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Blog Survivors Corner

“Why Now?” Answering the Question of Why Sexual Violence Survivors ‘Stay Silent’

As I resume writing again on loudislences.org, I was thinking about what people might feel about my ‘silence’ for the last couple months on this platform. While this was due to some life-evalution I was undertaking, I could not help but feel like I owed my readers an explanation. 

But it was not the first time I have felt that way. And that is a feeling anyone who has dared to break the code of silence on their experience with sexual violence knows all too well- the feeling of you have to explain your silence ‘all these years’. Haven’t we heard it over and over? Busola Dakolo, Reneau Giwa-Amu (RIP), the many women who came forward in the #metoo movement, and no doubt my humble self. When people hear how long ago your experience was, even when they don’t ask, you can tell they are wondering. 

I still remember the first time I came out to my family about my experiences with sexual abuse, especially from fanily- I can still hear the question- “why now”? “Why didn’t you say something all these years”? And it is a question we continue to hear as survivors. Well, if you are like me and most survivors, you may feel compelled to provide an answer to that question and perhaps, like most survivors- you open your mouth to respond and alas- nothing comes out. Why? Because you never really knew. The simple answer is- you are not ready until whatever point you choose to break your silence. But there is more, and for me, it took me a while to go through the layers of my ‘why now’.

Before I state what I found, let me identify the reasons people ask those questions. It generally would fall under these three categories:

  1. They truly want to know: Some people have this notion that if there was an unpleasant event going on, our natural instinct is to ‘scream for help’. And what can be more unpleasant than any form of sexual violence? As such, they cannot make the connection between your unpleasant experience and silence. A part of them feel for you enough to want to understand. Plus, the they can know enough to help someone in the future. 
  2. Trying to get the truth: there are those who just don’t understand why survivors stay silent for so long, but here are others who just want to get to the truth to make informed decisions. And especially in  a case where they have to take actions (e.g. lawsuits) against perpetrators, it is only fair that they ask the question- why now. It is not usually for a lack of belief, but for taking actions informed by truth and fact. 
  3. It is a rape-apology tactics: There are rape apologists, full stop! And they would stop at nothing to continue to put down victims of sexual violence. And so when they ask the question of ‘why now’ it is not for lack of evidence, or not knowing the truth, but tactics of intimidation to shame, guilt and put-down survivors often with the intent of silencing them. More often, they know and have some affinity towards perpetrators and would rather protect said perpetrators than their victims. This continues to be the case with perpetrators who are authority figures.

For the benefit of folks in the first two categories I will provide answers to the question at hand. Because what they need is education and increased awareness. After which, they can make a conscious effort to become allies- because now they know. Or, join the third category of people because they choose to ignore the rationale behind prolonged silence by survivors.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are five reasons why survivors stay silent for however long:
  1. They were not ready: this is as simple as it sounds. Everyone feels ready to share at their own time. Too soon before then (especially without support), and it can cause more psychological harm than good. Let them be ready.
  2. They are scared: this can be for a number of reasons ranging from- if the perpetrator is a person of authority or in a position of power, there may have been threats. Especially for children this happens a lot where if they have been threatened, they lack the thinking capacity to realize it was a lie. In my case, as a child, imagine being told you would die if you spoke up. Or that you and anyone you tell will be killed. Sadly, we carry this lie to our old age until one day the scales off.
  3. Not being believed: this is a pathetic cycle in that when someone does come out to break the silence and another survivor watches them get shredded to pieces, of course the next person would want to keep silent until they think they are able to deal with the consequences of breaking their own silence. So you see how as society we fuel the silence?
  4. They are unable to remember details: some people’s way of coping with the trauma is to forget. Others forget because they were really young when it happened, and they are unsure of what they thought happened. When people are unsure of what they thought they experienced, they are likely to take their time on breaking silence.
  5. They are ashamed and embarrassed: This happen a lot with survivors who were much older when their abuse happened. Feelings like ‘I was so stupid’ and ‘how did I not see this coming’ are common. So excuse them if talking about it is the last thing on their minds.
  6. They didn’t think they could trust anyone: based on statistics, 79% of perpetrators are known to their abusers. In my instance, I knew all of my perpetrators- two of whom are family members. Why then would I trust another human being with that experience? Trust issue is already in the mix and your solution to my broken trust is to trust again? I am sorry, but that might take a while. This is why survivors need to know without a shadow of doubt who their allies are. And you don’t be an ally to a cause like ours and stay silent.
  7. They are emotionally and mentally spent: any form of sexual violence takes a lot of emotional and mental energy. Asking someone to be quick to recount the experience for whatever reason only takes more energy from them, not to mention relieving the trauma. This brings us back to the first point and why they may not be ready. When I was writing my book (sit tight for the launch date), I chose the middle of night to ‘grieve’ my experiences. So if needed, I could cry and reflect, because I had to relive the experiences in my writing. I have had years to deal with it, imagine someone fresh from the experience?

This is not an exhaustive list as there can be more depending on individual experiences. 

For those truly seeking to know, I hope this helps you understand better why survivors tend to stay silent. As for rape apologists, I hope these reasons change your perspective, considering the layers of issues survivors have to deal with. 

As for why there had been nothing on loudsilences for a while, I have returned to working from the office. Hence, it was mentally-wise to reevaluate the different things I do and resume them slowly. You, my amazing readers, deserve to know why, and you can learn about it here.

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Blog Survivors Corner

Excuse Me, What is your Excuse?

“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?

“our silences and excuses will continue to empower rape and sexual violence perpetrators. Stop excusing bad behaviour“- Anita Adefuye.