Sexual Assault: Experts Urge Nigerians to Take Responsibility

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Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Chair, Advisory Council, National Human Rights Commission, Abuja has urged Nigerians to take responsibility against sexual assault and violence against women in Nigeria.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Mirabel Centre, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) on Monday, November 25, Odinkalu said, “we have to take responsibility and we have to stop fooling ourselves or act like it doesn’t happen.

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“When your young child tells you ‘uncle did something wrong’, take the kid seriously, when you see your sister being abused, don’t tell her ‘stay in the marriage, it is sweet,’ It’s not. The husband who beats the wife is not doing sweet love and I know at least four people who have been killed in marriages as a result of violence and at least three of those could have been stopped or saved if there was support to enable them come out.”

Odinkalu said: “Marriage is till death do us part not till I kill you. I hope that we can draw the distinction and make sure that we can provide the support we can to those who are going through difficulty in marriage and in relationships. And when a young man pours acid on the face of a young woman whom he chooses to disfigure because she said no, then we must be able to make sure he doesn’t get a chance to do it a second time. Impunity must not be tolerated.”

Also, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Professor Wale Oke acknowledged the responsive approach and services to survivors of sexual assault referral centre (SARC).

Oke said, it will further go a long way to increase access to medical services and awareness of Lagosians.

“This centre will enable us to respond more efficiently and effectively to the needs of victims of sexual violence. LASUTH is grateful for your commitment in the fight against gender based violence in Lagos.”

According to Oke, victims of rape or sexual assault may feel ashamed, angry, guilty, distressful and anxious. There may be a disbelief of what has happened to them and hence, they need to get back to their normal lives as quickly as possible.

“I must tell you that whatever they feel is normal. They need back their lives and we must be committed to restoring it. Sexual violence is a gross violation of women’s right, a moral and ethical degeneration, and a stain on our collective conscience.

“Sexual abuse can lead to lost childhoods, abandoned education, physical and emotional problems, the spread of HIV, and an often irrevocable loss of dignity and self-esteem. Women in Lagos have always been at the forefront of the liberation struggle, and we owe an immense debt of gratitude to women for the instrumental role they play in the polity,” Oke said.

Odinkalu added that, sexual assault happens on a scale we cannot tolerate.

“You hear me talk about the story of a woman who was beaten to death. The idea of a Mirabel Centre is very laudable because we need to be able to provide support to victims of violence. Quite often, victims of violence don’t have anyone to run to.

“They are economically dependent on those who are violating them and those who can help them and those who can help them cannot help and those who cannot help them for all manners of reasons and so centres like Mirabel Centre enable us to provide support to victims of violence in ways that enable the victims to be able to rediscover themselves to exercise decision making and move on in their lives.”

He said, the Human Rights Commission is looking at setting up a refuge and trauma care centre in Abuja for victims of violence as that is absolutely essential.

However, the Mirabel Centre which officially opened on July 1, 2013 is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) established and managed by Partnership for Justice to provide holistic and high quality medical and psychosocial services to survivors of sexual assault and rape.

Men, women and children, who have either recently or in the past, experienced rape or sexual assault can benefit from the free and comprehensive medicaal, counselling and aftercare seervices provided by Mirabel Centre.

These services are delivered to the clients in a professional and timely manner to help them overcome the trauma of rape/sexual assault.

SARC is named after the Hermanas Mirabel Sisters (Minerva, Maria, Patria and Dede), four political activists who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. On November 25, 1960, three of the sisters (Minerva, Maria, Patria) were assasinated. In 1999, the sisters were recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, who in their honour, designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Source: Daily Times.

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