“Silence is consent! Why didn’t you say anything? You wanted it, just admit it”. Those were the words that kept swirling around in Made’s head as she clutched her purse and her shoes in one hand, while squeezing together parts of her clothes as if they would cover the imaginary nakedness she felt.
Although most people barely noticed her, she felt like all eyes were watching her with judgement. She felt shame, guilt, condemned and an overwhelming sense of aloneness. A trip to her friend’s house had ended up as one of the worst days of her life.
“Why didn’t I say anything truly?” She wondered. Her friend Jamie had said he needed help with the new assignment just delivered to them at school. Made was in his neighbourhood and figured she may as well stop by his place to get that out of the way. It won’t be the first time she would go to Jamie’s house, or be alone with him in the house. They have been friends since high school and now in the same university. She trusted him (or so she thought).
Once the assignment was done, Jamie had offered her food, she ate and slept off on the couch. Not the first time she would collapse in sleep over there. But this time, she awoke to the feel of the hands on her thighs. Her eyes flew open when she realized what the hand was trying to do, as she opened her eyes, she was shocked to see realize this was a case of rape and not a question of if she was interested.
Before she had a chance to scream, he covered her mouth with his hands. With his other hands, he signaled for her to hush, before showing her the knife he had placed on the table.
Could she ever forgive Jamie for asking her “why didn’t you scream, if you did not want it. Haven’t you heard silence is consent”? That was a question she was not ready to answer yet. The bigger question was why was he more disappointed at her who was the victim than he was at his own father who raped he under their roof?
Were you also thinking, well, if it was Jamie’s father, why didn’t she scream for help? Do you also agree silence is consent? By your logic, if silence is consent, why then do you remain silent on the topic of ending sexual violence in our society. Is your silence meaning you want this menace to continue? If no, then here is how you can help. If yes, then keep keeping mute. For God’s sake, it better be the former!
“Woman, Thou Art Loosed”! It is a book title authored by Bishop T. D. Jakes. There is a movie on the title as well. I have read the book and seen the movie. You should see it or read it. Thank me later. *wink*
DISCLAIMER- many men will see ‘WOMAN’ and be like this is not for me. Don’t you dare close this. Read on and be on the right side of history. Plus a woman birthed you! (Imagine me saying that in my nicest voice). Moving on.
No, I am not about to do a review on the book or the title, I am trying to make a point here. Stay with me? Thank you. But first…
…Did you know that in this month of March (by the way, Happy New Month). Where was I? Right! In this month of March, we celebrate women all over the world. Precisely, March 8th has been designated to celebrate women and create awareness on the challenges women face.
You know what the theme of this year is? #choosetochallenge. Basically we are to challenge an idea, culture, bias, etc. against women. And I will be challenging an idea, trust me, but before I do that, let me challenge you first- WOMAN.
This is the part where I go back to “Woman, thou art loosed”. You still with me? Great. You are the best, you know that? *chuckle*. Okay, focus! “Woman thou art loosed” is basically a story of letting go, forgiveness and finding freedom for a woman who was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
The catch in that story for me is that this woman was challenged by Bishop Jakes to forgive, because for as long as she held on to the unforgiveness, it was eating her (not her rapist) up. As such, she was challenged to make a CHOICE- heal and be made whole (to which forgiveness is a KEY component) or remain hurting and not be able to move forward.
Why am I talking about this with you? Phew, I was wondering when you were going to ask. Hey, no need to feel ‘heavy’ now. Relax, okay? But seriously, historically women have been through a lot. Personally, ‘woman thou art loosed’ was a reflection of ME, and I understand the challenge Bishop made to that woman. God placed same demand on me.
Your case may not be rape or abuse, maybe it is a mindset that has held you back from moving forward in life. But dare I say to you that the world can hold challenges all they want ‘fighting your cause’, but if you WOMAN are bound, you will never be able to walk in the fullness of your God-given purpose and freedom.
Many of us have imbibed the wrong mindset, attitude and identity. Let me ask YOU, how many times have you said to yourself (or heard someone say)- “I cannot do this”, “I don’t think they are looking for someone like me”, “I doubt they will allow a black woman” or one we join society to say “women are not supposed to….”
Dear woman, as I join the #choosetochallenge, let me challenge you first- deal with the things holding you back! Challenge the mindset and perspectives that have held you bound. God is counting on YOU to accept the identity He has given you.
Dear MAN (now you see why it was a bad idea to run off?), I want you to challenge your belief and mindset about how you view woman. With the right perspective, you will know that many things societal values have used to ‘bound’ women were not so IN THE BEGINNING. So you have a part to play. Would you like to raise your daughters in that same perspective you currently hold?
In the next write-up, I will share tips on how to challenge your mindset (or maybe it will be on my YouTube channel). Either way, you can expect that from me.
WOMAN, before I leave you go, let me rephrase Bishop’s book and video title for you- WOMAN, ARE THOU LOOSED?! Think on that as you anticipate the tips I will be sharing with you.
PS: I want to invite you to join the #choosetochallenge campaign. Click to learn and join. Meanwhile, how do you like my picture for the challenge? I took several (such a pain taking pictures) before landing this one. Through LoudSilences, I choose to challenge the culture of silence impacting issues women face.
Empowering a girl child or a woman is not a privilege, it is her right, for which she has equal right to access- Anita Adefuye
Special shout out to Karibs Foundation for choosing me as the face of Karibs for this challenge. It is an honour and I do not take it lightly.
“Bimpe, Bimpe, Bimpe! How many times did I call you? This life you want to live will not benefit you one bit. Change!”. Mrs. Daniels was trying to advice Bimpe about not ‘selling herself cheaply to me’. “Excuse Me, what is your excuse this time?” Bimpe fired back. “What did you say?” Mrs. Daniels asked. “You heard me, what is your excuse this time, Ma?” Look me in the eyes and tell me this is the first time you are hearing of this kind of act from one of these so-called Elders and Pastors.
Mrs. Daniels is the Pastor’s wife. She had called a meeting with Bimpe, Mr. Oye (one of the elders within the church), and some of the Associate Pastors. They were here to discuss Bimpe’s supposed ‘unbecoming’ relationship with Mr. Oye. It started about three months back when Mr. Oye offered her a ride home after church service. Naturally, they chatted on the ride to Bimpe’s home. He asked about her family, her plans for what she wanted to study in the university, normal small talk. The conversation with Mr. Oye made her feel like the leaders of the church were not as detached as she often felt.
So of course, next time Mr. Oye offered her a ride, she suspected nothing. Turned out her house is routed somewhere between the church and Mr. Oye’s house. As such, she was glad to give him her number when he offered to pick her up on his way to church every Sunday. Mrs. Oye also seemed like a nice person as they rode to and from church with her each Sunday. Bimpe’s parents didn’t go to church much and were hardly around, so it was nice to have this couple watch out for he in this way.
Then one day, as she prepared to go to sleep right around 10pm, she got a text message- it was from Mr. Oye- a picture. “Wait, is that what I think it is?” She thought. Why would Mr. Oye be sending her a picture like that? And at this time of the night? Another text came in shortly- “this could be yours, let’s talk in the morning”.
Bimpe felt an uneasy feeling in her, she thought to cancel her ride with the Oyes to church the next morning. But then she figured, Mr. Oye would not do or say anything stupid in front of his wife. Besides, right now, she could not make alternate plans for her ride to church. She decided to go to church with them, but she was going to give Mr. Oye a piece of her mind and tell him she did not rides with him anymore. And with that thought, she went off to sleep.
Bimpe was shocked to see Mr. Oye was alone in the car the next day. Her heart was pounding hard, as she stepped into the car. There was an awkward silence for about twenty seconds and Mr. Oye spoke up- “so what do you think about my text last night?” She drew in a deep breath, and then said “I would appreciate it Sir if you don’t try to throw money in face or even ask me out again, and I will forgive your indiscretion with that picture last night, but please know this is my last ride with you”.
Wearing a wide grin, he turned slightly to her and said “I have had my eyes set on your for a long time. I promise I will be good to you. My wife travelled and I am thinking we could go back to my place after church?”. “You are a leader in church, and you are married! Why would I want to go to your place with you, and to do what exactly?” Bimpe fired back. At that point, Bimpe had heard enough. “Please stop the car”, She said quietly.
She frantically looked out through the window, looking for a signpost that could show where they were. Looking back at Mr. Oye, she started to scream “where are you taking me? Stop this car!” Her screams were met with silence. She brought out her phone and started to dial a number, but she did not pay attention to Mr. Oye who quickly snatched the phone from her. She started to plead with him to please let her go, but it was falling on deaf ears.
He pulled into a corer which seemed like a lonely road. Before she could say anything else, Mr. Oye pounced on her. With one hand he reclined her chair, while the other had her pinned down, supported by the weight of his body. Determined not to let him have his way, she wiggled around, tried to fight him off, but the fact that she was wearing a skirt did not help.
Bimpe was starting to get tired and weak, but Mr. Oye was not. She silently prayed to God to please help her because at this point, most of the buttons on Bimpe’s shirt had come off, her skirt was pushed up to her waist, Mr. Oye was definitely winning this battle, and a part of her was about to give in, then a miracle happened. They were both startled by the pounding on one of the windows. While the driving path seemed lonely, there is a foot path commonly used which Mr. Oye was unaware of.
Mr. Oye jumped off her, trying to zip up his fly. Suddenly, to Bimpe’s shock, he started yelling- “Jesus, what did you do to me? How did we get here? The person who had knocked on the window looked beyond shocked. “Elder Oye, Sister Bimpe, Blood of Jesus! What is going on here”? Mrs. Daniels yelled. “It was the work of the devil, she seduced me”, Mr. Oye said. Bimpe could not believe her ears, but in the immediate, she just wanted to go home.
She could swear she heard Mrs. Daniels giving glory to God for ‘showing Mr. Oye mercy’, and calling her names like Jezebel, but she could not be bothered by the woman’s gullibility at this point. Turned out, they were not that far off from the church. It was a different route she didn’t know existed.
As Bimpe walked away from the scene, it all came back to her. Clearly this is not the first time such an act had happened. She remembered Joy who used to be in the choir but left the church. It became obvious to Bimpe that Joy was telling the truth when she said the choir leader raped her. Everyone questioned poor Joy as to what she was doing at his house, but how could she have known? He forgot his phone; she found it and decided to take it to him at his house. Yes, she knew he lived alone, and yes, she went in when he offered her a drink- “it is the least I could do to thank you”, was what he said according to Joy, so she went in, and he raped her.
No one believed Joy, people like Bimpe were brought in to speak to the character of the choir leader versus Joy, and Joy’s past life was really what worked against her, and the choir leader won. Mr. Oye presided over that ‘investigation committee’, and they banned Joy from the choir. They called her Jezebel, and said she seduced the choir leader. He went free, she left the church, never to set foot into another church.
As Bimpe walked away, she had no doubt similar fate awaited her. Now her eyes are open. It’s a shame that it took her almost getting raped to see it, but it raised questions like- ‘how much of this had gone on in her church, yet the leaders kept mute, which has led to more men in spiritual authority taking advantage of unsuspecting young girls?’
So on this day as this committee led by Mrs. Daniels was trying to do the same thing to her as they did to Joy, Bimpe was determined not to give up without a fight, so she drew their attention to Joy’s case by her daring question to Mrs. Daniels. The awkward silence and the knowing look they gave each other said a lot.
Rising to her feet, she said to them- “I hope one day it won’t be one of you in my shoes or Joy’s, I pray it won’t be too late before you realize that you need to do better than this. I would pray this over your kids if that is what it takes to open your eyes, but I could never wish this type of evil on anyone. So please just open your eyes, and do the right thing here. There are no excuses for these men to do this to us girls”. That said, she started to walk off, hanging her head down in shame and feeling defeated.
“Wait!” Mrs. Daniels said. “Please come back and sit down, Bimpe. You are right, and I am sorry. We all know these men are guilty”, Mrs. Daniels said, turning to look at the other Associate Pastors. “And we really cannot turn a blind eye. I am going to need you to step down effective immediately Eder Oye, while we deliberate on our next steps”. Mrs. Daniels then went on to outline the expectations for Mr. Oye including a deadline to come out to his wife about his actions. She also proposed a plan to Bimpe about starting a young ladies group in the church to help redefine the identity of women based on God’s Word and not on culture and traditions of men.
Bimpe could not believe her ears, and she was grateful to God for the bravery to have spoken up. She was beyond ecstatic about what she was hearing. Best part about the turn of events was when she gave Mrs. Daniels a condition that the church had to call Joy and apologize to her, while also confronting the choir lead, and Mrs. Daniels accepted the condition. When the day was over, it felt good to see Mr. Oye put where he belonged and she had new admiration for Mrs. Daniels, not to mention the strong message her decision sends to the other men.
As she headed for home, she decided to use the bathroom quickly. Drawing closer to the men’s which is on the way to the females, she heard muffled cries. Out of curiosity and concern for who it might be, she stopped and knocked- no response. She thought to herself maybe she heard wrong, so she backed off, about to continue on her way, that’s when she heard the scream- “helppppp”! Without thinking, she kicked the door down. Others had heard the scream too and came rushing there. The person heard her knock and took a chance to scream.
The sight before them was one she doubted any of them was going to forget in a hurry. When Mrs. Daniels, got to the scene and saw what was going on, she passed out. Turned out, the choir lead was in the bathroom, and had been caught in the middle of raping a six-year-old.
That six-year-old was Mrs. Daniels’ only daughter. If Mrs. Daniels never took a U-turn from her initial stand on Bimpe and Joy’s case, this would have been a perfect moment to turn to her and say again-“Excuse me, what’s your excuse”? But right now, that question belonged with the choir lead, as this was no ‘Joy’ or ‘Bimpe’ who had the capacity to ‘seduce a man’ (the excuse they were holding over the ladies’ head). This was a six-year-old, so then, what’s the excuse?
My name is Ann Adefuye, a.k.a Anita (nee Young-Itiye). I am Nigerian (soon to also be Canadian). I am from the Kalabari tribe (Rivers State) in the South-South Region of Nigeria. I also regard myself as Yoruba- by marriage.
I have three great passions that will be driven through this platform- teenagers & young adults, sexually and domestically abused people, and mental health. I have personally experienced ugly sides of some aspects of all three, hence the passion to be a voice to those who are still trying to navigate these valleys.
I have plunged to the lowest points of life and somehow sprung back up. My worst experiences are known by very few people in my life and of course not accepted by all. Not because they do not know the truth but because of a fundamental concept that has plagued the Nigerian and African culture for the longest time- the ‘Culture of Silence’.
“It is well”, “Insha Allah”, “Don’t disgrace this family”, “shhhhh, how dare you say such things out in the open”, “what would people say”. The list goes on and on in the different forms that we put the lid on cans of worms. These can take purely religious or cultural undertone, or both. But not anymore! We have a beautiful culture to a large extent, and we can harness them for good, not to keep people bound!
The silence is getting so ‘loud’, it is deafening, the rising number of suicides, deaths by domestic violence, increasing number of divorces, the shaming of victims. There is tremendous work being done by diverse organizations to bring these ills to light, but the voices speaking for victims and calling for prevention strategies can never be too much.
So I welcome you to loudsilences, where we will add our voices to others, help one another understand the impact of the ‘The Culture of Silence’, and turn things around, by unlearning and relearning.
I will tell stories (some would be real stories of real people, including myself), I might share videos, whatever forms of communication it takes to help us undo the damage of years of silence, including sharing reports and/or data.
I need something from you in return, challenge the status quo of your thoughts and perceptions towards these things, educate yourself and others. Choose to empower people who have been trodden down, build compassion and lend a hand and heart to a broken soul. Be a voice and together, let us quiet down these loud silences, and raise our voices to the tune of a better world.