WAY forward on getting justice for rape victims
The business of getting justice and relief for rape victims is a collaborative one that requires the concerted of medical practitioners, psychologists, law enforcement officers, legal practitioners, social welfare department, media and nongovernmental bodies who must be willing to work together on cases to ensure justice is not only done but manifestly seen to be done.
There is no single agency of government or private organisation can address sexual assault prevention or get justice for victims without the efforts of other stakeholders. Diverse arms of government; health, justice, law enforcement, social welfare and even education in addition of efforts from community based stakeholders and non-government agencies need to work together on cases to help victims, curb rape and ensure justice is served in the interest of the victims and the society.
Though many nongovernmental bodies have done a lot in terms of sensitisation, there is a need for government to be more committed especially in terms of enforcing legislation prescribing the punishment for rape as a criminal offence. For enforcement of laid down rules to be effective, there is a need for the people to change their orientation and belief towards rape to help government.
People especially parents of victims should stop covering up cases in order to protect their dignity. Rape is not a thing of shame for the victim, telling victims to shut up and not speak out only empowers rapists and make them bold to do more. They even blackmail victims emotionally that if they speak out, they will be the ones to be shamed.
Stigmatisation of victims is also a major factor that makes it difficult to get justice. Victims that are bold enough to speak out usually face worse ordeals and trauma in the way they are handled; institutions and officials that are meant to help them and provide the necessary services that will lead to justice continues to fail them because many officers hold the unfounded bias that any woman that is raped must have dressed provocatively or led a wayward life to get raped.
In organised societies, it is easier to establish the step towards justice and a claim of sexual violation because there is always a rape kit available for medical examination done. But in Nigeria, few hospitals have a rape kit and many medical officers do not even possess the required knowledge to use one.
There needs to be a victim sensitive response protocol and support for those who have suffered sexual violations. The issue of asking questions like why did you go there? Did you collect money from him? Are you a virgin or is he not your boyfriend; are issues that should not come up to add to the trauma of the victim, these are victim shaming attitudes that make victims think they are being blamed for getting raped.
There are laudable policy action reports on paper and Acts fashioned to help victims and ensure punishment for rape perpetrators but in reality, there is not enough support for sexually violated women and those that should enforce the law do not even see rape as a criminal offence. Some police officers believe once a rape victim is offered stipends by the violator after writing statement, the case should automatically be rested, they do not believe a rape victim should push it as she should be ashamed to say it out that she has been violated.
The Nigerian society needs as matter of urgency to stop the culture which normalises rape and make it a petty misdemeanor.
While studies have shown that it is vital for sexual assault victims to talk about rape as a vital step to the victim’s healing from the trauma and psychological damage, the way people treat their matter makes it difficult for many to talk. While the society condemns them and automatically thinks they are lying, the perpetrator also intimidates them especially if the rapist is well placed in the society.
Consequently, they not only have to live with the trauma of rape, they also have the burden of stigmatization, public condemnation and emotional abuse. These are part of the reasons why justice for rape victims is difficult.
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