SAME BOOK, DIFFERENT PAGE

It’s been a hectic week but for once it didn’t really matter because everyone was looking at the perfect holiday – the Christmas weekend. Four non-working days is any employee’s dream and it certainly held true for Mark. He’d been swamped all week and had only just broken out from under the pile of work he’d been buried under. Still, he was one of the last to leave the office. Being the reliable leader he is, he prefers having so little to carry into the next weekend and this is not the weekend where he’ll want to take work home.

He finally left the office at 8:00 in the evening. When he got into the car he whipped out his phone to call his wife, Nonye. It’s been a while he’s checked his brother and he preferred he did so on his way home. Celebrating Christmas together would be awkward at the moment and he didn’t want to unsettle him yet. He’d put Nonye on speed dial so he only need to long-press one number.

“Hey honey.”

“Sup Homie.”

“Ode, let your in-laws hear o. Be calling your husband homie. Rubbish wife”

“Hahaha, I’ll tell them I married some playful dude that likes to act like an uptight idiot at times.”

“Touché. Smartass oshi. Just wanted to tell you I’ll be a bit late tonight. I’m just leaving the office but I would be stopping over at Jerry’s place. It’s been a while since I visited and I’m feeling guilty, especially considering that I’ve only been over there twice, and he was discharged three months ago.”

“Okay dear. Send him my regards. It’s a good thing we’re not working tomorrow so take your time. I’ll wait up.

Mark drove over to Jerry’s place feeling burdened. They only had each other since their parents died years ago and had done pretty well. Jerry wasn’t married yet. His special case of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia ensured that the girls disappeared whenever he had a breakdown. The last one was particularly worse because the voices in his head convinced him to kill himself by speeding into the fuel pump at a filling station. It was the worst he’s ever had – an episode that kept him in the asylum for one year.

Once he found a suitable parking place in the estate Jerry lived, he got out of his car, walked to his brother’s apartment and knocked. Jerry opened the door from the other side and his surprise at seeing Mark wasn’t hidden.

“Whoa, look what the cat dragged down here,” he said as he moved to the side, allowing Mark to go in.

“Fool, which cat? You and your silly oyinbo writer expressions,” Mark said with a smirk.

“I feel sorry for you man, being a management consultant has made you a boorish snob. There’s beer in the fridge though. Want one?”

“Sure. So how has it been since I last visited?”

“You mean with my condition? It’s been great actually; I think I’ve finally broken through it this time around. I even met a girl but she’s based in Kenya,” Jerry tossed Mark his phone so his brother could see the girl’s picture.

“I’m travelling tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with her. Trust me, I wouldn’t have told you if you didn’t show up but as usual, you always know when something’s up. Warlock oshi.”

“I know bro, I’m awesome like that.”

An hour after the regular brotherly banter and catching up, Mark hit the road again and was already three minutes away when his phone rang.

“Hey dumbass, you forgot something – don’t let Nonye curse me because I didn’t send her gift.”

“Dang it! Good thing I’m not far away, no thanks you your yeye road. I’m coming.”

****************

Nonye heard her husband park on the road side instead of his usual spot on their small driveway. He came in, kissed her on the lips, and handed over Jerry’s gift. He wasn’t saying much so she felt his encounter with Jerry had dampened his mood a bit. He didn’t finish dinner and went to bed soon after.

Was he just having one of those sharp mood swings he usually had? Sometimes she wondered who had the bouts of madness, her husband or Jerry. Or maybe he was just slightly tipsy and didn’t want to get her upset about him having too much to drink.

She worried too much.

Soon after, she worried that the car wasn’t safe where he parked. She’d parked there once only to find a broken tail light the next morning. Nonye got up, picked the keys and got out to park properly. As she climbed the speedbump in front of their driveway, the boot bounced open.

“This blasted boot. Told Jerry to fix it a week ago o!”

When she was properly parked, she went over to close it and felt something wet as she lifted the boot. She switched on the flashlight on her phone to look.

Blood.

Nonye now had a reason to be really worried. Did he hit someone? Maybe that was why he was acting strange. But she was curious and her worst fears became real when she opened the trunk and found a body inside, face down.

She covered her mouth in fear, thinking her husband actually ran someone over. Holding the phone between her teeth, she turned the body over and the phone clattered to the ground when she saw Jerry’s lifeless eyes staring right at her. She tried to scream but it got caught in her throat. Who was in bed with her that night?

“Now I wish you hadn’t found that. You should have just left the car where I parked it.”

Nonye shrieked and jumped. She stared at the man with the voice exactly like Mark’s. That was when she realised she was staring at Jerry.

Mark’s identical twin.

“A few hours ago I used a cat expression on Mark. Now I’ve got another one that’s more popular. You’re one curious lady Nonye and you do know what they say about curiosity and cats yeah?”

That was when Nonye saw the silver glint of the kitchen knife Jerry was holding in the light of the moon.

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RAPE: HOW VICTIM-SHAMING IS JUST AS BAD

Let’s consider a very startling possibility: that girl, woman, lady beside you might have been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in time but no matter how close you are, you might never find out.

Why? Hold on, I’ll get to it soon… First, some figures on rape to push this conversation forward.

  1. In the United States of America, 1 out of 6 women have been victims of attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime.
  2. 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police while 98% of sexual offenders will never spend as much as a day in prison.
  3. Approximately 4 out of 5 percent of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
  4. 47% of rapists are either friends or acquaintances.

These figures are just for the USA alone. That’s a country with a security and legal system that’s far better than Nigeria and with an even more outspoken society. The figures are staggering in more developed climes so I wouldn’t even want to consider how bad it is here. It’s absolutely awful and we can’t hide this fact simply because there’s a lack of data.

Why isn’t there adequate data on issues of rape and sexual assault in Nigeria? Simple: victims aren’t really keen on discussing their ordeals here. It’s as if nobody gets assaulted but we all know this isn’t the case.

I needed to draw the above parallel with the United States because Nigeria today is basically the USA of the 1950s in relation to the perception of victims of sexual assault. Consider the Bill Cosby allegations of sexual assault in a timeline dating back to Kristina Ruehli in 1965.

Consider that most of the women didn’t speak out until a damning deposition from 2005, thought to have been confidential as part of the lawsuit settlement was leaked by the New York Times. It was an allegation of sexual assault by Andrea Constand.

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The 35 women aged from their early 20s to 80 who bravely came forward to be pictured for New York magazine and to reveal details of their alleged encounter with Bill Cosby.

In the deposition, Cosby spoke of Constand, but also of other victims, including a 19-year-old model who sent him a poem and ended up on his couch where she pleasured him with lotion. Describing the sexual act he had with Constand, Cosby explained that he believed it to be consensual.

‘I walk her out. She does not look angry. She does not say to me, don’t ever do that again,’ he said. ‘She doesn’t walk out with an attitude of a huff, because I think that I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them.’

But why didn’t this women say anything back then? Isn’t it America? Here’s your answer in part:

Victoria Valentino, a former Playboy playmate,  claimed that she and her roommate went out for dinner and drinks with Cosby sometime in 1970, and he allegedly offered her a pill that would cheer her up.

In an interview with The Washington Post in November, she alleged that Cosby forced her to perform oral sex and then, raped her. And she couldn’t speak out for over 40 years because in her own words:

“What kind of credibility did I have? In those days, it was always the rape victim who wound up being victimized. You didn’t want to go to the police. That’s the last thing you wanted to do back then.”

Sound familiar?

It doesn’t help that here, we have a really permissive society regarding how women are treated. In a culture where women are primarily perceived as add-ons to men, it is mostly taken for granted that whatever happens to a woman at the hands of a man is her fault. Here, a woman isn’t an individual perse; she belongs to someone –  her father, elder brothers, family members, husband, boss or some random male on the street. Her body isn’t hers; whatever she does regarding her physical appearance should be in consideration to the male gender. As a result, whatever a man does to a woman is the woman’s fault.

So whenever a woman is assaulted sexually here, the comments that usually follow are:

  • She’s lying. He couldn’t have done it.
  • What was she doing with him alone?
  • Why was she dressed like that? (Never mind the fact that some rape victims are burka-wearing females)
  • How could she walk alone at that time of the day?
  • She shouldn’t have led him on.
  • Why didn’t she stop him?

There’s more but there really isn’t any need to elaborate because these comments are all aimed at blaming the person at the receiving end of the offence – the victim.

Rape and related sexual offences are mostly kept secret because the damage done to the victim is only compounded when reported. Here, it’s more reasonable to keep quiet, lick your wounds and ‘move on’. Talking about it is taboo. There’s no retribution, no punishment. Anyone who reports should expect the ‘customary’  one sided backlash. Whichever way the pendulum swings, the victim suffers more.

A trending topic on social media today is the alleged rape of a twitter user called @sugarbelly some years ago by the son(s) of a former governor of Kogi State, the Late Abubakar Audu. But this isn’t about Sugarbelly at all. A lot has been said about that and it’s quite messy with accusations thrown back and forth. It’s safe to say I don’t know shit so I’ll just leave it be for now; trending topics generate a lot of opinions and I haven’t formed one yet. I probably wouldn’t.

But I do have an opinion on rape and the abuse of women in general – it’s downright condemnable. A few months ago, a teenage girl was raped by a university lecturer, someone her father entrusted her to for assistance with her admission into the University of Lagos.

This is one of the few reported cases; incidences like this rarely get public attention for the aforementioned reasons. I know this because a close family member was almost raped by a relative and it was simply ‘kept in the family’. With the number of assaults perpetrated by people known to the victims, cases rarely get to the police station. Even when they do, nothing is certain.

We need to stop paying lip service to punitive measures on rape. We need to see to it that sexual offenders and not the victims, are made to pay for these sins. Most importantly, we need to stop this despicable trend of victim shaming.

If we must say anything, it is to attack the act and the culprit. Anything else is a disservice to the victim and we’re not really helping anyone.

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