By Chinwendu Nnamani
The culture of rape has been a menace in our society with those perpetrating the act almost always going scot free without being brought to book. This has made the rape culture to keep thriving in Nigeria with one person having countless rape cases to their name, why won’t they when there was no consequence on their first attempt.
Under the Criminal Code of Nigeria (Section 357 & 358), Rape is defined as “having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false act, or, in case of a married woman, be personating her husband.” This offence is punishable by imprisonment for life, with or without caning.
According to a report, out of 283 total cases of child defilement reported in Lagos in 2011, only 10 were prosecuted and convicted, the report suggest that “sometimes as much as 84 percent of the female population have experienced sexual assault or defilement in childhood”. This means there is a conviction rate of less than 10 percent.
Apart from low conviction rate of rape cases in the country, the victim shaming by the law enforcement agencies that was supposed to protect the victim, the victim shaming by the members of the public, there is also the case of covering up of the crime by those who it happened around them.
Below is a list of reactions from people on the question of reporting a rapist who is a close relation that was caught in the act by them, bearing in mind that they will be convicted, take a read:
“Why will someone I know commit such a crime. I will report immediately once such act comes to my knowledge without wasting time.That person should be aware and ready to face the consequence of the crime, I can only help by bringing food to the culprit when he is finally arrested and detained in prison, but as for reporting, I will surely do that.”
“It will really be a difficult decision to make if those involved (victim and culprit) are close to me. I will be bothered about the duration of time the rapist will be detained and how I will be feeling during that period. I will also be feeling for the person that was raped. But, if the rapist is someone I have no connection with, it will be easier for me to report to the police.”
“I will not report someone I know to the police for raping someone because I will consider the relationship I have with the person. I also know that the act of raping someone is not good and that the victim will be affected. However, I will talk to that my relation to change his ways and not involve in such crime in future. I will also help the victim to overcome the truama involved. I will probably go to the victim’s family and make them see how sorry we are for such situation.”
“It depends on the relationship between I and the person caught in the act of rape. If we are very close, I will take it upon myself to help him get over the act, like a change of attitude, but if it is a distant person that I cannot talk to or someone that will not give me a listening ear, I will now start considering reporting to the police. The difference is how close I am to the person.”
“For me, reporting a rape case depends on the age of the victim. If the victim is someone that has come of age and can go to the police, I will offer all the necessary help and encouragement to the person to report, but if it is an underage victim who is not old enough to take care of themselves, I will personally go the police and report. The reason is simple: the adult victim should take the responsibility of reporting the crime, I wouldn’t want the rapist to bear grudges against me while serving his term in jail.”
“If the rapist is my husband, brother or any male no matter how close to me he is, as long as the person is guilty of the crime of rape and I am aware, I will definitely report to the police for the culprit to face the consequence of the action.”
“It depends on my relationship with the person, if it’s someone close to me, I would have known the kind of person he is, and this will help me look into what caused the rape in the first place. I am sure I will not report a close relation to the police, I will only try to settle the case by pleading with the victim not to take it up to avoid the stigma that comes with it.”
“I will not report to the police directly because if the person is finally arrested and jailed, he will never forgive me and I don’t think I can leave with the guilt. I will rather encourage the victim or someone else close to the victim to do the reporting as I will not want to be caught in the middle of the whole thing.”
“It will be a difficult situation actually, but I will try my best to do the right thing. I think I will report, but I will rather encourage the victim to speak up. But for the perpetrator, though close to me, he must be made to face the consequences.”
From the above reaction, it can be seen that majority of people are much more worried of the fate of the rapist, rather than the fate of the victim. If ‘victim blaming’ can be stopped and rape seen for what it is: crime against the victim, maybe people will begin to see the need to report a rape case to the appropriate authority and not cover it, think more of the fate of the victim rather than the fate of the perpetrator.