This morning I’ve been listening to all three audio stories on sexual harassment, teenage marriage and rape, made by Isaac Newton Akah and I can relate to all three in ways that are shocking, sobering and so personal. Ayomide‘s story reminds me of Chidinma, the Primary 5 girl who was sexually assaulted by a teacher in the primary school I taught at after leaving secondary school. Uloma‘s story scarily reminds me of my own daughter’s near rape experience in this very Otukpa and the anger and fear I felt all at once. Lubabah‘s story which nearly brought me to tears is a pricking reminder of the 13 year old Jemima, who I was admiring at 16 only to learn she was getting married to her father’s friend.
I still remember that primary school incident like it was yesterday, because for me, even in that era for which there wasn’t this much awareness on sexual molestation and all, it was so shocking. I remember her name too – I’d call her Chidinma here. I’m also constantly reminded of her courage. This teacher had asked Chidinma to go get him chalk from the headmistress’s office, but as the pupil did as bid by teacher, he went after her…into the empty office… and in there he grabbed her breasts and started fondling them.
Chidinma wasn’t like most of her peers. In Primary 5 she was way more physically developed than the typical 10 year old and this pedophile probably saw her as easy prey. But he underestimated her courage. Immediately, she pushed him off to say “What are you doing sir?” This dude had the nerve to say, “You’re not a baby na”. When she stormed out of the office she was seething. She went straight to the School’s Director to report. The next day her parents were in school, the day after we were having an emergency staff meeting, and same day the teacher was fired. He was saying something like “It was the devil” after initial attempts to deny the harassment wasn’t convincing.
My daughter Precious had gone out with a friend once and this girl who I believe was clearly setting her up kept delaying for their return until it got dark. Then her friend says she’s not going home again that her cousin could escort Precious through this footpath to the main road. As they head for the road, this guy, notorious for cultism, tells her they’re going to his house and she won’t be going home that night. She says she’s going home and he threatens that if he slaps her she’d go deaf. She’s scared now and continues behind him. Then she finds a house nearby and makes a sprint for it as this boy chases after her. She tells the old woman in the house she wants to spend the night there as her potential rapist argues they’re together. But this mama knowing the boy’s reputation shoos him away and let’s her spend the night there. Close shave. She so easily could have been raped that day.
As I learned of this story over a month after the incident I was seething at this boy’s effrontery and scared for how easily he could have raped her. In that moment I felt truly helpless in all my anger. I informed her to always report harassment because silence empowers the molester. The next time someone propositioned her she told me promptly and I took action immediately.
The stories Isaac has written are stories of millions of women. Only months back we all experienced Ochanya’s sad story. As a people we need to do better, to create awareness of sexual harassment/molestation issues. I have a strong feeling there’s a well masked rape culture in Otukpa and this is one of the reasons sexual harassment and molestation will be featuring as a main sub-theme in our Student Leadership Summit next month. I’d also be playing one or more of Isaac’s stories for students to listen to at the submit and get them pledging to fight sexual molestation and harassment.
This is Isaac’s way of using his art to address a major social problem and he’s letting us download these stories which cost him a tonne to produce, for free. We should download these stories, if not for ourselves, then for others, especially young people who are most vulnerable to sexual harassment. Let your siblings listen to them – there’s potential for true empowerment in these stories.
To show support for this tasking and self-funded project, you could also make DONATIONS via the book page. Voluntarily of course. 30% of all donations will go to Priscilla Usiobaifo’s BRAVEHEART INITIATIVE to support the continued effort in COMBATING sexual violence at grassroots level in Edo State.
— Written by Itodo Samuel Anthony