At age five, Blessing Thompson (not her real name) said she was sexually abused by a young man who was among about a dozen people squatting under her parent’s roof.
“We had a small room in the house where he stays,” says Ms. Thompson, now 23 and studying Political Science at the National Open University of Nigeria.
Ms. Thompson spoke Saturday at a one day seminar tagged ‘Guard Against Rape’ organized by CEE-HOPE Foundation in Lagos.
“He invited me to the room and said ‘Do you know you are a very beautiful girl?’ I said ‘Yes I am.’ He opened the biscuits for me and gave me and I was eating it,” she said.
“Then he started touching me and I was like ‘Uncle what are you doing?’ He pressed on and before you knew it the deed was done.
“I started crying and he was like I shouldn’t cry. He said I shouldn’t tell anybody because this biscuit you have eaten is like an oath. If you do tell mummy, you will die.”
Betty Abah, the founder of CEE-HOPE, said the seminar was aimed at sensitizing young girls on the dangers of rape and how to handle rape situations, especially during the Valentine period.
According to her, if children are sensitized early enough, they would be able to prevent rape situations.
”We brought them together from different places, this is the first time they are coming together from all these places and we thought that this period of Valentine will be very appropriate to talk about rape,” said Mrs. Abah.
“When people talk about Valentine, in most people’s minds what occurs to them is sex and there’s a lot of indiscriminate sex which at the end doesn’t really augur well for many young people.
“We are using the period of the Valentine to tell them you could be potential rape victims, you have to prevent it. When you are armed with this information you are protected for life. So we are reaching them and we expect that when they go to their communities, as peer educators they’ll be able to sensitize especially their classmates and community people.”
A speaker at the seminar, Chinyere Anokwuru, urged the girls to be wary of men they meet on social media.
“The first thing in guarding against rape is to trust your instincts,” said Mrs. Anokwuru, a former Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State government on Women and Girls.
“If you are perceiving something like it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.
“Learn to keep fit, so that when you sense danger, you take to your heels immediately.”
Mrs. Anokwuru also advised the girls to join self-defence classes to learn taekwando and karate.
“If attacked, convert anything on you to a temporary weapon. And do not trust anyone easily, most cases of rape are not done by strangers.”
According to Ms. Thompson, after the initial sexual molestation when she was five, the practice continued for the next 15 years with perpetrators ranging from friends, uncles, strangers, and relatives.
“When I was six, there was this girl staying with us. She’s the only female I remember that molested me,” Ms. Thompson said.
“At seven, there was this old man that do visit, a close pal to my dad. He’s old enough to be my grandpa. Nobody ever thought that such a thing was going to happen between the both of us. He was always throwing his open, like he calls me ‘sweets’ and other endearing names.
“My father, especially, don’t take offense with that because he felt there was nothing to that. My father is a very hard man so I had this fear telling him. My mother was always travelling.”
Ms. Thompson said she still remembers about 12 people who had raped her before she clocked 20.
“I have moved on. I’m 23 now,” she said.
“I will not allow that trauma to weigh me down. I will pretend like nothing ever happened.
“Left for me, I think rapists should be killed.”