…My mother was deaf, so I could not tell her
By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – Since the case of Ochanya Ogbanje, a 13- year- old girl who was sexually abused by his family members until she died in Benue came to the fore; there have been public outcry and wide condemnations of the heinous act.
Many have taken to the conventional and social media to express their anger. Protests especially by women groups have been held in States across the country including Plateau with all asking for justice not only for the deceased but also other rape victims who are suffering in many homes across the country.
Although the late Ochanya is not living to tell her story, some rape victims in Jos, the Plateau State capital have condemned the culture of silence after rape, the stigmatization of victims and the seeming encouragement of rapists by not dealing decisively with them.
A multiple rape victim, Charity Audu, noted that the late Ochanya needs justice to rest in peace. She told a pathetic story of her own experience.
“There are so many Ochenyas everywhere in our society,” she started. “ Some we know, some we don’t know and those we know, we ignore or are not able to say it out. I am among the many Ochanyas in the society. To be raped and you carry the stigma is not easy. I was raped three times, when I was five years, when I was nine years and when I was between 15 and 16 years by three different men.
“At five, when I was raped, my uncle would take me to the room and told me he was going to buy biscuit for me and he kept molesting me and you couldn’t say anything especially as my mum was deaf. I did not know how to tell her what was happening to me. Communication between my mum and I was hard.
“When I was nine years old, the same thing happened to me and I was not able to talk. I was so traumatized and scared to the extent that, I started having asthma attacks. This was because most of the time I was so scared and shivering whenever someone came close to me. I don’t know if fear caused it, I don’t know it could cause it but I suffered asthma attacks so many times that I started thinking and believing that nobody loved me, that I was just on my own.
“It was a pity that my mum was deaf and if I wanted to talk to her, I would not be able to so I started thinking that she did not love me because of the communication problems we had.”
Speaking further, she added, “When I was 15 years, a neighbour raped me and I was lucky that I got someone to talk to this time because at that time I had come in contact with Mrs. Kyenpia, my mum at CLAPAI who talked to us on what to do in the case of rape which I did not know at five and nine years old. She really helped me out because immediately after the rape, I just ran straight to her, I did not change my cloth, I did not have my bath, I just ran to her and told her what happened. Luckily for me, the guy was arrested and justice served.
“I got trauma counselling, read several books about trauma healing and gradually, things are turning out well for me but there are so many Ochanyas that need help. Let us be there for them. I am lucky to be alive but Ochanya is not so the society owes it to young girls to protect them so that it’s not only when the worst happens that we come out to protest.”
Another victim, Mildred Bako is also seeking support for other victims saying the society should not wait until another girl dies before speaking out.
Her words: “The society should not be quick to judge but offer support to rape victims. I was raped by my own relative when I was nine years old. I was raped again when I was 16, that particular one was very bad because I got pregnant without even knowing I was pregnant. The whole incident affected me psychologically; I struggled through everything, I did not grow in the environment of love, all I knew was survival.”
Mildred who could not say much as she broke down in tears however appealed for help in everyone’s neighbourhood so that children who are undergoing sexual abuses could be rescued from the psychological and physical tortures. However, Mrs. Kyenpia Nyabam who provided support for Charity told Saturday Vanguard that trauma counselling is very necessary in helping a victim come of of traumatizing situations.
Her words, “CLAPAI stands for Child Love and Protection Advocacy Initiative; we have been in existence in the last 12 years. How I met Charity could be said to be an interesting incident.
“Her mother was deaf, she is late now and the grandmother whom she was staying with was looking for where she could get help for her education because we have a school where orphans and other vulnerable children attend free of charge. That was how we met her.
“She came in when she was nine years old after the second rape incident. We noticed that there was something with her; a very brilliant child but she was smiling less unlike other children that would come in and between one and two weeks, they would blend with others. She was withdrawn.
“We have this club called Girls’ Club where we talk about issues like sex, rape, menstrual hygiene and others. There was this time we took a week talking about rape and what needs to be done in case of rape and gradually, she opened up and told us what happened to her, she talked about what she had been going through over the years.
“We realized that before that time, she would wake up in the night and be coughing very dry cough, we had to rush her to the hospital, it was panic attacks over the years which resulted into asthmatic attacks. We had to bring her closer though she was still in the environment where she was raped, when her mum died, her neighbour raped her again at the age of 15 so we decided to intervene and bring her out of the environment where she was staying with her grandma when her mum died.”
She observed that love, care, patience, understanding and counselling are needed to make rape victims heal as she stated, “We took Charity out and put her in my house, not the orphanage so that she could undergo proper trauma healing. She’s been with my family now for almost four years, she is okay although once in a while, she has nightmares but it is a process and we know she will eventually be fine.”