• Features
  • Updated: January 12, 2023

Surviving As A Gender-Based Violence Victim

Surviving As A Gender-Based Violence Victim

Regardless of one’s gender, race or social class, it is impossible to escape from gender-based violence in Nigeria considering how systemic oppression and uncontrolled immunity have gained ground in the country’s ecosystem. How then will the victims of the misaction get out of the shackles?

The everydayness of gender-related violence is alarming. According to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), 33% of women aged 15-49 in Nigeria have experienced physical or sexual violence; 24% have suffered only physical violence, 2% have encountered only sexual violence, while 7% have withstood both physical and sexual violence.

It is rampant but not limited to women. Research by the BMJ Open Journal sighted by AllNews Nigeria revealed the “fear of disclosure” as a problem caused by our society which has placed a burden on men not to act weak.

The "strong head" prevents the world from noticing cases of violence against the masculine gender. In actuality, violence against men is equally very common.

The goal of this piece is not to restate the already-known issues around GBV but to give victims, the government, sociocultural groups, NGOs and all concerned stakeholders a guide on how survivors of the inevitable human problem can grasp their lives afterwards using victims' testimonies and revelations from experts.

Investigation and legal action are not enough

Indeed, survivors need proper investigation, restraining orders and legal frameworks to get justice.

But One Voice Initiative for Women and Children Emancipation (OVIWCE)'s Executive Director, Olayinka Adebajo opined that the legal and justice support could do little to give survivors the minds to speak up or a reasonable life afterwards.

 "As evident in our organisation, survivors need financial, medical and psychological support systems to get their lives going again. They do not enjoy this today".

Adebajo furthered that despite the relentless effort of his organisation, the UN and other agencies, difficult survivors will not speak out because there's no one to take care of their financial, mental, and housing needs.

All NGOs and support groups contacted while compiling this report maintained that there must be a systemic change in the handling of GBVs' welfare in the country after they had come out of their shells to speak out.

Adebajo added "During the pandemic, we had a case where a teenager was being sexually abused.

"She couldn't speak out because the abuser's family pays her bills and sends her to school. We could not take up the case even when we wanted to.

"Financial capacity controls a lot in the world we live in today. Some abusers dictate the tune because they hold the financial piper.

"Well, our partners are doing well but we certainly need to do more", he added.

Society needs to let us be 

A male survivor of gender-based violence who identified himself only as Kolade told our reporter that life was hard for him after he spoke out about how his wife maltreated him in the house on a popular radio programme. 

"Since the incident, I have become a weak man. I experienced first-hand the burden of a woman who does not want us to live happily as a couple and spoke out.

"Since I had spoken, the best thing people have done is to laugh at me. Others have done worse", he said amid sobs.

He furthered that despite the spirit of resilience he uses to advance his life, the social and economic environment fails to absorb him meaning that his speaking out has failed him.

"I am just like an ex-convict. I don't have a wife after my wife left me. No woman wants to associate with me.

"They say if anything happens I won't hesitate to take them to the radio instead of manning up to my manly responsibilities.

"My life is becoming shambolic just because I spoke out."

We must create a social sphere safe for survivors to live after speaking out against GBV.

Kolade noted that the system we use has killed his life and relationships because it is exhausting, completely depleting and unassuming.

Our culture needs an upgrade

To give survivors of GBV a life worth living, our culture which has over the years remained woefully ignorant of our obsession with violence needs to be looked at and perfected.

Musa Ibeto, a graduate historian in Sokoto State explained that there is a cultural rot in the world which has worsened the lives of GBV survivors even after the perpetrators have been named, shamed or jailed.

"Even the cores of American history began with the genocide, victimisation, dehumanisation of Native and Indigenous people and enslaved Africans.

"We have a bad culture of making survivors hate themselves for speaking up.

"You will hear someone saying you ended up pushing your fellow man to prison", Ibeto enunciated.

Survivors feel guilty that they blame themselves for speaking out. The culture makes them hate what they have done, even though it is legal, till they die.

Ibeto said it is very discouraging because the culture does not acknowledge and rectify the evil helping narrative but had continued to incarcerate survivors who should have been praised for standing up against evil.

"I have a case of a survivor who was disowned because she spoke out against the evil act.

"The family said the accused, her stepfather, had loved her, taken care of her and paid her bills, therefore he didn't deserve such from her regardless of what she's passing through", Ibeto recounted.

He added that the culture is keen on indebtedness to long-term friends, parents and spouses, favourite teachers or close associates when they sexually abuse people who are caught in any act of GBV.

Speaking up against GBV is a commendable development but the lives of most survivors after speaking out have been a sham. 

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