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Are You A Nigerian Parent Raising Your Child In The #MeToo Era?

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[file] A picture shows the message “Me too” on the hand of a protester during a gathering against gender-based and sexual violence called by the Effronte-e-s Collective, on the Place de la Republique square in Paris on October 29, 2017.<br />#MeToo hashtag, is the campaign encouraging women to denounce experiences of sexual abuse that has swept across social media in the wake of the wave of allegations targeting Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / Bertrand GUAY

If you are a Nigerian parent raising children in the #MeToo Era then you need to play your part in empowering your children with the information that they need. Parents can no longer hide behind the veil of feeling awkward.

At LagosMums we believe strongly that it is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children about all matters relating to sex. Who would you rather your child learns about one of the most important aspects of life from? Their friends? The Internet or predators?

Parents are in the best place to be a positive influence in their child’s life and to help them have a healthy understanding and attitude to sex and sexual relations. It all starts with the basic lessons such as talking to children about their private areas, educating and sharing your values and the role of sex in their lives.

What Really is the #MeToo Era?
The #MeToo era is one where women and some men are opening up about the sexual assault or rape that they have faced. It kicked off on social media in about October 2017 as a hashtag started by American actress Alyssa Milano who shared her story of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein.

Once the wave started on social media and the hashtag grew, so did the number of women who came out and spoke about their instances of sexual assault. The more people spoke the more we saw the magnitude of the problem and the number of victims.

The #MeToo hashtag has led to several other popular movements. This movement is way more than a hashtag, it is a movement for justice and to change behaviours. Since the initial #MeToo hashtag there has been #HowIWillChange for people who are now aware of what sexual harassment is. It has also moved to the religious setting with movements such as #ChurchToo, #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. Here in Nigeria, we watched the #PastorStepDown catch momentum. The issue is a global one.

Nigerian Parents’ Guide to Navigating the #MeToo Era
Here in Nigeria, there is a high incidence of rape stories and many times children are the victims. The majority of the cases occur in the hands of people that the children know. These range from domestic staff, to relatives, to teachers or family friends. Many parents are quite lazy when it comes to talking about sexual assault with their children.

The conversation can no longer simply be; do not have sex or the myth that if a boy talks to you, you will get pregnant. Parents need to be real with their children. Children need to understand the truth about these matters. Parents also need to more accessible and let their children feel safe to talk to them when things happen.

Children Need to be Empowered
A child who knows what inappropriate touch and sexual assault look like is empowered. Empowered because they are in a better position to identify when it is happening and thereby increase their chances of not being a victim of it.

Many abusers and predators usually start with grooming. They could call young children things like, “My little wife, be overly touchy-feely by hugging them or asking them to sit on their laps, etc. Many of the predators get close to the children and build a relationship before they strike. Lastly, they could tell the children that their parents would not believe them anyway. They threaten the child to keep their secret or offer to buy them a gift.

A child needs to know what personal space is. There is no reason to be overly friendly with everyone who is supposedly an Aunty or an Uncle. By the way, cut that out, everyone is not an aunt or uncle. Your child needs to know that you trust him or her. That you would believe them when they tell you what they have been through.

The Importance of Consent
Over the past weeks, Busola Dakolo has revealed her ordeal. It has been very moving to watch her series of videos where she recounts all that she went through. She is a brave woman and by speaking out she has helped to highlight this issue and thereby saved other ladies. She has received huge amounts of support from the public and Nigerians with #IstandwithBusola.

Social Media
Whether you love social media or not; it allows you to see the comments from several people and provides an insight into how we think as a people. Following Busola Dakolo’s revelation, there have been both negative and positive comments. Some people have questioned why she waited all this time to speak out. Others have suggested she is shaming her husband. Some think she should have kept silent. However, the comments I absolutely cannot get my head around at all are the ones where people say it was “consented rape.” These two words cannot go in the same sentence. Rape can never be consented to. We need a huge overhaul of what we think is acceptable. Nigerian parents raising children in the #MeToo era need to accept that children are seeing all this on social media and being influenced. If there is no consent you cannot sleep with someone against their wishes. No is No!

The High Rate of Sexual Assault Cases
It has been quite shocking the sheer number of other women who have shared how they have been abused and raped! The numbers are disturbingly high! Many of the women were raped or assaulted as children. The truth is that these stories are not far-fetched, they are very close to home.

I noted Ben Murray Bruce’s tweet below-
“I am deeply saddened and I stand in solidarity with Busola Dakolo. To put in perspective the enormity of rape crime in Nigeria, one day I was talking to 6 beauty queens, 5 opened up to me that they were raped as children. -Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) June 28, 2019

Too many children and women are victims. As a Nigerian Parent, you can no longer ignore this. You have to talk to your children about what sexual assault looks like. Your children need to know what to do if they feel they are in any danger. They need to know that it is not their fault and that they can confide in you.

Because boys and men carry out the majority of sexual assault crimes, we need to raise boys who respect girls and women. It is not a power play, you cannot force someone to have sex or assault them to prove a point or to show your power. A boy should use his power to protect not to hurt. All parties need to understand that it hurts the victim. They need to understand that sex is to be enjoyed between two consenting adults. It can never be okay to violate someone’s right to choose.

What Boys and Girls Need to Know in the #MeToo Era
As a Nigerian parent, you have some work to do before you send your child abroad. Unfortunately, many have not trained their children adequately to be ready to deal with sexual relations in the wider world. It is very critical that boys do not misunderstand what it means if a girl seems interested in him. An indication of interest does not mean you can start touching her or think you can go further.

In one case, a boy misunderstood what he saw as the girl’s interest in him. In reality, what the boys think they could get away with in Nigeria does not apply abroad. This has led to some Nigerian boys getting arrested for sexual assault in the US.

Likewise, girls need to understand the steps they need to take for their safety. These include going out in pairs and being very careful of the company they keep. Some friends are not friends at all. There have been stories of girls who have been abused and the spectators, including their friends, recorded the whole episode. Sick right?

The stakes are high and it is imperative that Nigerian parents and children are aware. Access to the Internet and exposure to inappropriate content does not help. Because several shows and games are over sexualising our children, they end up wanting to try out what they have seen. We need to safeguard them. Parents, caregivers, teachers all have a part to play in protecting our children. Everyone needs to discuss dangers, what steps to take to protect yourself and generally have more open conversations.


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