Fight against rape: Let us change the narrative
It is no news that “SAY NO TO RAPE” is the new tune that everyone is dancing to, the recent happenings have made us question a lot of things.
The question on everyone’s lips is How did we get here? This obviously didn’t happen overnight, it definitely didn’t happen in a month. this is as a result of all the things that we have overlooked, our nonchalant attitude. if it doesn’t affect me then it’s not a problem at all.
It is said that “little drops of water make a mighty ocean” the little drops of harassment that we ignore is what has made the mighty ocean we are drowning in. It is cool to trend the #saynotorape but we can only trend the stories we hear about. What about those cases we never get to hear about? Do we just assume they don’t exist?
The Rape and harassment culture in Nigeria is not an infamous one, we have all heard about, seen or even experienced rape, sexual assault or harassment at some point in our lives. But still, A lot of us assume that sexual harassment ends with rape only. We assume that once there are no injuries or penetration isn’t involved then it wasn’t really sexual harassment.
This kind of thinking is the reason the rape culture has eaten deeper into our society and sexual harassment has become a menace to our communities. WE ARE A PART OF THE PROBLEM!!!
Many times, some of us support these rapists without knowing it, we aid their criminal activities unconsciously and give them the confidence to carry on. This is why it is important for us to understand that sexual harassment doesn’t have to be physical only. We can also harass people with the words that we speak and the way we touch them.
A very high percentage of girls have been a victim of harassment one way or the other, this has happened in places where they are supposed to feel safe; places of worship, schools, homes, markets and so on. As a society, we have normalised harassment so much that we can’t see between the lines of normalcy and violation.
Verbal harassment is one form of harassment we face every day, but we see no problem with it. This is one of the ways we aid rapists and give them the confidence to perpetuate their acts. The moment we start normalising some form of harassments, we let the rapist think that it is okay to harass people.
The rapist thinks, “If I can get away with something like verbal harassment, and molestation, I can definitely get away with something bigger”.
“The pretty girl in black with the big ass”, “Hey pretty why are you walking like there’s something between your thighs”, all of these things count. People are being constantly verbally molested but we really don’t see a problem with it because If it’s not physical it’s not abuse.
A perfect example is the students of the University of Lagos male hostels who make it a top priority to harass any student of their choice, slandering students and shattering their confidence with their tongues, for their own pleasure. Ranging from body-shaming and slut-shaming to objectification.
This of course, has become a norm on campus, instilling fear in students as they walk past the renowned King Jaja Hall. On several occasions, I have witnessed students (especially female students) being harassed and insulted all in the name of fun.
A friend once told me she could never dream of passing through JaJa Hall alone because she didn’t want to be a victim of their harsh words, body-shaming and objectification. She wasn’t sure she could handle being harassed by these boys.
The occupants of this hall, of course, see completely nothing wrong with this act, after all the school authority isn’t doing anything about it and no one is complaining. Neither the students, nor the school authority has complained so “it has to be the right thing”.
It is verbal abuse today but it can be emotional and physical abuse tomorrow. This is how we enable them, when we see our friends slandering other students and we don’t stop them but we join in, we give power to harassers to perpetuate their evil acts.
One evening I just got back from a long day at school, and I had a lot of assignments to complete, I sat in my hostel with a friend trying to finish up a lab report but I couldn’t even concentrate.
There was so much noise and it was so loud even pharaoh could hear it in his tomb. I tried to figure out where this much howling was coming from. Lo and behold it was from the renowned Jaja Hall.
Apparently, a girl was passing by the hall and by their words, she was “endowed” this girl was bathed in howls and loads of snarky comments about her body, she felt so ashamed she had to hide from them.
This is an example of what goes on in our society. In our streets, we have bike men and thugs. In school, we have fellow students. it’s appalling how a group of people can instill so much fear in the minds of students and derive so much pleasure from bullying and harassing people.
This is a school where students are supposed to be safe. In my opinion, we can change the narrative, starting with UNILAG. As a student, if you have friends that have been perpetrators of verbal harassment, they probably don’t know it’s wrong, give them a slap on the wrist, educate them on how destructive this act can be. On the side of the school authority, any student caught or involved in harassing a fellow student should be punished severely.
A support system in which students can report cases of harassment should be set up. Reported cases should be thoroughly investigated and punishment should be meted out to those who deserve it.
If we can stop students from perpetrating these acts and make them see that these acts are wrong we might just be able to change things for better. These are the little things that we as individuals can do to help change the narrative and make our society a more conducive one.
By Guest Writer