Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi – Rape survivor and founder, Stand To End Rape Initiative
On the morning of the 2011 elections, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi woke without the inclination that she will be raped that day. She was undergoing her mandatory NYSC programme and was raped by election touts who wanted her to collect bribe and compromise on her values. Though Seun was violated, but she has become a testimony, helping other rape victims to overcome their hurt and ordeals. The unassuming damsel is the founder of Stand To End Rape Initiative (S.T.E.R), an NGO geared towards helping rape victims overcome their hurts and helping them to speak up .She shares her tale of survival in this interview
My rape story
I was a corps member who was delegated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Youth Service Corp(NYSC) to serve as an INEC registration official in one of the villages in the State. During the course of my work, I was offered bribe by one of the political aspirants to register under-aged children as being eligible to vote, so as to boost the votes from that community for the aspirant. An offer I rejected. This resulted in the village and community members detesting me for hindering one of them from attaining his political right. They set a trap for me to be raped by one of the village boys. When I was raped, I was devastated. I was shattered because I had been raped as a virgin. I had broken the family tradition of girls from my household marrying as virgins. I was angry that society didn’t protect me when all Idesired was for the society to be better through credible elections. I was infuriated by the negligence of the Nigeria Police Force towards getting justice for a poor rape victim like myself. I was the shadow of myself, a mirror broken that couldn’t reflect the beauty it saw.
My regret refusing the bribe
I regretted refusing the bribe. Maybe if I had, I possibly wouldn’t have experienced such an incident. I asked myself questions like: “What made me believe my personal beliefs or expectations for my country will make a difference? These bugged me and gave me restless moments that led to self victimization. The shame of losing my virginity was unbearable; I felt filthy and was drained of any self-worth.
Psychological effects of being violated
Victims experience both short and long-term psychological effects of rape. One of the most common psychological consequences of rape is self-blame, which is used as an avoidance-based coping tool. Self-blame slows or, in many cases, stops the healing process. Other common emotional and psychological effects of rape include:
My housemate at the time had seen me bleeding. So, she was the only help available to me at the time. I spoke to her and she gave me basic first aid at the time. I was clueless as regards “What to do when raped.” Going to the hospital for checkup wasn’t something I was accustomed to .Just like most people today, I only knew I had to report to the Police Station — a place I had expected to get all the help I required.
Police wanted to confirm the veracity of my experience
Like I mentioned earlier, I reported to the Police Station. I met my waterloo when one of the officials had said they needed to “confirm” my claim of being raped. He literally said they had to check me. I felt humiliated. The problems victims generally face dawned on me. The Station didn’t have a rape kit or any amenity required to confirm rape had occurred. How exactly did they intend to carry this out? I decided to live with my ordeal and save myself from further emotional degradation.
My mum said complaining wasn’t enough?
I advocate for rape victims because I was one of them. I had no help or support. My mum said it was not okay to complain about the problems, it is also taking the initiative to be the solution in my own little space. She motivated me to know that the incident didn’t just happen to me. It happened for a reason and she counseled me to figure that out and fix whatever the problem was. I decided to bridge the gap between victims of rape and the services, laws and support they require. Most times, rape victims need direction on where they can get help. Due to the culture of silence that thrives in Nigeria, they require laws that alleviate their already painful situation. This and more motivated me to at least contribute my own quota and help the few that cross my path.
From a mess to a message
I believe my life was orchestrated for a divine purpose. God is preaching a message through my mess. This isn’t to say I had to be have been raped before fulfilling purpose, however, God used my story to reshape that of others. Maybe my life would have probably had no meaning as much as it does today if the incident hadn’t played out. There is nothing more important to me than being a reason someone can make lemonade from the lime that has been thrown at them .I believe I was branded to motivate other rape survivors to be limitless. I created no space for the rape experience to brand my existence and reality. God helped me use my story to create a platform to speak about his awesomeness.
My inspiration is to fulfill what the master has carved me to accomplish. If I was doing it for myself alone, perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am today. I possibly would have long sought another part. But because I was made for this, I didn’t know where to turn to when the incident happened to me, now that I know better, I can help people with that information and also ensure they are able to access the various services at their disposal and that which my organization can provide. My inspiration is to serve God more in this capacity and also to encourage rape victims to become survivors and reassure them that life doesn’t end at the point of rape. I am inspired to use my experience to connect with other people’s trauma and shame. I am also inspired to see more rape victims become healed, because the more I see people thriving beyond their stories, the more my heart leaps for joy. I forget my pain and just glory in the gain. I am inspired to sowing a seed of joy and restoration into people’s lives
Challenges of running Stand To End Rape
We live in a country that is wearing a veil of silence. Therefore, getting more victims to speak up has been a bit challenging. We have free medical, legal and psychological services to offer. If people do not access this, it will be a wasted effort for our organization. Some survivors who have actually taken the courage to speak out have lamented on the responses and body language of the Nigeria Police Force as a discouraging factor .This stops them from appearing once more at such stations. Also, their inability to immediately arrest the erring rapist poses a lot of threat.
Being a woman of rubies
In this context, I believe a woman of rubies is a woman of substance, value and worth. A woman of rubies is one who not only makes an impact, but is exceptional and also inspires others to do same. I and other women working to make the world a better place in their own little capacity, are women of rubies.
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