Yesterday, news filtered onto the internet that 19 year old Nigerian American activist, Oluwatoyin Salau had been found. Or at least her body had been found, a week after she was originally reported as missing to the Police of Tallahassee, Florida. Women from across the world had shared flyers of her disappearance, prayed for her safe return, demanded the government increase efforts to find her. But it was all for nothing.
Anyways I was molested in Tallahassee, Florida by a black man this morning at 5:30 on Richview and Park Ave. The man offered to give me a ride to find someplace to sleep and recollect my belongings from a church I refuged to a couple days back to escape unjust living conditions.
— Oluwatoyin (@virgingrltoyin) June 6, 2020
The more we have learnt about Toyin Salau’s life, the more horrified we have become. Salau tweeted on the last day she was seen alive, a series of tweets where she detailed being sexually assaulted by an older man who she had allowed drive her from a protest, after he offered to help her find the church where she had sought shelter days before and left her personal effects for safe keeping. As anyone with acute sight challenges knows, Salau was disabled without her glasses, a situation which made her significantly more vulnerable, and probably contributed significantly to her death. Int he days before Salau went missing, she had been filmed wearing glasses, but protests can turn violent, as they did in her town and with the loss of her glasses, she lost a valuable life line to normalcy.
She accepted help because she didn’t have glasses. After she was assaulted and left her abuser’s home, she couldn’t lead the police to it because she couldn’t identify it as she had been led there without her glasses. In her last moments, she was sightless and handicapped, a situation that must have worsened whatever pain she felt in her last moment.
We know now that Salau was homeless because she ran away from her abusive Nigerian family. There are unsubstantiated reports that her brother had been complicit in some form of abuse against her, and rather than prosecute him, her family eager to protect their public prestige chose to silence Oluwatoyin Salau and not punish her brother. Reports suggest this is why she was homeless and without familial support at 19, why she fought so strongly to create a better world for other disadvantaged women like her.
Idgaf what wishes her family has. They sat back while she was being sexually assaulted and didn’t do anything. Her own brother victimized her. Her mother kicked her out. WHO KICKS THEIR OWN CHILD OUT. TOYIN JUST GRADUATED HS. AHE WAS STILL A BABY.
— D.Hemphill (@dr_hemphill) June 15, 2020
Oluwatoyin Salau is a reminder that the toxic parenting habits of Nigerian parents, who are obsessed with public perception and prioritize religiousity over the well being of their children has dire consequences, consequences that lead to the death of innocent women. It is not uncommon for Nigerian parents to publicly humiliate children who are victims of sexual abuse, bullying and assault, or to silence them as a way to avoid public scrutiny or humiliation. Toyin Salau is not a martyr, she is a victim of negligence from her family, of entitlement from the black community, of poor policing from the American government. We mourn her, and demand that no other Nigerian woman should suffer, or worse, die because Nigerian parents cannot get a grip.