A gender and development specialist, Mrs Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, on Friday said that about 70 per cent of sexual abuse victims in Nigeria were children.
Effah-Chukwuma, Executive Director, Project Alert on Violence Against Women told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that children were more vulnerable to the perpetrators of rape.
She said: “The innocence and trusting nature of children gives easy access and opportunity for perpetrators to strike.
“It also happens because of the carelessness of parents and guardians.
“The way and manner the issue has been trivialised in the past has also emboldened perpetrators to keep going lower in age from adults to children.”
She said that there was no justifiable reason for rape, adding that the reasons usually given were unacceptable.
She said: “What people do is that they make poor attempts to justify their criminal actions with, ‘I was drunk’, ‘She didn’t dress properly’, ‘It is the devil’, and so on.’’
Effah-Chukwuma debunked assertions that the victims do not report the incidents.
She said: “That’s not true. How many of the perpetrators were arrested and properly prosecuted? I bet you it wouldn’t be more than three of the 10.
“The key issue is when victims report, what services did they got from the state?’’
The gender specialist stressed the need for victims and their families to get the required assistance after making reports.
She said: “The relevant agencies should take action; the police should not commit secondary victimisation by further blaming the victim and ridiculing the incident.
“They should act promptly by first arresting and then investigating the alleged crime.
“Victims should receive counseling for their traumatic experience and urgent medical attention.”
According to her, the aftermath of sexual abuse is not only experienced by the victims but also by their families.
She said: “The impact is physical, sexual and psychological. The psychological trauma especially is huge.’’
She said the physical and mental health consequences were myriad as they included: risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases like HIV/AIDS; vaginal tear, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, depression and suicidal tendencies.
Effah-Chukwuma said PAVAW ensured that victims got the adequate support they needed through counseling, petitioning the police and referral to the hospital for medical attention.
She said: “We provide physical protection by way of temporary shelter for victims who are at further risk from perpetrators like neighbours or people close to them.”
She urged that rape incidents be reported first to the police – within minutes of its occurrence – before going to the hospital or for counseling.