Though rape has been widely acknowledged as one of the most underreported crime in the world, the refusal of victims of rape and other forms of sexual victimisation in Nigeria to report have several social underpinnings. The records of the Nigerian Police are replete with statistics and sometimes names of armed robbers, carjackers and murderers; however, they are largely silent on rape cases.
Under the Nigerian law, both the Penal Code and Criminal Code have defined the offence and prescribed punishments. In spite of this, the rate of reporting of rape and sexual assault by victims remains low. Meanwhile, almost on a daily basis, news reports are made of either a teacher raping a pupil, a religious leader raping a member of his flock, robbers raping a victim, a man raping his sister-in-law or daughter-in-law, a group of boys or men raping a lady, a master raping his house maid, a security man raping his master’s wife, a boss raping an employee, a father raping his daughter, a young man raping a grandmother, a minor raping a fellow minor, a traditional ruler raping his subject, an 80-year-old man raping an eight-year-old-girl and so on. It is therefore a subject of concern that the statistics on such a crime will be alarmingly unreflective of the perceived rate in the country. Indeed, there is statistical evidence that suggest that most rape in 10 Nigerians admitted to personally knowing someone who has been a victim of rape. In addition, statistics show that about one in 50 cases of rape are reported, and the percentage of reported cases has continued to reduce over the years despite the consistent increase in the number of incidents. Consequently, it has been widely described in the country as “a crime whose victims love to remain anonymous”.
The peculiarity of the underreporting of rape and sexual violence in Nigeria is underlined by the deficiencies of government to establish structures that would encourage victims to boldly come out.
A coalition of civil society groups, in decrying the spate of rape in the country, condemned the law against rape which the Nigerian Constitution portrays.
Also, unlike what obtains in other countries, stigmatisation is considered as one of the strongest factors inhibiting the reporting of rape, as the Nigerian society are strongly prejudiced against victims. Rape victims are often perceived as facilitating their victimisation through ‘suggestive attitudes,’ and ‘indecent dressing’; in spite of the fact that there is no law that regulates dressing in the country.
Therefore, victims of rape or sexual assault are perceived as people of low moral virtues that must have led their assailants to the crime ‘one way or the other’ described this social perception of rape by Nigerians as part of the ‘culture of rape’. She condemned the non-recognition of domestic rape (between husband and wife) by the nation’s constitution as a factor that fuels the culture of rape in the country. This, by extension may account for the reason for the low reporting of date rape as the female partner will be roundly condemned by the public if she comes out to report being raped by her boyfriend.
In this case, it has been reported that even the law enforcement agents makes mockery of such report by victims as they often consider it inconceivable for a girl to report being raped by her boyfriend.
This therefore makes victims to lack the necessary motivation and confidence in the criminal justice system to report such rape incidences. This problem of secondary victimisation has been identified as one of the major factors that account for the underreporting of rape cases in the country.
As the rape scourge continues to eat deep into the social fabrics of the country, the ivory towers are not spared as there are increasing accounts of sexual assaults in several institutions of higher learning in the country. The rape situation in higher institutions is even more ominous as they are recoding higher rates of gang rape. Added to this is the growing rate with which videos of the sexual ordeals of the victims are uploaded on social media to further ridicule them the more. One of such instances was a 10-minute uploaded video of rape incidence suffered by a female student by a gang of her fellow students in which she had to beg her assailants to kill her and save her from further gruesome sexual harassment. Gang rape is also very prevalent in many of the nation’s universities as it is used as an expression of abuse and power among cult gangs. Stranger rape is particularly common in non-resident universities as students are left to live off-campus where their security is not in any way guaranteed. The case of rape victimisation among university students was particularly made relevant due to the likelihood of the assailant(s) influencing the reporting behaviour of the victims. Also, apart from stranger rape, date or acquaintance rape is expected to be very prevalent in the universities, but grossly underreported partly as a result of unacknowledged
status of such rape incidences.
The occurrence of rape is a pervasive social problem with lasting effects for victims that the psychological effects of rape victimisation are even more grave for survivors that are unable to seek or receive support. In spite the worrying dimension of rape and sexual assault as major public health and criminal justice concern in the general population, and in the campuses, there is still a dearth of empirical research conducted on the victimology of rape in Nigeria. This might be a reflection of the negative social perception of the Nigerian public on rape victimisation. Indeed, most of the printed and online resources that dwell on rape and sexual assault as social problems in the country are journalistic in nature.
There is no gainsaying about the fact that women and human rights organisations are more actively engaged in the victimology of rape in the country than the academic community. It is imperative for scientific inquiry to be focused on the menace as the journalists’ perspectives are not robust enough to offer in-depth analyses of the situation in the country
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