I attended the Train A Girl Initiative Talk on the Impact of Sexual Abuse on Mental Health. I attended this talk through Mentally Aware Organization. I would like to share what I learned, as well as discuss my thoughts on sexual abuse.
For the talk, the speakers included Bukky Shonibare, the founder of Girl Child Africa, Eva Udenyi, the founder of Shenation and an Organizational Psychologist. There was also Precious Gaza, the convener, and founder of Tag Initiative. The speakers were truly wonderful. They shared important information and offered their perspective based on their experiences.
Bukky Shonibare’s Story on Sexual Abuse
I have to say I have so much respect and admiration for Bukky. When she spoke, I admired her courage, her insight, and her humor. Bukky talked about what sexual abuse means to her. She emphasized that sexual abuse is not just penetration but also groping and unwanted advances and that had started for her then at the age of 12. She said she did not realize what it meant until she grew older. Bukky shared that she was raped at the age of 17 and it had an impact on her.
She said the sexual abuse she experienced made her a recluse. Also, she began to want to start fighting men. She also became thrown off by seeing certain things like a checkered shirt and the smell of a certain perfume. In addition, she expressed that the name “Johnson” threw her off because it reminded her of her abuser.
Emotional Numbness: Bukky said that falling in love didn’t mean anything to her. Also, she felt hopeless because she wanted to keep her virginity but the abuse deprived her of that.
How Bukky Moved Past The Sexual Abuse
Bukky shared that her advocacy efforts were what helped her to fight back. She became dedicated to the rescue of Chibok girls that were kidnapped in Nigeria. She shared that through service and helping others, she was also helping herself. She said speaking out about the abuse matters. She encourages victims of sexual abuse to get professional help. Though she did not speak to a therapist, she read Joyce Meyer books which helped her.
Also, Bukky said that she had learned to stop dwelling on the abuse. ‘I had to find me. I had to find the Bukola that was not abused,” she said. This meant that she had to also forgive. To forgive the abuser and to forgive herself.
How Can We Stop Sexual Abuse in Nigeria?
Through the talk, there were many important questions asked. A woman shared her experience of reporting her rape to the police and they told her that she should not take the case further because how will her family react to this or will she be able to get married now??… Another woman shared that she was abused by a woman and she doesn’t believe that there is enough awareness of same-sex abuse and organizations to help such issues in Nigeria. A man had talked about how he wanted to advocate for a woman whose children were raped but suddenly he was looked at as a problem for bringing it up in the community. When I think about all these questions, so many thoughts loom my mind as to what the solution needs to be. I believe that what matters is Sex Education, Open Discussions between Men and Woman about Sex Abuse and The Proper training from the family.
There Should Be Sex Education in Classrooms
I’m certain that in the U.S, during the secondary school level, there are talks on sexual health. However, we don’t have that in our curriculum in Nigeria. I believe this matters a lot because if this knowledge on sexual health is passed on at an early stage, it helps to spread awareness. Boys and girls should be better informed on their bodies during puberty. Sex education can also help to inform on what is appropriate or not when it comes to the way one is approached and treated by others.
Women and Men Should Have More Open Discussions on Gender Violence
We need to have more talks like this. Though there were some men in the room at this talk, the majority of the participants were women. I believe that more men should be brought into the discussion so that we have both genders advocating for the end of sexual violence. We should have both women and men speaking out against injustice and calling each other out for what they see is wrong.
Training from the Family
As we all know, the way we are brought up greatly affects the way we live. We have to ensure that children are brought up with a healthy sense of self-esteem and morale to know what is right and wrong. They should be raised to know that everyone should be treated with respect and understand what that means.
What do you think about the effects of sexual abuse and what do you believe would be the best solution to stopping it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.