It is worrisome on all levels. It is, that Yunusa Dahiru Bala undertook the long distance travel from Kano to Bayelsa just for satisfying his bacchanalistic instinct of getting a young Kaffir girl as bride, August 12, 2015. Beyond the obvious condemnation, I recoil at the more blood-curdling aftershocks of this surreal incident.
Upon the liberation of Yunusa’s forced captive, the name and pictures of this innocent girl’s full frontal face were prominently blasted all across our print, electronic and social media. Now, I am a proud member of the Nigerian media and I often glory in its effort in bettering this society and holding wrongdoers accountable on the people’s behalf despite tough limitations and often under hazardous conditions.
But, with this, we crossed the line. Publishing Victim X’s name and pictures is a breach of the craft’s ethics; I suspect the breaking nature of the story led to an unconscious obliviousness to its ills because ideally, this should not be. Otherwise, her names should have been withheld and print and new media should have redacted her face in photographs and television crews would have used moving images of her shadow or back of her head instead, according to best global Journalism practices employed in such situations.
I said it years before when rape of increasing number of pre-school children were becoming alarming, that this is the best course of action for all victims of molestation and rape. Not doing this is re-victimisation of the victim.
We just got the man hitherto called Yunusa Yellow’s full name. We do not know if this is his real identity. Regardless, with his recent arraignment, his face is revealed. Yunusa is the one that should be facing immense publicity for his hateful act and from his bent head at his pre-trial, he knows too. Splashing his image everywhere is not glorifying Yunusa Yellow, but serving his head on a plate as a deterrent to other minds with twisted twin passions.
Doing this may provide some emotional closure for Victim X despite the unfortunate long future awaiting her of constant re-victimisation even without this robbery on her anonymity and innocence.Now 14, she was 13 when she was reportedly kidnapped from her mother’s shop in the Yenagoa Local Government area of Bayelsa State. I never knew her before her ordeal but as I mortifyingly beheld her stony, vacant eyes and pursed lips that stared back at the lens like someone told to empty a faeces-filled potty right after a meal, I am unsure of her elation at regaining her freedom. It belies bemusement at having her life of forced child-bridehood, to Yunusa, interrupted. I hope she is not suffering from Stockholm’s Syndrome.
After viewing the self-righteous postulations of Yunusa’s father on the “lovers”, as he called Yunusa and Victim X on Africa Independent Television, it is clear her re-victimisation is worsening.The wheel of justice is stalling on her behalf. Yunusa’s father is spinning that she is a willing party to her own abduction and rape. Without any witnesses, Yunusa backed by her father now could claim she eloped with him. And without a medical report to back up rape charges, her case looks grim. Even if all those were done, the criminal justice system ominously re-victimises victims of rape worldwide. I once witnessed a case. The victim had to contend with intrusive medical examination of her genitalia. And answer degrading questions on whether there was actual penetration into her anatomy according to legal terms in a filled, public courthouse. She struggled to produce minimally, two credible witnesses who would place their hands on the Bible or Koran and swear that verily, verily, they were there, in the room with the couple, where they saw actual copulation. They must then gauge if the joining was consensual or forced. Did the victim shout for help? On further demeaning cross examination to the vulnerable victim, it is very easy for the accused’s lawyer to aver that the screams are in fact, ecstatic moans.
In this case, Victim X has no medical report which should have been got immediately after her initial rape. That does not guarantee a positive verdict for rape victims but at least, it is a game changer. According to Tunji Abayomi , SAN, and a doctor of law, even in advanced societies like the United States, the ratio of rape convictions versus that of complaints or prosecution is very few and similarly horrendous.
I hear Victim X is five months’ pregnant. More re-victimisation.I am pro-life but even if pro-choice arguments prevail here, she is beyond the threshold of terminating the pregnancy. Regardless of all odds, she is now irrevocably yoked with Yunusa forever. The prevailing culture of our country means families of rape victims, and the victims themselves, are ironically scorned more than the rapists’. The victims themselves are never candidates of choice for marriages because, once a suitor hears a whiff of such an incident, he is most likely to abandon that relationship. She cannot hide since her name is so immortalised.
I hear mentions of her name 10 times more than her abuser’s who rightfully merit that humiliation. Henceforth, anywhere she has to give her name, she would hesitate. In forced remembrance, pain, shame and regret. In these days of social media, the interlinked web means her name is immortalised and so, an employability name check by a diligent HR department would find that about her life and even if she is employed, that fact remains stored in her personal file for possible abuse by any faultfinder later in life.
This is starting at 14 for Victim X. At that age, one is just casting off the blind naiveté and toga of childhood to embrace the self-aware and assertive teenage years. At that stage, one needs assurance, lots of love and understanding. At this age, the illusions of Victim X are shattered by a brutal man.
Most men do not understand rape. Many, including the so-called educated ones, firmly disbelieve its existence because their misogynistic logic interprets a woman’s objections to mean she actually wants it. Cynical and grandiose factors such as her dressing or body language or even, encouragement are listed as mitigating factors. Moot points considering women in hijab and veils also get raped. A rape occurs when a female says no against sex yet, the man forcefully has his way even if she is in bum shorts or her eyes are literally overflowing with lust just like when a residue of an over-poured eye-drop medication gushes out.
For the female of the homo sapiens, her self-image, self-worth and total essence of who she represents lies at the juncture of her thighs. Minus some prostitutes or nymphomaniacs, that is how every sane woman feels. A broken psyche of that regular girl being picked up at night clubs or street corners leads her to hawk her feminity when she could sell sachet water or recharge cards. Any doubter reading this only needs call a prostitute, ashewo. Such a mindless word, abi? You would think a thunderstorm flashed across the skies as she slaps you or after waking up in a hospital with a stitched scalp after she cracked it open with a broken bottle. The glorified call girl or mistress would never admit it even to God in her private moments but she secretly battles inner demons at being sexually objectified despite possessing fat bank accounts or exotic cars.
Those were consensual. Now, imagine that essence of self-worth and image forcibly taken from a woman as it is during a rape. Mental health experts say a schism occurs in the woman’s mind, soul, spirit and body, giving her a negative self-image of uselessness and filthiness. She needs constant re-assurances of self-worth. Her rage and pain at being overpowered and her self-worth rudely taken from her lead to a burning anger that fuels all manner of deviant behaviour like nymphomania, prostitution, wild-partying, drug abuse and so on. Some get frigid, are afraid of all men or to leave their homes. Therapy helps in lessening these effects but that intrinsic low self-esteem never totally leaves regardless of heights of successes they attain. In the end, they mostly battle depression all their life. It could be why Victim X pursed her lips.
Her father said he would get her spiritual help at a popular church. Well. In the absence of help from hitherto loquacious women and children NGOs surprisingly now mute or visible assistance from the Bayelsa State Government, parents of Victim X, please approach the US Embassy and seek asylum for her based on humanitarian grounds. It is best she starts life afresh, possibly with a new name, in a developed land devoid of rape stigmatisation and which is well-equipped to treat her visible and inner trauma.
It would lessen the re-victimisation of Victim X.
- Ms. Ogunbayo, a journalist, wrote in from Lagos. Follow her on Twitter via @themodupe
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