Tainted Pearls!

The recent surge in rape cases has left me heartbroken and I kept wondering how we got here. When I read this piece by Idris Adesina, I was very puzzled because of stereotypes that rape victims have to deal with. Enjoy this educating piece, my scholar friend…

“It’s the fault of women. They cause rape upon themselves. They dress anyhow and attract rapists to themselves. They allow men to see their nakedness and begin to shout that they are raped. They cause rape on themselves. Just the other day, one girl passed by me and I had to control myself not to run after her and tear her clothes off and rape her. Some of us are God-fearing that’s why we haven’t joined them in raping women. I know rape is bad and women are suffering but they should change how they dress.”

“You have spoken well my guy. We are really supporting women against rapists but they should give us things to talk about. They should help our cause by dressing well. They should wear godly clothes and not all these sell-my-wares and rags they wear all around. Government is working hard but women should speak up after being raped so we can look into it with them and see how the rapist can be arrested. Most rapists are strangers and they are attracted by the clothes their victims wear.”

I looked disgustingly at two of my male colleagues as they spat out rubbish from their mouths like the rape apologists that they are. I sat in my corner of the staff room and wondered if their family members had been raped in the past. These are teachers with more than 15 years teaching experience and they are a few years older than I am. I could not keep quiet at their ignorance. The more I kept quiet, the more they live in their ignorant stupidity. I spoke from my corner.

“Mr T and Mr F, if not that I know that you two are my seniors, I would have known what to say to you but I still wonder how both of you end up being teachers if you still hold such harmful opinions about rape victims. I can tolerate ignorance on any other subject but I dislike with passion anyone who is ignorant about rape and is still proudly a rape apologist. If I could request a different staff room, I would have loved to move far away from the two of you. Your opinions are not only dangerous to the mental health of rape victims, it is detrimental to the mental and psychological wellbeing of any right-thinking person. If you don’t know sirs, rape victims are tainted pearls. They have permanent scars that can never be healed. So please stop being rape apologists and get educated about something you know next to nothing about.”

The two of them looked at me. I had never spoken like that to anyone in the school in my seven years of teaching Civic Education in that school. They looked as if someone just messed up the air and they were locked in the airtight room with the putrid smell. Mr F, who teaches Mathematics, spoke.

“Alhaja, why did you rain such insults on us? Have we had issues with you before or don’t you realise that you could be punished for insulting your seniors like that?”

“Such insolence! What is her business with our conversation before she threw her home training to the winds and talking to us as if we are her mates? We are married men for crying out loud!” Mr T, the Introductory Technology teacher, infused, with hot air oozing from his nose.

“I am not sorry for what I said and I will not apologise for what I said. You are rape apologists and it is better you have a change of orientation before any of your family members suffer from rape. I won’t say more than that.”

They continued their tirade in time for the arrival of the other teachers. The oldest teacher in the school, Mrs Olunde, who takes the students Biology as well as Mr Saka, who teaches Basic Science, came in at the same time with Mrs Oriola the English Language teacher. They all enquired into the reason for their loud noise and they explained what went down.

“Alhaja, I know that as a woman, the issue of rape will never go down well with you but you should not insult your senior colleagues because of their opinions,” Mrs Olunde said.

“Ma, I hold you in high esteem but I will never apologise for what I said. Rather I have decided to educate them if they want to learn. After hearing what I have to say, they will understand better that their opinions are flawed and they would apologise for holding it.”

I looked at all of them and started my talk.

My name is Hikmat and I am a rape victim. I was raised as a protected Muslim child and I had the best of life experiences until I got into the university where I was badly bruised and brutally raped and abused. I want you to know that it was not my dressing that caused my rape. I have been dressing like this since I was six years old – my dress consists of a flowing gown and an inner scarf with a long hijab that covers everything and the colours of the clothes are usually dull – either black navy blue or dark green. These my clothes don’t accentuate my figure and no one except my roommates know the talents I have either in front or behind me. Don’t get me wrong, despite my parents’ teachings and protection, I had my first sexual experience at 16 but it was consensual and not forced. So I was not a virgin when the rape experience happened.

I have two friends, Sunita – and Indian-Nigerian, whose father is a Hinduist – and Zephaniah, who is a deep Christian. Like me, they also dress covered. Zepha as we call her wears long-sleeved, loosely fitted shirts with long flowing skirts that gives off nothing and on her head is a headscarf that covers all parts of her hair. Sunita dresses close to what Zepha wears but she prefers caps to scarves. Like me, they had also had sexual experiences while they were teenagers. We were all in the same class and we never separate except when we leave for our various religious places.

Then it happened in our third year. We were walking in front of one of the boys’ hostels one hot afternoon on our way to the cafeteria when some gang of boys began whistling and cat-calling us. We never paid attention to them and we went on our way. On our way back from the cafeteria when three of these boys waylaid us and demanded that we talk to them. We told them that we had no business with them and that they should leave our way.

“Don’t you girls know that you are hot? Even with all of your body covered up, we are still falling for you. Alhaja, sister and you half-caste, you girls are the toast of the campus. All boys want to know what is beneath your dresses. Will you be our girlfriends because if you like or not, we usually get what we want?”

We replied in the negative and they threatened to get us to do their wishes. We called their bluffs. Form then, we never passed that route to the cafeteria. We totally shunned that cafeteria for another one on campus – even though it was farther than we needed. But I guess you can never be as wise as one who is watching you.

Then a few weeks to our exams, while reading in the library, we got hungry and decided to go and eat. The route to the new cafeteria we chose is usually busy but on this particular evening, it was quiet. We went on our way gisting as we went. As we neared one of the lecture rooms which was not far from the cafeteria, we heard a gunshot and we scurried to safety as other students who were within the vicinity did. Before we knew what was happening, five boys had surrounded us and whisked us away into a remote bushy part of the campus. We shouted as we went and kicked and bit them, they never let us go. In that bush, two other guys joined them and they all removed their masks and soundly raped us to their satisfaction. They told us that whatever they did to us was a favour. Our clothes were torn and our womanhood was violated in more times than once by each of the seven boys. We recognised two of them and after they had finished we cried and found our way to the university clinic where we were treated and counseled. The school security was called and our statements were taken. We took them to the boys’ hostel and the two boys we identified were arrested. However, when we got to the Police Station, despite the charges and evidences against them, the police refused to charge them to court. Till date we know not why but my guess was that those boys were influential.

It was hell in school till we finished. These boys kept taunting us and told whoever cared to listen that they got the better of us. They told people that we were begging and moaning for them continue. That experience battered our mental and psychological makeup. We struggled with exams till we finished and our grades were badly affected, however, we surged on. My parents and Zepha’s took solace in God but Sunita’s father didn’t. He reported the boys to their god and the result was almost instant. Each one of them ran mad right there on campus before they were eventually knocked down by a trailer whose break failed while on its way to a construction sit on campus. Somehow, justice was served.

Today, I haven’t recovered from that experience. Sunita failed to get married saying she cannot bear to allow a man touch her ever again. Zepha is in her second marriage now. She broke her first husband’s head while he was making love to her and her mind somehow brought the rape picture to her mind. Her second husband is still complaining about how frigid she is. I am here and cannot hold down any man. Simply because I see the rapists’ faces on any man’s face. My parents are still counseling me and I hope I can settle down soon.

So you see why I despise rape apologists or anyone who blames rape victims’ dressing or the time of the day that they go about. I was raped in broad daylight while wearing the freest of clothes. We use no make-up so what made us attractive to those animals? Rapists should be blamed for rape and not the victims irrespective of whatever they wear or whatever time they go out. Rape is a disease and it should be treated as such. Why don’t we blame the victims of robbery for robbery rather than the armed robbers?

With that, I ended my story and all the teachers heave a huge sigh. The two teachers called out to me and apologised for their wrong opinion and promised to educate more people on rape and its ills. Mrs Olunde wiped the tears from my eyes and prayed fervently for me.

Say no to rape and its apologists and learn never to blame victims of rape because they never call for it to themselves and anybody could be raped anywhere and at any time.

Idris Adesina is a fiction writer and a poet. A former journalist, who currently studies at the Tai Solarin University of Education.

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