In June 2020, a Twitter user @Doctorr_Bright shared a sad case of rape.
According to him, an 11-year-old boy was brought to his clinic for examination. The mother had discovered maggots coming out of his anus, and as it turned out, a former neighbour of the family had been molesting the boy for three years.
The victim kept it away from his parents because his abuser threatened to kill him. After the neighbour changed residence, he kept coming back to molest the child.
However, the mother realized that her son couldn’t sit properly anymore. He denied injury. So, she did a body check on him while he was sleeping. That was when she learnt of the horrific crisis.
A similar incident happened in Lagos. A 34-year-old trader was arrested for rape, and the victim was a nine-year-old boy.
Mallam Isiaka, the abuser, was said to have raped Christopher through his anus.
Christopher was a primary 1 pupil living with his parents at Coker Alhaja Street, Old Akute Road, Iju.
Sources revealed that Mallam Isiaka was a roadside trader adjacent to where Christopher was living. Apparently, when Christopher’s parents send him to get domestic items (like milk, sugar, and biscuits), Mallam Isiaka would rape him and threatened to murder him if he told anyone.
But unlike Christopher, Olarenwaju Tobiloba was violated by females. He was 16 years old when it happened.
Tobiloba had gone to see his family’s next-door neighbours, a 30-year-old and a 28-year-old, respectively when they overpowered him on their bed. He had put up a fight, but they convinced him that it was a play and offered him a drink.
“They told me that they were playing with me and offered me a malt drink and poured milk into it. They took it too, so I didn’t know what they had in mind. They told me they were playing with me. I took the mixture, not knowing that they had mixed something with it. After some time, I realized that I had become weak to resist anything. They had their way. I was defiled that day. At least, when I came to full knowledge of myself, that was what I noticed.”
Sexual assault and its prevalence in Nigeria
In Nigeria, over 60% of rape victims are toddlers and teenagers. For Males, the statistics range between 3% and 31%. Like Christopher and Tobiloba, studies reveal that 91% of these assaults are often perpetrated by someone the child knows.
However, the victims seldom report it. This is sometimes out of fear or shame. Some do not realize that they have been molested until they are older.
The rise of sexual abuse in various parts of the country is alarming. Yet, not much is reported about the cases of boys who get sodomized by adults.
According to research conducted by UNICEF on the sexual exploitation of boys, many barriers exist as to why men rarely report their sexual. Firstly, societal norms and gender stereotypes play a significant role in discouraging.
Traditional notions of masculinity emphasize strength, invulnerability, and emotional restraint. Men may fear that coming forward about sexual abuse could be perceived as a sign of weakness, undermining their self-image and status within society. This can lead to a reluctance to disclose their experiences, as they may worry about being stigmatized or ridiculed.
Also, there exists a pervasive cultural misconception that men cannot be victims of sexual abuse. This societal bias assumes that men are always willing and eager for sexual encounters, and any instance of unwanted sexual advances is often dismissed or trivialized. As a result, male survivors may internalize this disbelief and be less likely to seek support or report their experiences, contributing to the underreporting.
Psychological factors also contribute to the low reporting of men's sexual abuse. Shame, guilt, and a sense of emasculation can be intense emotions that deter survivors from speaking out.
The trauma associated with sexual abuse can lead to feelings of powerlessness and a distorted perception of self-worth, making it difficult for men to disclose their experiences, even to close friends or family members. This emotional turmoil can prevent them from accessing the necessary resources and support to overcome the aftermath of the abuse.
The ugly aftermath
For some victims and survivors, these effects endure throughout their adult life. Sexual abuse of minors can affect psychological and physical well-being. When asked about the effects of the ordeal, Tobiloba said he got exposed to sex and suffered infections.
“The effect the situation had on me was early exposure to sex. I was curious and started surfing the internet for sex-related activities. Also, I started having some pains, which were later diagnosed as an infection," he said. “I had to start treating infections while learning to control my sexual urges because my libido became high. I have accessed information that I wasn’t meant to have at an early stage of my life, and it had some effects on me till now.’
Some victims or survivors tend to suffer from hyperarousal (easily startled, difficulty with sleep and concentration), the agony of reliving the memory, and emotional effects - such as numbness, fear and shame.
Encouraging men to report their sexual abuse necessitates a comprehensive approach that addresses societal attitudes, institutional support, and psychological barriers.
Societal perceptions of masculinity must evolve to foster an environment where men feel safe expressing vulnerability. Challenging traditional stereotypes that equate strength with silence is crucial.
This can be achieved through targeted awareness campaigns and educational initiatives that emphasize that seeking help is a sign of courage, not weakness.
Also, institutions and support systems must be tailored to meet the needs of male survivors. Providing accessible and sensitive reporting mechanisms, legal protections against discrimination or retaliation, and specialized counselling services can help create an atmosphere of trust and validation.
Law enforcement and legal procedures should undergo training to ensure sensitivity and understanding when handling cases involving male survivors. Anonymous reporting options can also mitigate concerns about stigma or personal safety.
In addition, addressing the psychological barriers that deter men from reporting requires comprehensive mental health support. Offering trauma-informed therapy and establishing peer support networks for male survivors can help them process their experiences and connect with others who have faced similar challenges.
Creating a culture of empathy and validation, both within personal relationships and broader society, can significantly contribute to men feeling empowered to come forward and report their sexual abuse.