Today, I speak about a matter that is trending in the Nigerian scene. I speak of rape and sexual abuse. I speak of sexual exploitation in the church. I speak of predator men let loose on unsuspecting or naïve girls, ladies and women. I speak of Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Biodun Fatoyinbo and the countless abusive men whose crimes have not been discovered!
Like the Yoruba adage goes, ‘It is the person that is caught that is a thief’. This means that there are many more people stealing and getting away with it, but it is those who are caught that will be tagged thieves.
How many men are sexually abusive in our society? How many men have done it, keep doing it and are getting away with it?
And why do we limit abuse to sexual abuse? There is domestic violence. There’s emotional and psychological abuse. Some men are just predators. They prey on the innocent, the naïve, the helpless, the weak, the vulnerable. In fact, they are always on rampage, like the devil their master, looking for who to devour!
I speak because I am a woman and I feel some of the pain of my fellow women, who have been abused, are being abused and will be abused. I do not speak because I am qualified to criticize men. Nor do I speak because I have additional insight into what actually transpired in the Fatoyinbo case. I speak because I know, from experience, that sometimes it is difficult to explain an abusive incident without four fingers pointing to you, accusing you of compromise, negligence, stupidity or lying.
I speak because I know a little about abuse. And from my experience, there is usually no smoke without fire. And I know that the victim may not always be articulate enough or have sufficient words to describe the abuse without others questioning her ‘What did you to warrant the abuse?’ Believe me, that is a very painful, unsympathetic and unhelpful question, which shows that the person asking has no idea of how abuse works and the psychology of abuse. It is questions like this that keep the victims quiet, even when the abuse is repeated over and over. It is questions like this that keep women from speaking out and would rather bear the shame and the pain in secret.
I do not have statistics of how many women have died from the psychological trauma of abuse. I only know that, but for the grace of God, I would have been one of them. The trauma of abuse lasts longer and goes deeper than what anyone can imagine.
When a victim speaks up and is ridiculed, it brings the pain of other victims back to the surface and you suffer along, although secretly. The comfort survivors have is that God is there. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).
I wish there was more succor for the suffering, such as access to counselors and people who understand abuse and how to deal with it, both for the victim and for the abuser. This is because it’s not only the victim that needs help. The abuser does too.
The abuser needs help because in most cases, the abuser was previously a victim and then grows into their own manifestation of abuse. It is hurt people that hurt people. The abuser must have been damaged at some point. And because they were not healed, they go on to become abusers themselves. So, the abuser needs help too. Sometimes, the abuse is also as a result of negative spiritual influence from demons. The abuser needs to be delivered and counselled and guided through to a better way of life, by accepting Christ and walking in the light of God.
There is also hope for the victims. They need help to get over the bad memories and heal from their hurt, which is very deep and goes to the core of their being. Outer wounds will heal fast, if there are any. But internal wounds need tending, soothing, treatment, with the word of God and prayer, with love and acceptance from good people, with visions of hope for a better tomorrow and a lot of tender loving care and counsel to heal. Believe me, it takes a long time to heal from abuse. It is much easier to destroy a soul than to heal it. But the caregivers and the victim must not give up, because with God, all things are possible.
Society can help by not stigmatizing the victims, but helping them confront the wrong that has been done and making room for the healing process. In addition, justice must be seen to be done. This is because most abuse is not just against a person, it is also against the laws of the land, which must be enforced, to deter other predators from actualizing their evil intentions.
It is also important to point out that predator men are everywhere. They are not only in church. They are in offices, in schools, in markets, in homes. Everywhere. They are rich, they are poor, they are young, they are old, they are middle aged, they are ugly, they are handsome, they are quiet, they are loud, they are successful, and they are failures. All manner of men.
Surprisingly, you also find that some are women too. So it is not limited to a particular gender. Nowadays some women are predators too. And they can be as aggressive and mean and exploitative as predator men have been known to be.
What is our role? What is expected of a good citizen and a Christian?
Be careful out there. Love your pastor, but always check their words and actions against what the Bible says. By their fruits you will know them. No one is authorized to abuse you in any way, even in the name of God. God is not abusive. He is a loving Father. Anyone who abuses in His name, does not belong to God, but is of the devil. Teach your children to be safe. Be sensitive to the Spirit of God and let Him lead you in paths of righteousness. Forsake what is evil. Do good. Seek the Lord always, let Him direct your path. He will lead you away from what is wrong and cover you with His wings.
Finally, for those who are hurting, find a trustworthy friend. Find someone who can be trusted to talk to. Talking helps a lot. Don’t be alone in your misery, because it can get so bad that you would want to harm yourself. Find someone to talk to. Share your pain. Empty your mind of the bitter memories. Don’t get overwhelmed with the question ‘Why me?’ Trust God to help you and cry out to Him, especially when you feel overwhelmed.
You will get through this. Don’t give up. There is a better tomorrow. It is just around the corner.