Nigerian journalist, Adebola Aduwo, explores the theme of this years’ 16 Days of Activism campaign - #HearMeToo – by talking to women in Lagos about their experiences of gender-based violence.
For over 26 years, the 16 Days of Activism campaign has been a solid avenue for women to speak up about all forms of gender-based violence and advocate for victims of sexual abuse. It began in 1991 at the Women’s Global Leadership Institute. This campaign spans across the 25th of November to the 10th of December every year.
In the past months, there has been a welcoming outrage, mostly on social media, exhuming skeletons and bringing to light some of these issues that have been swept under the rug for far too long (well done, guys). I believe this inspired the theme for this year, ‘Hear Me Too’.
In light of this, I created a questionnaire, giving a number of Nigerian women the opportunity to share their real-life experiences and these are some of the things they had to say:
*Please note that this content contains sensitive and potentially triggering material about abuse and sexual violence.*
- "I was sexually abused by my neighbour, family friend and boyfriend at ages 6, 9-12, 18 and 20. This affected me very badly but I’m recovering, slowly but surely. I spoke up about my experience and got medical help". – Survivor, 22.
- "It was fine art class back in primary school. I brought out a crayon I got from my friend’s birthday party over the weekend. When the fine art teacher saw it, he said it was his own and he had been looking for it. He accused me of stealing it. I tried explaining myself but he reported to the school authority and they wrote a letter to my dad. I felt my father would at least hear me out but he didn’t even ask me what happened. He locked me in his room and was beating me with everything he could lay his hands on. When he noticed I wasn’t crying or screaming anymore (I was tired of saying ‘DADDY HEAR ME OUT’), he took a new blade and gave me a long tear on my back. He then sprinkled pepper on the tear. I was just 8 years old. The pain was unbearable. I cried for weeks and I couldn’t lay on my back for months. Guess what? My teacher later found his crayon. I have a lot of scars on my body because I was physically abused by my dad several times. I had low self-esteem. I can’t even wear certain kind of clothes". – Survivor, 24.
- "I was 9 when my school teacher raped me anally after school hours. I reported and got him arrested by the police." – Survivor, 24.
- "My cousin sexually abused me for years. I was only 7 when it started. He threatened to kill me if I spoke up about it. I got used to it. When I eventually did speak up, I remember my parents being so upset. My mom cried a lot. But that was it. He continued living with us. I really wish I knew what it feels like to be a virgin." –Survivor, 25.
- "My neighbour sexually abused me when I was 5. My mental health was damaged for a very long time. I was socially awkward and bitter. I think I had sexual relations with another child before I clocked 13. I'm making conscious efforts to get better. It can only get better, I guess." – Survivor, 25.
- "My boyfriend and I were classmates in postgraduate school. One day, for reasons I still do not know, he got so angry that he beat me up in front of the class. He literally had to be pulled off me before he would let go. His first punch threw me to the floor, yet he didn't stop. At the point he was pulled off, he was still fuming, even fighting back at the people that came to my rescue. I reported to the school authorities It was a private school, they took their time to get it to the disciplinary committee, when we were summoned and questioned, they dismissed us as a case of "two fighting ". I had written in my statement the names of the witnesses, they didn't call any of them. At the end of the day, I was left with either being rusticated for fighting or letting the case go. I was tagged the guilty one and I found out that reporting was the most pointless thing I did. I later found out he had his way around, being connected to the registrar of the school. Everybody got on his side. Everybody!" – Survivor, 24.
- "I was 16 when I was abused by my church member. I really cannot share the details because it was quite brutal. I also had to get an abortion done as a result. I did not report the incidence because I could not trust anyone. Sex became meaningless to me after it happened." – Survivor, 23.
Worldwide, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual and/or physical violence in their lifetime. Join the campaign to end violence against women by using the hashtag #16daysofactivism and #HearMeToo. If you would like to share your story with us, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
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