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Female on female sexual abuse: A silent scourge?

The issue of rape is gradually getting into the public space. This is mainly as a result of the intensifying activities of human rights groups as well as journalists as they go about highlighting the subject. Unlike in the past when rape victims were expected to suffer in silence, more and more people are coming out to share their experiences.

Sonimifaaa Dinah Braide, is one such individual.  As an activist, she is more than willing to share her experience if only to create the necessary awareness. Here are excerpts from her narration on the night she was raped as a teenager by armed bandits.

“He asked, do you have a boyfriend? I replied no, and he slapped me. Asked again will you cooperate and I still responded yes. He turned to Nancy and asked same question. Nancy said she was observing her menstruation, he demanded for evidence and she showed it to him. He told her to stay there and then led I and my cousin into the farmland at the back of the compound.

He asked my cousin to take off his shirt and spread it on the floor and step away to where some of the gang kept him at gun point. As for me the cold steel of the gun was on my body as he raped me.”

Sonimifaa completed her narration by stating that rape is a crime against humanity.

Quite a number of people would agree with that statement. Zuriel Olowe works for the Centre for Sex Education and Family Life as a Consultant/Play and Dance Therapist. At the centre, they deal with children and even adults who have been sexually abused. She talks about not only the short-term effects but also the long-term effects of being sexually abused “as an adult, the child may get to equate sex with love thereby sex is expressed in the most negative way,” she said.

A report on ‘The trends and patterns of sexual assaults in Lagos- Southwestern Nigeria’ in the Pan-African Medical Journal published in July, 20, 2016 shows an increase in reported cases of sexual abuse over the years. However, no direct mention was made on female on female sexual abuse.

Melinda Butler (not real names) is a victim of sexual abuse. She shares her experience as a three year old.

“It happened when my dad went to pick up my elder siblings from school because I was in the nursery session, I was usually picked first by my dad and dropped at home while he went to pick my elder siblings in the primary section. My nanny would lift up my dress, and fondle my private area, she would only stop when she heard my dad’s car on the driveway. For many years, I did not remember what happened but one day when I was sixteen, the memories all came back and I realized that I had been abused. I realized that what I thought were normal sexual feelings for individuals of the same sex was actually as a result of that experience.”

Can an individual who does not feel any pain be described as being sexually abused?  Zuriel Olowe responds in the following manner;
“Abuse is abuse. Even when there is no penetration, no one is pain free from sexual abuse,” she said. However, she is quick to point out that cases of female on female sexual abuse that she has come across are few and far between.

On an enquiry to find out what the law specifically says about female on female sexual abuse, Ginika Okeke  a trained lawyer with many years of experience states; “I have not heard of a case of a woman sexually abusing another. I have not heard it being mentioned in class i.e by way of mention during my training. Being charged with rape or something similar does not mean that one is automatically guilty, u are presumed innocent until your guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. It’s not usually easy to prove rape beyond reasonable doubt. The defense counsel could argue that the woman consented. In rape u must establish, forceful penetration, lack of consent.”

A stance taken by a popular social media group that forbids sharing any of their materials reflects the casual way the subject of female on female sexual abuse is taken. In this popular Facebook group which has a large membership of Females in Nigeria, a lady narrated a story of how she was lured as a teenage student to engage in sexual acts with her female school principal. Pundits speculate that the experience contributed in no small measure to the lesbian lifestyle of the narrator as an adult. The narrator seemed to be oblivious to those kinds of analysis, as she described the experience in playful terms like it was something to joke about. 

Michael Ibiezugba is the Head of Department of the Social Work Department of the University of Benin, he summarizes the issue thus; “people will find it hard to believe that a woman can sexually abuse another because whatever the adult has done, the child cannot say.  Even if she gets to know, the mother of the child can even downplay the situation by saying ‘thank God say na woman like me’ (which roughly translates to ‘I am thankful the abuse was perpetrated by a fellow female’).” 

With attitudes like these the issue of female on female sexual abuse is likely to continue unhindered except something is done to change mindsets.

By Efe A. Omordia

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