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Effects of sexual assault on the less-privileged female child

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Over the years, we have heard numerous cases of sexual assault on female children. However, children and teenagers of the less privileged account for a larger share of the receivers of such abuses.

Looking at the victims, you will see poverty as a major risk factor for sexual exploitation.

Loosely, rape can be defined as an act of defiling a person without their consent. It is a violent crime that is increasingly prevalent in our society today and is undoubtedly one of the most traumatic experiences which cause long-term effects on the victim, especially the female child who is more vulnerable.

Despite the government’s measures at taming this menace through enactment and enforcement of laws, much is still expected in this regard.

According to a report credited to the minister of women affairs, Pauline Tallen, 30 percent of women and girls experience sexual assault in Nigeria. In recent years, there has been a surge in the cases of rape, ranging from an uncle defiling his niece to an employer defiling his employee, or worst still, a father defiling his daughter. It happens within the family, among relatives or through strangers.

As mentioned above, girls and women are generally the major victims of sexual assault, and those from low socio-economic status are to a large extent mostly affected. They are subjected to emotional and psychological pains, which become a life-long journey of sorrow. Victims live with the indelible scar and nightmare of life dejected by society.

Of recent, Aisha Umar, a 14-year-old Internally Displaced Person (IDP) who does domestic work to earn a living, was lured and raped by an international NGO staff. Imagine a humanitarian worker who is entrusted to support persons displaced as a result of insurgency. Similar cases occur in most IDP camps. Aisha, God rest her soul, committed suicide in frustration or probably fear of stigma.

As it is today in our society, rape victims are often believed to bring shame to their families and are not shown the adequate love and care they deserve. The issue is even worse in the case of the less privileged who, unfortunately, face the aftermath of rape without social, psychological or legal support.

Rather, they are accused of immoral behavior, putting them in the position of culprit rather than a victim. The law has not helped much, especially in situations where the rapists may be from influential families. This among others affects litigation measures aimed at enforcing any legal action, leaving the victim emotionally devastated as most of the culprits’ parents utilize the corrupt ways of making their children escape justice.

Although there is no justification for rape, several factors trigger the occurrence of this monstrous and devilish act with poverty taking the lead. Families that suffer from persistent poverty in most situations send their children to hawk on the streets, to work as babysitters and or as domestic house help, all in search of livelihood, thus, exposing them to risk of sexual assault.

Age is another factor; the perpetrators often target the vulnerable underage, whom they can easily incapacitate. Drug abuse can be seen as another factor that enhances sexual assaults, those under the influence of drugs develop emotional imbalance and self-control issues and, in some cases, such assaults occur as a result of plain wickedness, the inhumane desire to exploit a child.

The psychological and physical effects associated with sexual assault include urinary infections, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea among others. While the social effects are self-isolation, timidity, fear, guilt, etc.

The foremost psychological effects are emotional trauma and paranoia, depression, and suicidal tendencies. They also develop fear in mingling and socializing with strangers and other people, especially men. These effects can last for the duration of the victim’s lifetime without proper counseling and management.

A solution to bring an end to the rape menace should be collective. We all have a role to play. As individuals, we should aim at supporting the victims, not by discriminating against them, and also by reporting to the authority. Under no circumstances should a rapist be shielded.

Providing awareness and encouraging the victims to speak up will help change society’s attitude towards rape and rape victims. I see no reason why the victims are silenced; there’s no shame in being a rape victim. If there’s anyone that should be ashamed, then it is the perpetrator.

Rape makes the victim pity or blame herself, which is partly caused by the social stigma that societies or communities wrongly attribute to the victim.

As a nation, we have to address the situation from a broader perspective. So much needs to be done to protect women and children from this torturous ordeal. Efforts should be made to empower young girls through skills acquisition to make them financially independent. So also, there should be stringent enforceable laws that display zero tolerance towards rape and rapists.

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Aisha Yusuf Sabo
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