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Chika Unigwe.

In light of criticism and protests in Nigeria against Biodun Fatoyinbo, the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) pastor who has been accused of rape by the photographer Busola Dakolo, the novelist Chika Unigwe and the singer-photographer TY Bello have revealed stories of their own.

The author of the NLNG Prize-winning On Black Sisters’ Street, who has been vocal in speaking up about women’s struggles in Nigeria, made a post on Facebook detailing a near-rape during her undergraduate days in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and previous sexual harassment that she suffered as a girl.

Here is the post in full.

_________________________________________________________________

My freshman year at UNN, a guy almost raped me. He threatened to bring out a gun, he slapped me, he said I could scream as loudly as I wanted, no one would come to help me (apparently, unbeknowst to me, he had a reputation for being a rapist so “whoever went to his room was asking for it.” ) Years before then, I was still in high school, our family physcian whom I called uncle, touched me up on his examination table. Years before then, I was in elementary school then, my mother’s cousin cornered me in the kitchen and squeezed my non-existent boobs. The UNN guy, let’s call him EE, is now some sort of ‘evangelist’ in Lagos; the physician is still practicing, somewhere in Europe; my mother’s cousin is dead. It’s been many years , but I’ve never forgotten. I also never told my mother until many, many years after the fact.

People saying they don’t believe Busola Dakolo because she’s only now telling her story should take several seats behind. There are reasons why sexual assault victims in our society keep quiet. For one, ours is one where the culture of victim blaming/shaming is entrenched. To be raped is to become ‘damaged goods.’ EE raped with impunity because he knew the consequences, socially (and culturally), were worse for his victims than it would be for him. Victims found thesmselves in the uncomfortable position of protecting him so they could protect themselves. No one really expected justice from the authorities (school or police) in any case. Had he succeeded in raping me, I’d have told my brother (only so that my brother could organize to have him beaten up).Even if I had had the courage to walk around campus with the scarlet letter on my forehead, the shame we force rape victims to carry, I would have thought of reporting him to authorities as an exercise in futility.

In the past days, I’ve read heartbreaking stories on my twitter TL: a father beating his daughter for “allowing herself to be raped”; a mother beating her daughter for reporting that she was touched inappropriately by an older relative etc. etc. etc. I remember, a few yeats ago, reading of a man who forced his daughter’s rapist to marry her to “wipe away the shame.” ): ): Years ago, I took a break from Osuofia after I watched ‘Osuofia Speaks French’ where the character marries his rape victim (by whom he has a son), and her parents and friends, happy for her, tell her she’s no longer a ‘fallen woman’ and “Now, your son is no longer a bastard.” That has long been the dynamics of rape in our society: the power to give and to rehabilitate rests with the criminal. However,things seem to be changing. It’s been heartening to hear stories of parents who’ve acted like they should; to see that there seems to be a movement determined to force offenders to answer for their crimes; that there is a new generation of Naija parents raising children to understand that there is no excuse for rape, and therefore the shame of the crime belongs ONLY to the criminal. Soon, we will break down the wall of undeserved shame that walls victims in and emboldens offenders. The future is bright #MeToo.

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TY Bello. Image from Latest Alert.

TY Bello, who in 2011 was part of an anti-rape video campaign by celebrities, revealed on Instagram how she endured the shame, denial and silence of her own story.

View this post on Instagram

I remember how the silence I had to keep after the abuse slowly killed me .. I also remember the relief I found in my relationship God so early .That really was my rescue ..yet for decades I could never find my voice on the matter .. I was still afraid ..Mostly because I felt it may have been the fault of my seven year old self ..somehow.. Fast forward .. almost thirty years later ..I knew better .. and was ‘big’ enough .. I understood the importance of stepping up when it was time to share my story .. and ..I did in my @kemiadetiba ‘s #kingwomen interview .. it surprised me however,how hard it was to talk about sexual abuse after so many years .. but it was such a relief ..But soon after came the resistance .. In sharing ..I faintly began tasting the shame again .. that same feeling of naked ‘dirtiness ‘’ I had as a child .. it hadn’t completely gone away .It also became clear .. that real stories of sexual abuse still sounded like NOVELTY.. I saw headline after headline .. even in broken English .. this my ‘confession ‘.that ‘ Dem ‘SPOIL ‘ me when I be small pikin’.. It didn’t feel good that it was so ‘sensational’ as I was aware of how massive a plague this was ..WE CLEARLY ARE NOT TALKING ENOUGH ..too many children sexually abused .. too many sex crimes ..especially now .. right under our noses . I had to push past the inner conflict that talking about it was ‘unnecessary’ … it was too long ago ..too ‘Oyinboish ‘to discuss publicly .. ‘. ‘Then of course ..that talking about it now would make it seem like my family failed me as a child .. but they didn’t .. and could never have known .. I had mastered SILENCE !they were victims too. Every abuse story is different but it is SHAME that makes them complicated.. Sadly , the shame hardly lies with the perpetrators .. So I’ve learnt that it’s time to nail shame right where it belongs ..Far away from the wronged .. Bringing them instead to healing ,justice and freedom. We must teach ever child the power of their voices ,,Apparently ,we must teach adults too … and more importantly we must learn to listen .. understand and know that Sex is not a dirty word .. but DENIAL is ..

A post shared by TY Bello (@tybello) on

Here is her full post.

_____________________________________________________________

I remember how the silence I had to keep after the abuse slowly killed me .. I also remember the relief I found in my relationship God so early .That really was my rescue ..yet for decades I could never find my voice on the matter .. I was still afraid ..Mostly because I felt it may have been the fault of my seven year old self ..somehow.. Fast forward .. almost thirty years later ..I knew better .. and was ‘big’ enough .. I understood the importance of stepping up when it was time to share my story .. and ..I did in my @kemiadetiba‘s #kingwomen interview .. it surprised me however,how hard it was to talk about sexual abuse after so many years .. but it was such a relief ..But soon after came the resistance ..

In sharing ..I faintly began tasting the shame again .. that same feeling of naked ‘dirtiness ‘’ I had as a child .. it hadn’t completely gone away .It also became clear .. that real stories of sexual abuse still sounded like NOVELTY.. I saw headline after headline .. even in broken English .. this my ‘confession ‘.that ‘ Dem ‘SPOIL ‘ me when I be small pikin’.. It didn’t feel good that it was so ‘sensational’ as I was aware of how massive a plague this was ..WE CLEARLY ARE NOT TALKING ENOUGH ..too many children sexually abused .. too many sex crimes ..especially now .. right under our noses .

I had to push past the inner conflict that talking about it was ‘unnecessary’ … it was too long ago ..too ‘Oyinboish ‘to discuss publicly .. ‘. ‘Then of course ..that talking about it now would make it seem like my family failed me as a child .. but they didn’t .. and could never have known .. I had mastered SILENCE !they were victims too.

Every abuse story is different but it is SHAME that makes them complicated.. Sadly , the shame hardly lies with the perpetrators .. So I’ve learnt that it’s time to nail shame right where it belongs ..Far away from the wronged .. Bringing them instead to healing ,justice and freedom.

We must teach ever child the power of their voices ,,Apparently ,we must teach adults too … and more importantly we must learn to listen .. understand and know that Sex is not a dirty word .. but DENIAL is ..

________________________________________________________________

Thank you, Chika Unigwe. Thank you, TY Bello. 

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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  1. Re-enforcing the Culture of Silence and the Awakening of the Monstrous Feminine - Syncityng - July 5, 2019

    […] consequent spark of the #MeToo movement, Busola Dakolo’s revelation which made Chika Unigwe and TY Bello share their own tales – women have been nudged by pain and emboldened by the need for justice to call out sexual […]

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