In Africa, people hardly get to hear the horrific incidents of men being raped or boys’ childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The reality, however, is that boys do get raped. In this report, JULIANA FRANCIS tries to find out why men bottle their childhood sexual abuses and their negative implications
Jide, a father of three and a human rights activist, is working to protect violated children. Jide, not real name, did not become an activist by accident. It was deliberate and the reason is that he wants to protect and fight for sexually abused children. This is because Jide was serially abused when he was a young boy. He said that he didn’t want the horror he went through to be visited on another child.
Jide is also determined to fight and do everything within the ambit of the law to ensure perpetrators of such heinous offences are arrested and prosecuted. Recalling his childhood sexual abuse as if it was yesterday, Jide said: “My experience was terrible. I lost my mum when I was barely two years old. I grew up in the hands of aunts and uncles.
Children have different developmental stages and I was barely six years old when I started experiencing sexual abuses from my aunts and cousins. “One of them would place me on her lap in the bedroom. I always tried to run away each time I saw her. She used to sexually activate me, lay me down and remove her wrapper.
She would put my erection into her vagina. There were about three women who did that to me at different times. As I was growing up, it affected me. I was attracted to almost every female. One of our housemaids, a Togolese called Julie, was one of them. Whenever people were not around, she would call and tell me that we should play ‘papa and pikin.’ I had been facing such challenges.
It continued until I was almost introduced to homosexuality by one Uncle Richard, our neighbour. He would bring out his penis and masturbate in my presence. He would ejaculate and I must say that everyone that abused me started by taking an interest in me and calling me, ‘fine boy.’ Uncle Richard asked me to be his pet.
There was a time he ejaculated in my presence and told me that he would suck my penis, I said no. I told him I didn’t like it. He would slot in a porn video.” Jide, who said that he understood what abused children go through, remembered that when he tried to tell his father about being abused, he slapped him into silence.
There was a lot of trauma to it and I kept everything to myself because I had come to realise that nobody would believe me.” Jide’s experience is the experience of almost three in 10 boys. Most human rights activists and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are so fixated on the sexual abuse horror that the girl-child faces that the boy-child is often left on his own to battle his demons and come to terms with his experience. According to experts, boys who were sexually abused could develop depression, become drug addicts and have suicidal thoughts. African Health Sciences stated that CSA is common in the community, with perpetrators majorly persons known to the adolescents. “A large number of cases are not reported.
Efforts should be made to educate children and their parents on various ways to reduce child sexual abuse and its consequences,” said African Health Sciences. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report of 2015, one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria experiences sexual violence before the age of 18. A pharmacist, Mr. Jonah Okotie, recalled an incident he witnessed in his former apartment. Okotie said the way the police handled the issue, could cause survivors of sexual abuse not to go to the police to seek justice.
He said: “The incident happened in my former apartment, about eight years ago. One night I was awakened by a neighbour, who is a single mother of two. I had been hearing her screams of pain. The time was about 3am. Just as I was wondering what was happening, I heard her knocking on the door. After I opened the door, she asked me to check on her five-year-old son. The boy’s pants were down. She pointed to his penis. When I looked at it closely, I noticed it was swollen and looked bruised. She said that the boy’s female teacher did it to her son.
I asked her what happened; she said her son explained to her that his teacher used to take him upstairs in the school building, to suckle his penis. The teacher was married and had three children.” The distraught mother told Okotie that she noticed that the teacher took special interest in her son and used to bring the boy home after school hours, she didn’t suspect anything. Okotie advised her to report the matter to the police. The police arrested the teacher, but later on started pleading with the woman to forgive the teacher and drop the case.
“The teacher’s husband also came to plead. After much pressure from everyone, the boy’s mum yielded and dropped the case. I felt very pained. That was the second time I was seeing a case of abuse being dropped because of pressure from the police, who are supposed to pursue such cases and ensure justice is done. The mother later moved out of the compound and community,” Okotie said.
Another man, who experienced childhood sexual abuse, is Mr. Lakunle, not real name, now a top government official. He didn’t remember how old he was when he was violated, but he knew he was “at a very tender age.” Lakunle grew up in a community, where everyone lives, plays and eats together. Neighbours are seen as family members. “It was a period when my parents had to leave home to be able to feed my siblings and I.
I was always left in the care of a lady, who used to take care of the young boys in the neighbourhood. Unknown to our parents, this aunt sexually abused us.. “We dared not tell our parents. They wouldn’t believe us anyway. Whatever that aunt said was the final and everyone trusted her. Immediately we return from school, even while we are bathing, she would be touching our manhood and playing with it. Once the manhood becomes a little bit turgid, she would start taking us into the room one after the other. It was such an experience, that whenever I thought of it now, I wondered why our parents didn’t believe us then. Parents should learn to be watchful, listen to their children and encourage them to talk.
In my own case, I was so afraid of telling my mum, because I knew she trusted the aunt so much. Up till today, whenever I go to that neighbourhood, that experience is always the first thing that comes to my mind. I was actually initiated into sexual scenes in that neighbourhood,” Lakunle recalled.
Mr. Utulu, from Plateau State, is another survivor who suffered childhood sexual abuse. He is now a lecturer and also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of his company. Today, he is married and has children. According to him, when it happened to him, he didn’t think much of it until he grew up and realised that there were fundamental questions surrounding issues of sexual assault, statutory rape and consent.
Utulu was just 10 years old when he was violated in the university teaching quarters, where he lived with his parents. He was abused by a nurse, who was detailed to stay at home with him and give him injections, which would last for five days. His dad was a doctor, while his mum was a civil servant. The nurse, aside from treating the child, was also told to babysit him. “On the first day, everything went well.
She gave me my morning and evening injections and also gave me my food. On the second day, she asked me to turn after giving me the injection. When I turned, she removed my pants and started playing with my penis. I didn’t understand what was happening.
That was the first time I felt and experienced a sensation going through me. Apparently between nine and 10 years, a male child has started maturing to the extent that he could be aware of his body, but he might not be aware of it sexually. After a while, I noticed that a whitish thing came out of me, which I supposed was semen. On the third day, she played with my penis again.
The fourth day, the same thing happened. She tried to compel me to put my penis into her private parts. She asked me to touch her here and there, and she was naked. I had an erection, and she wanted to place my penis into her private parts, but it couldn’t work. So she just kept using my private parts to rub on hers until semen came. On the last day, only one injection was left; she came and did the same thing and then left. I didn’t get to see her again until like six years later.
I was already a teenager by then and knew what sex was and what she did to me. If it had happened to a lady, it would have been considered sexual assault or rape, but as a male or boy, I couldn’t tell anybody because people would have laughed at me,” Utulu said. According to him, for long, people have been telling him that a woman couldn’t possibly rape a male and he believed the lies, but not anymore.
He said: “The incident affected me negatively because I became afraid of older women. I also became curious to find out more; but because I grew up in a strict Christian home, the curiosity didn’t get to a negative level. “I was a teenager, but I was intrigued by the genitals of female species. Also, I didn’t like women. The first time I dated was in my second year in university.” Utulu said it is a good thing that people who matter are beginning to have conversations about the boy-child. He said: “Someone like me was able to pull through, but it may not be so with another boy.” A man, who gave his first name as Julius, said there is too much focus on the girl-child, forgetting that the boychild is being violated everyday by big aunties, big sisters, area aunties and sisters, cousins and neighbours.
“Just that we don’t get to hear much about these incidents,” said Julius. Julius was not violated, but his roommate in higher institution experienced it when he was just nine years old. It happened to the boy when he was in junior secondary school (JSS1), perpetrated by an aunt, who used to come to their house at noon. One fateful day, the aunt came and started fondling the boy’s penis. “Eventually she took him through that line and abused him. She has sex with him. It continued until he was about 14 years old. By the time he got to that age, he was already ripe to have sex with young girls.
These are the abuses we don’t hear about. Most young boys think it’s a form of a new experience and they go into it. So, what do you expect to be there for real love and respect for women? It will never be there. I’m sure there are many more stories of such outside there,” Julius added. For Ifeanyi, child sexual abuse in the hands of a big aunt staying with them started when he was 13 years. Ifeanyi said that although he didn’t understand what was going on, he became used to it. He also remembered that he hated the aunt, but couldn’t do anything about it. Ifeanyi said he couldn’t tell anyone because the lady had warned him not to. He said: “She was like a mentor, teacher and everything to me. It affected my education because I became occupied with it, even when she’s not around.
She was sent away after my sister found out and reported to my parents.” For Silas, his sexual abuse was so horrific because it was a serial violation from three different aunts. He was seven years old when it started. These aunts at a point began squabbling over who would bath him and whose bed he would sleep in. “My mum was always busy and my dad was overseas. My mum trusted them implicitly. It went on for a long time until I started liking it, but I didn’t understand what was happening. It went on for six years, which was about the time my dad returned and took us out of the country.
I couldn’t tell my mum because of the trust she had in them. It affected me seriously because I started chasing ladies, especially at the university. I had to struggle to control my urges. Today, I’m married and have boys, but I’m paranoid and watch my boys like a hawk,” Silas said. Rainn.org reports: “Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and they may face other challenges that are more unique to their experience.
Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or self-doubt, believing that they should have been ‘strong enough’ to fight off the perpetrator. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault. If something happens to you, know that it is not your fault and you are not alone. Men who were sexually abused as boys or teens may also respond differently than men who were sexually assaulted as adults.”
A psychologist, Grace Balogun, said study and experience have shown that abused boys keep sealed lips on their trauma because of stigma. Balogun said that most victims think they would be laughed at if they tell them about their horrific encounters. She added: “Also, men have ego and because of this ego, they want to cover up their experiences. Some men don’t disclose things to their caregivers or parents. These incidents can make them become aggressive later in life. An abused boy may end up becoming abusers. Most of the men that raped girls have been abused before. And it really affects their self-esteem.
They also grow up to become timid and aggressive, which makes most of them die early because they bottle up so much inside of them.” Petra Akinti Onyegbule, a sociologist, said that men who suffered childhood sexual abuse do not talk about it because of stigmatisation. She said: “Men are seen as the gender who is not supposed to show emotions. There’s the fear of stigma; fear of being seen as a weakling. The same way women go through sexual violence is the same for men, even if it’s more painful on the woman’s side. The programming and conditioning of this stigma scares some not to speak up. I mean, it’s rampant. We experience it. Some of us feel it and we have a lot of broken people.
It affects their mental health like their psych. They go about hurting and hurting people around them as a form of revenge.” Mrs. Salem Ogunlowo, a psychotherapist, who treats issues that have to do with emotions and mental health, said that boys bottle up their sexual abuse experiences because of shame, lack of trust and anxiety over whether their story would be believed. She said: “Also, stigma is another reason an abused boy wouldn’t tell anyone what happened to him. Stigma continues to surround such issues in this part of the world. The kind of system in place in Nigeria, rather blames the victim, instead of supporting them and then to find out what happened. Again, parents don’t defend children. The child should be believed and kept in a ‘safe space’ and parents should be their children ‘safe space.’”
The psychotherapist noted that the effect of such abuses on such boys is huge. She said: “The abused boy most times ends up abusing another person. It’s a circle of abuse. That’s why I stated earlier that I treat underlying issues and in the process of attending to my client, I can trace the issue to what happened in his childhood and how he kept it inside. Some may get married and will always be filled with anger, transferring the aggression to their children and spouses. Some even abuse their children.”
A Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Monday Agbonika, who works with the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) in consulting and collaborating capacities, explained that when a boy is abused, he wouldn’t immediately know what to do. According to him, some end up with a feeling of guilt, thinking it is his fault. He added: “There’s also the issue of stigma, which follows because the society and families will express shock if a child begins to tell how he was abused.
Again, families do not want such experiences to be associated with them. Even when they know they can look for justice, they prefer to keep quiet. They’re not considering the impact it would have on the victim. Another reason is non-assurance of confidentiality, which follows on this stigmatisation. For someone to report that something like that happened, he would want assurance that such a report would be kept in confidence. If it’s not kept, it could affect his social life and other relationships. If there’s assurance of confidentiality, more people would be encouraged to speak out.” According to Agbonika, victims also keep quiet because of lack of assurance that they would get justice. He added: “Normally, when a child is abused, you’ll find out that it’s an acquaintance or family member, who is still living with the child.
Sometimes, it could be the father or mother, and the child is threatened. Sometimes the child is made to take an oath that he would die if he tells anyone. The child is scared to talk, and sometimes the boys that are abused don’t talk because it’s usually an older woman or man, like a house help, aunt or uncle that abused them.” The Co-founder, Advocates for Children and Vulnerable Persons Network (ACVPN), Mr. Ebenezer Omejalile, said the challenge most abused boys face is the fear that nobody would believe them. This abuse, Omejalile argued, makes the child to become ashamed and have low self-esteem.
The effect of bottling up is that the child would never discover himself, said Omejalile. Such a child, he said, would be timid, if not properly rehabilitated. He said: “For boys, they may begin to lust after older women. Parents should sensitise their child on the parts of their bodies, which nobody has a right to touch. So much love should be shown to the male child as much as shown to the female child, so that they wouldn’t have disorientation. A child that’s yearning for parental love and attention, who is not getting it, can easily be penetrated by an abuser.”