I and a team went on a visit to a hospital to monitor and cover their antenatal/Prenatal care session for a maternal and child health radio programme we produce for broadcast. In a chat with the hospital management we listen to a heart breaking story of Folake (not real name) a 10yr old girl. She had being coming for check- up and will continue to do so probably for a long time. Folake’s medical condition was as a result of a “careless fatal mistake” her mother , Iya Laje (not real name) made. Iya Laje had a shop in her neighbourhood where she sells goods ranging from foodstuff to beverages, toiletries and other household goods. Her small business was thriving and many times she had to go to the market to replace sold goods while Folake her daughter was asked to Mann the shop. She was a sharp and brilliant 10yr old who could hold her own against customers who might want to cheat when buying goods. Folake could remember the price of every good in her mother’s shop. As always Iya Laje had to go to the market to purchase more goods, so on this faithful day she asked Folake to wait in the shop after she returned from school. Not long after her mother left Baba Yusuf(not real name), an elderly man who lived in their neighbourhood came to buy a few things. He came with a thousand Naira note and what he bought was worth One Hundred Naira. Folake didn’t have enough on her to cover the change and none of the other shop owners whom she approached had enough to borrow her to make up for the change. Baba Yusuf refused to leave his money to come back for the change later and Folake couldn’t afford to allow him take the goods away on credit. She insisted that her mother will not be happy to hear that a customer bought goods on credit and she had gotten whipped for doing this a few times in the past when the customer ends up refusing to pay. Baba Yusuf suddenly remembered that he had a hundred Naira note at home, so he asked Folake to accompany him to his house which was nearby to collect the money. She was relieved and immediately asked the woman next door to help her keep watch for a few minutes while she quickly collects the money from Baba Yusuf. That decision cost her, her innocence but how could she have known what was to come? He was elderly and everyone respected him in their neighbourhood. Unknown to Folake it was a trap. Baba Yusuf, raped little Folake. He was old enough to be her grandfather, at 60yrs old.
Folake was brought to the hospital bleeding seriously through her Virgina. She had a severe case of Virginal laceration with part of her genital organ detached. My team members vented their anger saying different things. Some said he should rot in a jail, some said he should be hanged; others said his penis should be chopped off. As a mother I felt like getting a gun to shoot Baba Yusuf, if i were to ever set my eyes on him. It was just so unthinkable and awful. We tried to find out if the family of Folake pressed charges against the culprit. Her family refused to press charges with the intention of protecting their daughter from public embarrassment; they also wanted to protect their family name. What is in a name when the bearer is already damaged? However when they found out how badly she was injured a new rage was steered up. Finally an Uncle of Folake surfaced and he had made up his mind to ensure that Baba Yusuf must face the wrath of the law. This process was still on at the time the story was been narrated to us.
A major challenge in the healing process of Folake was that the hospital was not equipped with necessary facility in order to repair her severe laceration properly and worse still her family can not afford to pay for a hospital that could fix it. They were just managing to get by in spite of the seeming thriving small business of Iya Laje. So getting the needed repair was going to take a miracle of finding anyone who was willing to support them financially. It was a bit gladdening to know that hopefully Baba Yusuf will not add to the number of adults who defile children and get away with it. But my concern turned to the plight of little Folake, her doctors said her Virgina was badly damaged. She needed a cosmetic surgery. My heart was terribly broken with the fact that motherhood might be a challenge for her in the future. Many child rape culprits go unpunished because parents are too embarrassed to press charges. People who sexually abuse children referred to as Pedophiles are usually known adults such as relatives, parents and friends. These Pedophiles lure or force children to have sex and in the process leave damaging consequences, emotionally, psychologically, physically and heath wise.
What then can be done to protect children from sexual abuse? It will help to first know how to identify a Pedophile. I’d say also vigilance of care givers such as parents, guardians and families. Have rules if a relative must come and leave with you. Teach your kids the basic rule of “boys and girls should have separate rooms: no using of bathroom at the same time by boys and girls, no sitting on Uncle so and so’s lap all the time; you have the right to say NO to any unwanted/uncomfortable touch; tell a trusted adult about any unwanted touch or sexual advance”. Sometimes sentiments have put children even more at risk of been raped/abused. It is time to stop shying away from giving your child sex education so they know what is safe and what is not safe. I also know that these abuse cases are under reported for fear of stigmatization. If more cases are reported and addressed by appropriate measures then perhaps kids like Folake, will be safer and perpetrators can be punished accordingly by law.
By Adebisi Adetunji