Experience of coerced sex reduces a woman’s ability to see her sexuality as something over which she has control,” says the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its First World Report on Violence and Health. Sexual violence often occurs when a person engages in a sexual act with another person by force.
The growing cases of violence against women, particularly rape of minors and elderly women, do not only call for concern but also for concerted efforts to eliminate it in our country Nigeria. This tacitly summarises the need for more well-trained, well-informed and well-equipped social workers in Nigeria!
Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill seek to eliminate or reduce this harassment to the barest minimum. I have seen from observation that sexual violence occurs in times of peace and armed conflict and it is considered to be one of the most traumatic and pervasive event in one’s life.
Sexual violence is a serious public health concern which has serious short-term or long-term impact on the victims’ physical and mental health, while heightening the risks of sexual and reproductive health problems.
Sexual violence includes
While violence against women comes in different forms such as battery, rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, human trafficking and harmful widowhood rites. The thing is most crimes are under-reported.
Recently, I came across a case of sexual assault against an aged woman with amnesia! Am like is this for real? But the truth is ‘is actually for real’.
Rape victims cut across ages, with the rape of minors and the elderly on a startling increase in Nigeria! From study and observation of cases, I discovered that perpetrators are usually not strangers! They cut across class, status and religious orientation; comprising Relatives, Pastors, Imams, Traditional rulers, Teachers, Policemen, Soldiers and Ordinary citizens.
The gist here is that rape could have harmful and lasting physical, psychological and reproductive health consequences for the victims, their families and communities. Sexual violence could cause severe physical injuries and trauma-related psychological disorders which might affect the victims for a long time.
The social effects of sexual violence can also be severe as the victims may experience social death’ by being stigmatised within their communities following the assault! The more common consequences of sexual violence were those relating to reproductive health, mental health and social wellbeing. While migraines and other frequent headaches, gastrointestinal disorders (abdominal pain), back pain, facial pain and even death are some of the physical effects.
Victims of sexual violence usually face immediate problems such as shock, fear, anxiety, withdrawal, guilt, self-blame, nervousness, distrust of others and chronic depression, as well as some psychological problems, attempted or completed suicides and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) such as emotional detachment, sleep disturbances and mental replay of the incident.
Reproductive health consequences include unwanted pregnancies which might result in abortion and death, as well as sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and AIDS.
What I wish for is that we practice international and regional instruments which promote women’s health and women empowerment, while doing away with traditions and practices that are destructive in Nigeria.
Women! Watch out for my next post on tips for avoiding sexual harassment!