Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
Child abuse is an area that retains my concern and advocacy.
Sexual exploitation of children and young persons is, however, yet another taboo topic.
The theme for this article – sexual abuse of a child by a person the child holds in trust – has been in my thoughts for at least a year.
As unconscionable and vulgar as the practice is, children are violated by the very adults familiar to the children.
The abuser could be a parent, sibling, cousin, uncle, aunt, other relatives, family friend, domestic staff or other family staff, a neighbour, or a teacher.
Sometimes, the abuser could be another child, possibly older.
Molestation, rape and incest against the youth do occur within our community.
Each time an adult or authority, on learning of possible violations of a child, rejects or even explains away the criminality, the child loses the confidence to seek redress.
If a child believes adults will blame one for sexual violations one experiences, the child is unlikely to speak out for a long while.
The silence of a child is therefore not proof of non-violation.
Two recent cases that attracted public outcry are:
a. The rape of a two-year old girl by a police officer in Nasarawa State.
b. The molestation of children and teenagers in an orphanage in Lagos by the male operator of the home.
The sickening case of sexual abuse of a child worsens with incest.
In 2002, I learnt of appalling incest of a neighbour against his daughter whom I shall identify as Maryam.
The incest had continued for a long while before my intervention.
The immediate elder sister of the abused girl refused to cooperate with her father’s indefensible sexual demands.
One need not ask how he treated her. – With indescribable contempt.
To escape her father, she eventually moved in as a home assistant with another family.
To retain the compliance of Maryam, that vile man used to lavish items on her: wrist watch, cash, biscuits, and so on.
Of course, I could not bring myself to ask Maryam of the circumstances. I had to wait for some other occasion.
That occasion arrived one evening when I paused to exchange pleasantries with a credible neighbour.
As she was involved in attempts to resolve the incest, she confirmed its occurrence and bemoaned the persistence of the incestuous father.
When she and others had intervened, he pleaded he would change. He claimed he had a wet dream and rolled over on Maryam and penetrated her.
The resolution led to his renting a two-room apartment, an improvement from the one-room residence he shared with his children.
My neighbour-friend felt that would end the incest.
It did not.
After hearing the confirmation of the inexcusable sexual abuse, I had to wait again, for the most elder sister to visit her family.
In the meantime, I ensured Maryam felt loved.
I had always paid attention to her. I simply increased that interest.
Soon the eldest sibling came to visit and I called her and Maryam to a meeting.
The eldest was unaware of her father’s atrocious abuses, and without elaborating on the case, I advised her to remove Maryam from that apartment.
My plea was that the father was an obstruction to Maryam’s progress and should she not leave that house she may not complete her education.
Maryam was a 19 year-old teenager in level 3 of junior secondary school. That I explained was not good enough: Education is her best chance of making something of her life.
A few days later, I noticed Maryam’s absence. My advice had been heeded.