Trauma Warning: this article contains content related to sexual violence, which could be distressing or traumatic for certain readers.
12-year-old Anthonia thought it was a bad dream when a hand groped her body; touched her nipples and vagina every night. A week later, she was raped.
Scared, Anthonia thought it was a monster until her uncle threatened her, “If you ever tell anyone what is going on in this house, I will kill you”
Anthonia Ojenagbon was sent to live with her paternal Uncle in Lagos. Her parents couldn’t afford to train Anthonia and her siblings.
At 40, Anthonia said, “Never in my wildest dream did I think it could have been him because he was my favourite uncle, and I loved him dearly. Apparently, he thought I knew.”
The abuse became a routine in her Uncle’s home
“I became like his alternative sex option, and it continued for six whole years – off and on until I was 18. Whenever he travelled, I was fine, but once he was around, I was not fine.”
The abuse only stopped when she got married and left.
It was the same for then-8-year-oldRaji; she was raped by her maternal Uncle. Even worse, her birth mother was aware and threatened her.
The abuse continued till she was 14-15 years of age. It gave room for 10 other violations; Raji was raped by 10 different men between the ages of 13 to 19 years.
Raji wished dead on herself and said she tried killing herself on five occasions. “I never received any medical or psychosocial support, which later led to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, low self-esteem, emotional and hormonal imbalance, suicidal thoughts, aggressiveness, anger, and failed relationships.”
Anthonia and Raji’s stories tell of the prevalence of rape of female minors in the world. Yet, more than the trauma these victims experience, they are often stigmatized by society.
Adding salt to rape
Studies have shown that survivors of sexual violence areoften condemned and socially excluded. Victims who out their rapist are seen as enemies leading to stigmatization, which itself stops other victims from getting closure and prevents them from seeking help from support structures, worsening mental health.
Some of the weapons used against these victims are to allude that they played a part in their predicament. That they must have done something wrong-worn something short, or said something bad.
For Bethany Rivett, a rapesurvivor, when she told people about what she went through, she was “faced with reactions of utter discomfort. Some people were scared to discuss it; some didn’t make eye contact while others said the necessary things in order to move on and change the conversation.”
Rivette explains that the people didn’t realize how they made her feel and that those reactions gave rise to a strong feeling of shame and embarrassment.
In some cases, people claim that the victim enjoyed the act, which could be a reason for her silence.
Athonia said, “… anybody who says I kept quiet because I was enjoying it does not know what he is saying. Enjoying what! Sex that was introduced to you in a violent way!”
These questions and stigma relish sore memories of the rape. Victims are sometimes traumatized, depressed, and sexually infected. The aftermath effects are physical and physiological.
Healings for victims begin when they are shown love, given support, and protected from abusers.
Professional help is encouraged. A medical practitioner would be able to address physical injuries and potential health risks. A therapist would help them overcome the psychological effects.
Connecting with support services, such as STER (Stand to End Rape) and WARIF (Women at Risk International Foundation), hotlines, and support groups would help create a feeling of acceptance for survivors. These organizations are equipped to provide specialized assistance.