help grow a culture where sexual assault is not covered up,m even in families.

Civil Society, Police, Schools and Legislators?

Our laws must contain unambiguous (straightforward) and severe sanctions against rape.   

Civil society should work with community leaders, student groups, and other stakeholders to intensify campaigns against rape. 

Our school curriculum should include and introduce sex education as age-appropriate content starting from early education.  

The Police must recognise that rape is common in Nigeria.

That it is an appalling violation of human rights and a crime. 

They need to deploy enough resources to Police training, not just in rape-related evidence gathering for prosecution but also in confidentiality and the support for victims of rape.

Key Takeaways

Rape is facilitated by structural and systemic issues that shape our cultural environment.

They are unfair and disproportionately skew power relations in our society.

If we all take action now, we can change these issues. 

We can change the culture of rape by stopping it even before it starts and by severely sanctioning rapists to serve as a deterrent. 

This is the way that we build a better society where women feel safe and continue to contribute much to our economy.

More Reading


  1. Christine Ro, 2018. Why most rape victims never acknowledge what happened. [Accessed 6 June 2020]
  2. Linda Geddes, 2018. Why sexual assault survivors forget details [Accessed 6 June 2020]
  3. Rape Crisis, England & Wales, 2020. About sexual violence. [Accessed 6 June 2020]
  4. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Caring for Kids: What Parents need to know about sexual abuse. [Accessed 6 June 2020]

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us

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