Earlier this year, the Lagos State Police Command arrested a 27- year old man for allegedly raping a nine-month-old baby.
The man was said to have snuck into the apartment while the baby’s mother went out and penetrated the child. Before the mother’s return, he ran away from the scene but was later arrested.
Yet cases like this one are not new. In 2018, 13-year Ochanya Ogbanje was reportedly raped by Andrew Ogbuja, her relative.
Unlike other victims who survived their ordeal, Ochanya died on October 17 2018, just two months after she was rushed to the hospital due to complications from injuries sustained during her abuse.
A Makurdi High Court curiously freed Ogubuja, while his wife was sentenced to five months imprisonment for keeping quiet about the matter since the victim lived with them.
Cases like this embolden perpetrators and make victims unable to speak up.
Living with the Trauma
Cynthia (not her real name) was five years old when her Neighbour started touching her private parts. He would treat her to cookies and sweets and would put on cartoons for her to watch.
This kept on for years.
“Maybe I would have forgotten my experience if it stopped when I was still very little,” Cynthia said. “I have the exact images of all that he did to me in my head. He did not rape me at the beginning. All he would do is remove my underpants and ask me to play husband and wife with him,” Cynthia recalled bitterly.
Her molester, who moved into their compound as an NYSC Corp member and stayed back after his service year, gained the trust of Cynthia’s parents by offering her free lessons. Her mother, a trader, had no problem letting her go to his house for the classes.
When Cynthia realised what he was doing to her and said she would tell her mum, he threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
“He raped and almost killed me because I was tired of being scared of his threats and told him I would tell my mother. I remember him dragging me forcefully, slapping, and laying on me,” Cynthia said.
Due to her injuries, Cynthia’s mother later discovered what was happening, but that wasn’t before her molester had run off, never to be seen by her family again.
Cynthia still lives with this pain, which she said makes her feel filthy and undeserving of love and marriage.
She still lives with the injuries of the incident, an experience she said she doesn’t wish on a sworn enemy.
Like Cynthia, regardless of the time they are abused, most rape victims face a battle with themselves that sometimes go on for the rest of their lives.
A study on child rape revealed that victims grow a mental scar that could go on to affect their future interpersonal or heterosexual relationships.
Also, some victims experience frustration in their marriage, rejection, and disappointments, primarily due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD that comes with the incident.
Like in the case of Ochanya, prosecution of rape cases are challenging, and convictions have been low. According to data from NAPTIP, there were only 32 rape convictions between 2019 and 2020; this is despite UNICEF saying they were 11,200 reported cases of rape in 2020 alone.
With the slow judicial process taking years, there have been those who have called for establishing a special court to try cases of sexual abuse, an innovation Lagos State has adopted.
But while other states drag their foot, victims of sexual continue to wake up daily with the realisation that their abusers will most likely walk free and seek other prey.