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‘Time has come to train girls on martial arts’

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Dr Folusho Jayeoba Ilesanmi, a psychologist and senior lecturer, Department of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management (IRPM), Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, in this interview with DANIEL ANAZIA, says that apart from speedy adjudication of rape cases, girls should be trained on martial arts to defend themselves.

Do you think the long, torturous process in securing justice for rape victims deters survivors from speaking out?
In addition to stigma and alleged police treatment of victims as the guilty party, justice system and the ‘long, torturous process’ is rather discouraging. Many do not have the patience or the resources to walk such a path. Not only that, it is emotionally flogging to have to wait so long to get justice while the offender freely walks around in the neighbourhood. If it is certain that justice will eventually be served, it may be worthwhile, otherwise, the victim will rather move on with her life with all the risks, trauma and stigma.

What are the obstacles to securing justice for rape victims?
The obstacles are as much as the resistances to the apprehension of rapist criminals and conclusive prosecution and adjudication of cases. In that chain, we find the victim and willingness to report and follow-through processes, the police, the lawyers and the court. Well, perhaps also the culture/society. Are families, for instance, eager to report or prosecute insider rapist? Would wives not cover up her rapist husband? Would neighbours caught not rather settle out of court? I think victims, human right activists and lawyers on the beat of rape can better address the question.

Do you agree with the view in some quarters that the surge in rape cases is due to the fact that the crime does not carry stiff penalties?
The surge in cases of rape can be attributed to several reasons. To start with, rape cuts across race, gender, age groups, but perhaps more common among young adults.

The indulgence in drugs by some youths, society’s lackadaisical attitude towards rapists, the ambivalence about who to blame, hormonal imbalance and mental disturbance in rapists are possible reasons. I was wondering if the lockdown had added to the urge to rape? Perhaps restriction of movement had made it impossible for rapists to reach their point of normal gratification. Cultism as a factor also accounts for rapes.

Can stiffer penalty help?
It should, but only if cause-effect is seen to apply promptly. If justice is delayed, no matter how severe is the eventual punishment, the lag in time will diminish the impact. We should however not wait for victims to resort to self-help.I made a post on Facebook about the need to castrate rapists. I understand that, that in itself may not be absolutely deterrent. So what works? Death penalty? Yes, when the victim is killed as we have witnessed recently. When the victim survives, the extent of trauma, bodily arm and other factors should count in awarding penalties. Long years to life sentence may be an option.

Do you think the police, judiciary and society generally have played their expected roles in the fight against rape in Nigeria?
The parent, police and society have their roles. The individual girl-child needs to be trained for self-protection for whatever that is worth. I believe that rapists are cowards who capitalise on assumed vulnerability (weak vessels as the society puts it) of the female gender. If he perceives that he may be taken to task, he will think twice.

Martial arts, judo, karate, boxing, etc, as basic training from elementary schools can help in that regards. I also think that the female confronted with a single rapist can deliberately apply reasonable pressure on the scrotum. No male can bear such and I’m surprised why this simple remedy is not taught to girls. Rape ought to be fought sincerely and with seriousness. Everyone is vulnerable, in a way. If it is not you, it may be your wife, baby, teenage boy or girl or even your mother. It is now that bad!

How can the government put an end to rape menace?
The government can only use the instrument of law; legislation on prompt and stiffer penalty is advocated. Like Pastor E. A. Adeboye said recently, ‘aside death penalty, no punishment is too severe for a rapist’. But if a rapist kills in the process, the law on murder should automatically apply.

What are the psychological effects of stigmatisation of rape victims?
Stigmatisation has two parts: the source/cause of stigma and the effects on victims. On source, stigma is often borne out of misunderstanding or incomplete knowledge on a subject matter. Like HIV and rape, it is common to wrongly attribute cause to the victim. The one who contracted HIV or is raped may be thought of as lose or seductively dressed respectively. The more information that is available on cause, the easier to prevent stereotypes leading to stigmatisation.

On effect of stigma on rape victims, this may relate to value placed on maiden chastity or marriage as a moral institution. The victim may feel she had lost value after news of being raped filtered. Such news comes with people distancing from the victim or passing blames (overtly or covertly). But we know that rape is an affront on individual’s fundamental right to agree or decline sexual activity. Violators ought to be seen from that light and should be the ones to be stigmatised for recklessness and lack of self-control. He should also be seen as the criminal in breach of societal moral code.

There are stages in the range of responses by rape victims, but as noted, it will depend on available social and legal support systems, perhaps also cultural and religious contexts. The rape victim’s first response is likely to be shock, then denial. But since rape leaves traces and physical bruises, denial will soon translate to bitterness and hate of the aggressor, a craving for justice (arrest and just prosecution of offender). If justice is either denied or delayed, as is often the case, the victim may experience nightmares, insomnia and depression in the immediate aftermath.

Long-term effects may range from phobia for places/faces reminiscent of context of rape; like not being able to walk on lonely streets or by night as the case may be, hatred for men, marriage and sex generally, future psychosomatic ailments like migraine, and in marriage the victim may become frigid (inability to relax during sex or hormonal restrictions leading to little or no arousal).Of course, the responses depend ultimately on the person’s personality make up such as low or high self-esteem. Also, extroverts may recover quicker than introverts.

How can rape victims overcome stigmatisation?
Overcoming stigmatisation will depend on four things. One is available social support. Can she (the victim) relate her experience to noncritical others who will show empathy or help seek redress? Two is available legal sanction. If the rapist is punished, the blame is passed to the right quarter. The victim will feel less guilty or may not likely indulge in self-blame. She is better able to heal psychologically. Three is availability of counselling to deal with the rousing tensions and complex emotions as well as trauma of rape. Then societal education/advocacy is important. Rape is a crime and it must be treated as such by mass media and in education curriculums.


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