Rape cases in Africa have been on the rise in recent times. Before now, most victims fear to come out to share their experiences because of stigmatization. But recently, there have been campaign against rape and also laws are being made by various governments to fight the menace.
For Esther Ijewere-Kalejaiye, devoting her life to the cause is what matters to her. She has also been able to combine being a mother, wife and an activist in the struggle to fight for rape victims. The Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State graduate recently launched a book entitled ‘Breaking the Silence’. The book informs and educates the society and the victims of rape related matters.
In this interactive interview with First Weekly, the mother of two shed light on many sundry issues on rape.
How has it been campaigning against rape in Nigeria
So far, the experience has been very fruitful and challenging.
What is the inspiration behind this
It is my strong passion for humanity and women. I love everything about the female gender.
Did you develop this passion based on a personal experience or that of someone close to you
The passion for this was borne out of an experience of someone close to me. Also, the rate of rape cases was getting on the high side few years ago. It was almost getting to the point where PM News was reporting rape cases every week and I felt there was a need to tackle this problem wholeheartedly.
Has it paid off
Yes, it has. The struggle gave birth to the book I am here to talk about today. At that time, I didn’t have enough information on rape, but right now, I am well informed about rape matters.
Rape victims in Nigeria don’t come out to talk about it because of victimization, how have you handled that
Like you said, stigmatization is a major problem here in Africa, but we have been able to educate the victims and the society who stigmatize the victims. No one prays to be raped, but we should also not stigmatise them.
Do you have a good working relationship with medical personnel on this
Yes, we work hand in hand with them. However, when we come in contact with victims, we advise them on the necessary steps to take to seek justice and counseling. The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA) has been very supportive to our cause.
What about the security operatives
The police are now waking up to the challenge. Some of them are now very passionate about rape cases and they want to do everything to help victims.
What about your programme for secondary school students
Yes, our ‘Break the Silence’ programme for the schools was done as a way of taking the campaign to schools in order to educate them on rape matters.
Has it been easy for you to combine motherhood with the struggle
It has not been easy, but this is my passion. I know when to draw the line between family, which is first, and what I like to do. It is about balancing them. I give glory to God. My passion is now stronger now that I have two daughters.
You must have an understanding husband
Yes, my husband has been very supportive. We met, when I was single and working on the campaign. It would be unfair for him to stop what I like doing.
Has the society been very fair to you
I can say the society has really supported the cause. Maybe because I am a lady, I wonder if they would have supported me if I were a man. Doors have been opening for me.
What about the victims
The victims have been very open to me, maybe because I operate an open door policy. They feel very comfortable with me and this is what I preach. Victims need to be very free.
Should a rape victim first see a doctor or report to the police
It is in two ways. You can see a medical doctor first to get a proof of being raped before reporting to the police. But if you are near a police station, you can also report first before seeing a doctor, but it is advisable not to clean up the stains because these are what the doctors would examine before giving their reports.
What are the processes you undergo with the victims when they come to you
If it is a fresh case, we ask them to do medical check-up and report to the police. After then, we make them undergo counseling on how to overcome the trauma of being raped in order to restore their self dignity. But if it is an old case, we take them through a healing process.
Can a victim prosecute an old rape case, say like 10 years back when this type of awareness was not there
Yes, if the victim can still identify the rapist and also has a proof like a police report or medical reports.
But what if such was not done back then
In that case, it might be difficult to seek justice. Besides, a lady that was raped 10 years ago would have been married by now. All she might need is counseling.
But what she feels the anger to pursue justice on the rapist
Well, if she had witnesses back then who can still help her, she can file for the case in a court of law, but I think such person needs more of counseling to heal the wound.
What’s the idea behind your recently launched book on rape
It was borne out of my passion to inform and educate the society, victims, and the parents on rape matters. Also, the book was written to orientate the people on how to overcome rape and also to guide ladies on how to avoid being raped. But basically, it is to encourage rape victims to speak up to help others on how to help others. People need to come out to share their experiences.
What is the title of the book
It is called ‘Breaking the Silence’.
Why that title
It is like an offshoot of our campaign programme, which you are aware of.
Have they been ‘Breaking the Silence’
Yes, they have. Recently, a lady shared her experience on our twitter handle. She was raped by nine guys some years ago. She revealed this after she read the book.
How can people get the book
The book is available online at Jumia.com.ng. It is also available in bookshops. People have been making bulk orders and share to their loved ones. The cost of the book both online and in bookshops is N500.
What would the rape victims learn from reading the book
They will learn the essence of speaking up to help others. Also, they will learn that they are not alone. The third is that it was not their fault to have been raped. It will also teach them on why they must move on after the bitter experience.
And to the society, it will teach secondary school students and university undergraduates on how to avoid being raped. It will also teach the parents on the importance of teaching their wards on sex education.
At what age should parents start teaching their children sex education
From age two. Yes, we need to start very early. It is gradual and as they grow up, you open more to them. But the time someone touches her in school on her buttocks, she would tell you how someone touched her bum bum.
But don’t you think telling the children about some sensitive parts of the body is also a bad sex education
For certain age, you can’t just teach the children the real names of some of their sensitive body parts. It is gradual. You cannot tell a two year girl to call ‘vagina’ or buttocks.
Your message to everyone
I will advise people to get the book and learn and get informed about rape and to the victims that they are not alone.
What about your blog about rape
Yes, the blog is interactive but we are evolving into our full website soon. The blog is www.walkagainstrape.blogspot.com.
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