Diary Adventures of LagosMums: DALM | Are you a Nigerian parent raising children in the #MeToo Era?
If you are a Nigerian parent raising children in the #MeToo Era read on for a guide on what you need to know now.
At LagosMums we believe strongly that it is a parents responsibility to teach their child about all matters relating to sex. The truth is that parents should not feel awkward about talking to their children about sex. Who would you rather your child learns about one of the most important aspects of life from? their friends? the internet or predators?
Parents are in the best place to be a positive influence in their child’s life and to help them have a healthy understanding and attitude to sex and sexual relations. This includes the basic lessons such as talking to children about their private areas; to educating and sharing your values and the role of sex in their lives.
What Really is the #MeToo Era?
The #MeToo era is one where women and some men are opening up about the sexual assault that they have faced in their lives. These range from sexual assault to rape. The #MeToo movement is really a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It kicked off on social media in about October 2017 as a hashtag started by American actress Alyssa Milano who shared her story of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein.
Once the wave started on social media and the hashtag grew, so did the number of women who came out and spoke about their instances of sexual assault. The more people spoke the more we saw the magnitude of the problem and the number of victims.
The #MeToo hashtag has led to several other popular movements. This movement is way more than a hashtag it is a movement for justice and to change behaviours. Since the initial #MeToo hashtag there has been #HowIWillChange for people who are now aware of what sexual harassment is. It has also moved to the spiritual area with movements such as #ChurchToo, #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. Here in Nigeria, we watched the #PastorStepDown catch momentum. The issue is a global one.
Nigerian Parents Guide to Navigating the #MeToo Era
For us here in Nigeria, there has been a lot of talk about the incidence of sexual assault and rape. Several rape stories come out in the newspapers and many times children are the victims. Majority of the cases occur in the hands of people that the children know. These range from domestic staff, to relatives, to teachers, family friends and even in some really sick stories, parents. Read Pastor Tony Rapu’s piece about abuse in the light of the gospel.
Many parents are quite lazy when it comes to talking about sexual assault with their children. The conversation cannot simply be; do not have sex or the myth that if a boy talks to you, you will get pregnant. Parents need to be real with their children. Children need to understand the truth about these matters. Parents also need to more accessible and let their children feel safe to talk to them when things happen.
My younger sister didn’t dress sexy , she wore uniform and was in jss1 .. and 4 boys raped her instead of my father to fight for her with his last drop of blood he beat her up for letting herself get raped.. #IStandwithBusola #BusolaDakolo #PastorBiodun that’s y kids don’t tell
— HOUSE OF MIDANI (@MIDANI1212) June 28, 2019
Children Need to be Empowered
A child who knows what inappropriate touch and sexual assault look like is empowered. Empowered because they are in a better position to identify when it is happening and thereby increase their chances of not being a victim of it. Many abusers and predators usually start with grooming. They could call young children things like “My little wife, be overly touchy-feely by hugging them or asking them to sit on their laps etc. Many of the predators get close to the children and build a relationship before they strike. They threaten the child to keep their secret or offer to buy them a gift.
Lastly, they could tell the children that their parent would not believe them anyway. A child needs to know what personal space is. There is no reason to be overly friendly with everyone who is supposedly an Aunty or an Uncle. By the way, cut that out, everyone is not an aunt or uncle. Your child needs to know that you trust him or her. That you would believe them when they tell you what they have been through.
[Tweet “Your child also needs to know that you trust them and you would believe them”]
As I shared in my IGTV video, I had an older cousin who was totally inappropriate. As myself and my other cousins started growing up he would make all sort of comments that had sexual undertones. While no one ever spoke to me about such matters I intuitively knew it felt wrong. Even though I mentioned it to my mum she waved it off saying: “he was just playing with me”.
I still knew it felt wrong and thankfully it never escalated to anything worse. It was only comments and suggestions, however, the reality is that it could have been worse. I tried my best to avoid him and refused to ever sleepover in their home from fear of what could happen. A child should not have to run and hide from family members who she should feel safe with. Empower your child, let them have a voice and be able to tell you what is going on and how they feel around certain people.
The Importance of Consent
Over the past weeks, Busola Dakolo has accused a Pastor who raped her when she was a teenager. It has been very moving for most people to watch her series of videos where she recounts her ordeal in the hands of the Pastor. She really opened up from when she met him, to the painful recount of how damaged she felt as a result of the rape. Furthermore, she shared the circumstances that led to her rape a second time and finally how she has struggled since then. This mother and wife of singer Timi Dakolo; is a brave woman. By speaking out she has helped to highlight this issue and thereby saved other ladies. She has received huge amounts of support from the public with #IstandwithBusola.
Whether you love Social media or not; it allows you to see the comments from several people and provides an insight into how we think as a people. Following Busola Dakolo’s revelation; there have been both negative and positive comments. Some people have questioned why she waited all this time to speak out. Others have suggested she is shaming her husband. While some think she should have just kept silent or that because it was a Pastor who raped her; he should be forgiven because he is a man of God! However, the comment I absolutely cannot get my head around at all is people who say “consented rape”. These two words cannot go in the same sentence. Rape can never be consented to. Nigerian parents raising children in the #MeToo era need to accept that children are seeing all this on social media and being influenced.
[Tweet “These two words cannot go in the same sentence. Rape can never be consented to.”]
I have also come across other recounts where the boy in question did it to punish a particular girl for one reason or the other. We need a major overhaul to train and educate people. Sex can never be a punishment and if there is no consent you cannot sleep with someone against their wishes. No is No.
The High Rate of Sexual Assault Cases
It has been quite shocking the sheer number of other women who have shared how they have been abused and raped! The numbers are high, very high; too high! Many of the women were raped or assaulted as children. The truth is that these stories are not far fetched, they are very close to home.
I noted Ben Murray Bruce’s tweet below –
I am deeply saddened and I stand in solidarity with Busola Dakolo. To put in perspective the enormity of rape crime in Nigeria, one day I was talking to 6 beauty queens, 5 opened up to me that they were raped as children.
— Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) June 28, 2019
Too many children and women are victims. As a Nigerian Parent, you can no longer ignore this. You have to talk to your children about what sexual assault looks like. Your children need to know what to do if they feel they are in any danger. They need to know that it is not their fault and that they can confide in you.
Because boys and men carry out the majority of sexual assault crimes; we need to raise boys who respect girls and women. It is not a power play, you cannot force someone to have sex or assault them to prove a point or to show your power. A boy should use his power to protect not to hurt. All parties need to understand that it hurts the victim. They need to understand that sex is to be enjoyed between two consenting adults. It can never be okay to violate someone’s right to choose.
[Tweet “Too many children and women are victims. As a Nigerian Parent, you can no longer ignore this”]
What Boys and Girls Need to Know in the #MeToo Era
As a Nigerian parent in the #MeToo Era; you have some work to do before you send your child abroad. Unfortunately, many have not trained their children adequately to be ready to deal with sexual relations in the wider world. It is very critical that boys do not misunderstand what it means if a girl seems interested in him. An indication of interest does not mean you can start touching her or think you can go further.
In one case, a boy misunderstood what he saw as the girl’s interest in him. In reality, what the boys think they could get away with in Nigeria; does not apply abroad. This has led to some Nigerian boys getting arrested for sexual assault in the US
Likewise, girls need to understand the steps they need to take for their safety. These include going out in pairs and being very careful of the company they keep. Some friends are not friends at all. There have been stories of girls who have been abused and the spectators; including their friends; recorded the whole episode. Sick right?
The stakes are high and it is imperative that Nigerian parents and children are aware. Access to the internet and exposure to inappropriate content does not help. Because several shows and games are over sexualising our children; they end up wanting to try out what they have seen. We need to safeguard them. Parents, caregivers, teachers all have a part to play in protecting our children.
Everyone needs to discuss dangers, what steps to take to protect yourself and generally have more open conversations.
For more resources, read talking to your children about sex, teach your child about sexual abuse, the difference between harmful and normal sexual behaviour in children, How to Protect Your Children Using the Underwear Rule and What is New in Parenting Teens.
Read more in Diary Adventures of LagosMums for more tips, stories and motherhood unplugged moments.