From the topic of the article today, you can tell it is a sensitive one. So a few things before we start. IT IS A BIT OF A LONG READ!! Also, I reference a Foundation within the body of the article. This is solely because I have had personal dealings with them. I went through an Emotional Intelligence course with the Foundation. Hence, why I can vouch for them. It does not in any way mean that there are no other Foundations who can assist. As you already know, I will attach an audio version of the article below.
Most people do not feel particularly comfortable with this topic and I can understand why. The stigma is nothing to write home about. However, with the increasing number of rape incidents rippling through our ears and the social media, it is high time we familiarise ourselves with some vital information.
I would love to begin by saying that if you have ever been raped, it is not your fault. It has never been, and it will never be your fault! Do not let the society brainwash you into thinking there is something you did to necessitate being raped. You cannot be blamed for the animalistic tendencies of a fellow human being. In that vein, it is wrong to hide it and let it haunt you forever. I know of Tamar Rescue Foundation, where they reach out to rape victims. They want you to know that you are the light in the dark tunnel. They want to give you hope. They help to reshape you and help handle your emotional wellbeing after the incident. Basically, they become your support and healing system.
In actual fact, can I blame those that decide to hide it? Or the parents that settle out of court? But really how is a rape case settled out of court amicably? What is the agreement? That he would never rape your daughter or she would never rape your son? What of the neighbour’s child or anybody at all? An amicable settlement for me is just a hard nut to wrap my head around.
The important question that bothers everybody is what has been the justice rate for these victims? Victims that have been raped by people they taught loved them. The society has failed these victims. The justice system appears to have failed them. Some may even argue that laws on rape have failed them as well.
I agree to disagree that the law has failed them. It is at this juncture that I wish to say that there are things we can do to help the situation. The justice system we have today is not exactly what we had imagined. I totally agree with that. I mean if you approach a police station today, reporting a case of rape, I believe you would be met with some nonchalant policemen on duty. However, we must help ourselves.
In the legal world, evidence is paramount. It is the key. You cannot place something on nothing! In the same legal jungle, rape is one of the toughest offences to prove. This is primarily because of the need to prove PENETRATION. This is the point at which some rape cases fail. Others fail because of lack of diligent prosecution on the part of the Prosecution. Others may fail basically because of lack of credible evidence and it begins to appear as if the law has failed them.
One thing which is paramount in a rape case is the ability to link the Defendant/Accused person to the rape. For instance, if you were a virgin as at the point of being raped, it is not sufficient to prove that your hymen has been broken. You agree with me that sex is not the only reason for lack of hymen in a woman or even the only way of breaking it. What is vital is PENETRATION. This has been replicated in a number of cases. For instance in the case of State v. Masiga (2017) LPELR-43474(SC), EKO J.S.C held thus:
“To sustain the charge of rape, the prosecution must prove the accused penetrated into the genitalia of the female person allegedly raped.”
Hence, this is the foundation of proving a rape case. The next question is how do you prove penetration? It goes without saying that it is almost impossible to. Most times there are no witnesses to rape. No sane person would watch another attempt to rape a person and not stop him/her. Consequently, we need to depend on circumstantial evidence and expert evidence. The following are a few tips on preserving evidence in a rape case:
- This is the awkward bit but you are advised to not have your bath after the incident. I know I know. I admit how unpleasant it must be to not bath after being raped. But this is an appeal. Parents, if your child has been raped, rush the child to a hospital first before cleaning up. This would help in recovering fluids that could carry the DNA of the culprit. Alternatively, if you really must bath; if it is that bad a mess, try to possibly scoop the fluids into a clear bag and take it to the hospital immediately after your bath. Time is always of the essence with these things. Remember to use clean objects.
- The same way bathing is advised against, so is using the toilet. Please before the toilet is used after being raped, report at the hospital first. This is to avoid losing credible evidence.
- Please allow yourself to be examined. In rape cases, medical evidence (expert evidence of a doctor) cannot be overemphasised. Be examined by a medical doctor and have the findings documented. From the examination, forceful entry can be proved which is a plus for the case.
- If there are bruises and marks, have pictures taken of that as well. They can also constitute evidence.
These few things would help equip the prosecution with the necessary evidence to build a case of rape.
It is important to note that even if you do not have enough evidence for rape, the person could be charged with sexual assault. I know it may not give the same satisfaction, but it is better no justice at all.
I am not oblivious to the fact that being raped is a traumatic experience. Here are a few steps on dealing with the situation:
- IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!!! I cannot overemphasise this. Do not let guilt drive you to the edges of darkness.
- Open up about it to someone close to you. In this day and time when the enemy could be disguised as your friends, it is difficult to trust people. However, there is always one person around us that is good enough.
- Deal with the pain; do not suppress it. Do not attempt to bury your feelings. They simply materialise in the worst ways later on.
- Go for counselling. It helps to voice out everything and have someone who would never judge you to guide you.
- This might sound strange, but this might be the perfect time to build a deeper relationship with God. I know it might be hard to conceptualise turning to God after what happened. The question on your mind would be where was He when it all went down? I understand but we must understand that everything happens for a reason. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to have faith and trust in the healing process! You will be just fine.
It is alright to be angry but do not let it consume the best parts of you. You will surely triumph in the end.
- Parents learn to be approachable so our children can tell you anything rather than suffer in silence.
- You can reach out to Tamar Rescue Foundation. They would listen to you. They would never judge you and they would counsel you and help you through the process. They are on all social platforms and are always eager to answer.
Facebook: Tamar Rescue Foundation
A subsidiary of the Foundation is Mentoring Mentors and you can reach out to them as well anytime.
- Other contacts for those in Nigeria
Office of the Public Defender – 07080601080
Ireti Resource Centre – 07003333111
Mirabel Centre – 08155770000
Cece Yara – 08008008001
StandToEndRape – 08095967000
Finally, I just need you to know that you are bigger than the experience!