The Sexuality Blog: Inspired by Oprah, Nigerian women are telling their sexual assault stories

Oprah

Many underestimate and even outrightly dismiss Hollywood award shows. And their distrust is understandable, it is true that the film and music and entertainment awards that make up a huge chunk of the Hollywood entertainment cycle are little more than publicity machines for the people who participate in them. But they are also a major platform, one that occasionally celebrities use in support of major causes, to effect much needed change. This is what happened at the recently concluded Golden Globes Awards where actress, philanthropist and billionaire Oprah Winfrey was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her contributions to cinema. The Cecil B. DeMille is the only award of the night that is announced in advance and so Oprah had advance warning to prepare a speech and the floor to give it.

Before then, the women’s guild of actors had decided to wear black in solidarity with victims of sexual assault and in protest of the system of oppression that has kept women from truly excelling in film, with a number of celebrities forgoing male dates for female activists to highlight the causes and charities these women promote. Oprah used her speech to further amplify the work of other, speaking of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor and the fight they went through to convict a group of white racists in the 50’s. She asked that all women speak up about their assault and shame their attackers. It was quite a speech.

And it seems the message has resonated everywhere, even here in Nigeria. Women, inspired by Oprah’s #TimesUp Speech have taken to social media to expose sexual harassment they endured, sometimes for years, at the hands of men in authority. Twitter user KnightOfDelta recently shared an update from a friend of his Funke Dezarn who shared her personal experience of assault while she was in a Nigerian university.

 

Another user also spoke at length at the abuse she endured while studying for her undergraduate degree in Covenant University. In light of these accusations, the university authorities have done nothing to either investigate her claims or punish the lecturer involved.

She is just one of several women who are using social media to sound the warning and remind us all that just because harassment goes largely undocumented in Nigeria, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

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