How neglect of the boy-child fuels child defilement
Written by Hannah Ojo
As the ugly specter of child defilement continues to fester, data is beginning to show that predators of child molestation were often abused sexually as boys. A research conducted by the Lagos State Domestic Violence Response Team, led by a team of experts, including a clinical psychologist, social worker and a criminologist, for inmates serving terms on sexual molestation and child defilement at the Ikoyi Prisons and Maximum and Medium Prisons located in Apapa shows that many of the accused were sexually molested while growing up.
The data gathered through analysis from semi-structured interviews and questionnaires from 131 male sex offenders with participants aged 18 and above drawn from different local government areas of Lagos State, revealed that 80.9 percent of inmates were abused as a child, an indication that they had become sexually active at an early age. The data further shows that some inmates lost their virginity to family members and older acquaintances who took advantage of them during their early teenage years.
Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, the young dutiful lawyer coordinating the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), believes the recent sentence of a 21-year jail-term handed to an elderly man accused of sodomizing a young boy is a significant layer for the gender dynamics in the war against child defilement.
“That case opened five years ago, even though the wheel of justice was slow, we finally got justice,” she said, raising her head to confirm the dateline of the casefile from the calendar pasted on the wall of her office located at the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Alausa, Ikeja.
“We continue to do advocacy around the girl-child, but we must not forget the boy child because statistics have shown that these same boys grow up to be abusers. We have to strike the balance by advocating for the boy-child the way we advocate for the girl child”, she said.
The Abused Abuser Factor
In a 2015 survey conducted by the National Population Commission of the Federal Government on violence against children, data shows that one in four boys experience sexual violence before the age of 13. Also, 69.2% of victimized boys experience multiple incidents of sexual abuse.
Explaining the abused abuser factor, Dr Boladale Mapayi, a clinical psychologist at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, affirmed that the abused abuser factor in child defilement is a reality. “Abuse is often bred by fear. This is also true for bullying where a number of bullies were also bullied as children and with children who are raised in a home where there is intimate partner violence, they are more likely to experience violence in their adult relationships”.
Mapayi, also a lecturer/consultant psychiatrist further said that the concept of the abused abuser stems from various theories which include reacting to an earlier trauma where some abused individuals use the defence mechanisms of displacement or externalization by blaming problems on another.
“This makes it more likely for abused children to become perpetrators in the future in trying to deal with their own experience. The trend can only be less likely when an abused child gets the right intervention. It is important to stress that parents must never assume that a child is too young to understand abuse or that if it is not discussed, the child will forget. Parents must seek professional intervention with well-trained psychiatrists and clinical psychologists,” she asserted.
Studies have also shown that the abused abuser factor could be prompted in individuals attempting to master an earlier trauma. A child who has been socialized into abuse may begin to think that abuse is ‘normal’, especially given a scenario where intervention is not sought.
In most African societies, boys are taught to mask their pain and not show any sign of weakness. This tradition has encouraged a culture of silence, where boys suffer sexual abuse in silence, and as such not privy to intervention and therapy from care givers.
“The boy-child is born vulnerable because of societal constraints of masculinity and its associated stereotypes. These stereotypes make it less likely for boys to report abuse, so we must help the boy-child to live without these stereotypes. Children must be empowered with information about all types of abuse as early as possible. There are age appropriate materials that we can use (parents can google ‘pantisorius’ for example)”, Mapayi said in response to a question on how the society can better engage the boy child in the prevention of sexual violence.
‘Masculinity must be separated from control and violence’, Mapayi intoned, as she admonished parents to minimize abuse opportunity by limiting the numbers of carers around children. Also, patterns such as sudden refusal to change clothes, inappropriate sexual knowledge and behaviors, abnormal fears about bodily functions as well as symptoms of depression/anxiety are signs to likely sexual abuse for male children.
A Rising Tide of evil
Since opening in July 2013, the Mirabel Centre, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Lagos which provides medical and psychosocial services on sexual assault and rape has treated a total of 3,202 cases as at January 2018. From August 2015, the number of sexual violence victims thronging the centre rose sporadically and the centre now attends averagely to 70 to 80 clients a month. The figure shot to 111 in November 2017. Majority of the victims fall within the age bracket of 0 to 17 years, boys included.
Speaking on the increasing trend of child defilement as well as other forms of sexual violence, Vivour-Adeniyi, whose agency also works in collaboration with the Mirabel centre disclosed that the increase in number of reportage is an indication of increased awareness.
“People are now speaking up, aware of the fact that these offences are committed against the state. People are also whistle-blowing, provided that their anonymity is not disclosed. People are also more aware available support services, and this is helped by the fact that there is a political will in Lagos to fight the menace,” she asserted.
In the research carried out by DSVRT whose data indicated the abused abuser trend as a cause of the rise in sexual violence, Vivour-Adeniyi disclosed that most of the respondents equated defilement to stealing; an indication that society has a skewed view of the seriousness of sexual offences.
“Some of them thought fingering a child is not a big deal but fingering a minor also attracts life imprisonment. Penetration need not be by the male or female organ, it can be anything that is inserted into the opening of another person.”
Condemning the attitude of the society which pleads forgiveness for perpetrators of sexual, the DSVRT bemoaned instances where parents of abused children pull out of cases even when such had been tabled before the Directorate of Public Persecution.
She said: “Perhaps it’s the length of time it takes to get justice. Perhaps it is the pressure exerted on them but there are policies in place to ensure that we begin to see an increase in the number of cases that get to court as well as an increase in conviction.”
Harrowing Cases of Child Defilement
Before the news of a two-year, 11 months-old allegedly defiled by Adegboyega Adenekan, a 47-year-old supervisor at Chrisland School became a subject of public debate; many stories of harrowing sexual defilements had occurred, fanning fears that Nigeria may be evolving into a sexual abuse case basket.
In February 2017, a 20-year-old cobbler Kingsley Philip pleaded not guilty to the charge of fingering his neighbour’s five-year-old daughter in Idimu, a suburb in Lagos. It was reportedly said that vaginal discharges from the child alerted her mother to the sexual assault.
In Taraba, a 55-year-old man simply identified as Dansale, raped a seven-month-old stepchild in Katsina, drugging his wife to sleep while the heinous act occurred. The mother was said to have woken to blood stains around the baby’s private parts. Believing the cause of the blood stain to be a case of pile as Dansale suggested, a visit to the hospital proved otherwise, making the elderly man the prime suspect in the baby’s rape case.
Another pathetic case of child defilement happened when in March last year a 45-year-old man allegedly turned to his three-year-old stepdaughter to satisfy his sexual urges because the wife refused him sex. It was reported that despite the presence of blood and semen on the baby, the victim denied the accusations.
Child defilement is not always an old men affair as a 14-year-old teenager was also reported to have raped a seven-year-old in by breaking into the toilet where the victim was relieving herself in Bariga, an urban slum in Lagos. Physically challenged minors are also a major target for child defilers as a deaf girl in Ogun State was also raped in a bush in Obafemi-Owode, Ogun State by one Nurudeen a 20-year-old.
Reporting made possible with support from CodeforNigeria
Originally published at thenationonlineng.net on March 2, 2018.