There are only two times to publicly report sexual assault as a victim, immediately it happens, and if you cannot, when you are completely ready to face what happened.
TY Bello spoke publicly for the first time in 30+ years about suffering abuse as a child.
It takes so much courage to even publicly come forward and allow yourself become the focal point of a much-needed conversation around abuse and I applaud TY Bello for doing it especially because she has so much to lose.
However, I honestly, truly wish she hadn’t.
At least not until she was true, honestly, ready to speak about her abuse.
Because you see, the way TY Bello handled her retelling of her abuse was irresponsible, and even worse potentially dangerous for millions of girls and women who are either suffering sexual abuse as minors, as teenagers and as women.
She did three things that taboo when discussing abuse, especially as a victim.
Before she spoke about her abuse, she made a show of asking her husband for permission before Kemi Adetiba (director and interviewer) can air that part of the interview, getting Kemi to promise that if her husband doesn’t agree she won’t air the interview.
This whole event was very, very irresponsible and unprofessional. Perhaps Kemi Adetiba was aiming for candidness, but sexual abuse is not something you should discuss without careful consideration. The King Women interviews are carefully edited and this event was deliberately let in, why I cannot fathom. As a married woman, TY Bello is allowed to go about her marriage however she wants. However what she is not allowed to do, is to either directly or indirectly suggest that victims of abuse need the permission of others before they can speak on their abuse.
Too many women and girls are silenced by their families and churches when they want to speak up on their abuse because of second-hand shame. For her to hold that belief is disappointing. For her to indirectly endorse that belief is dangerous and harmful.
Sexual abuse victims do not need permission from anyone, not their husbands (no matter how supportive they are/seem), families or churches and schools to speak up on the abuse they suffered as children.
When she informs the audience that she suffered abuse as a minor, she states it as vaguely as possible, skimming entirely over all the circumstances of the abuse.
One of the signs that a victim is still suffering from the after-effects of/is unable to process their grief from their sexual assault/rape/abuse is an unwillingness/inability to recount in detail the general circumstances of the abuse. In her interview, TY Bello states that she has never had actual therapy with a licensed professional and perhaps she should because they would have told her of this.
Ty Bello’s narration of her abuse skims over the details of the acts that were performed, the gender of the abuser, and the frequency of the abuse. All important details that could have been relayed without revealing the identity of the abuser, or implicating any of her immediate or extended family in her telling of her truth. Her vague retelling trivialises the severity of the abuse and portrays the act like a victimless crime.
But that is a dangerous notion to propagate. Majority of sexual assault cases go unreported because the victim does not recognise the act that occurred as being on the spectrum of abuse. And this is in part because victims never speak plainly about the abuse that they suffered. Speaking plainly about abuse also enables others to recognise the tell-tale signs of when a minor is being abused and can help save lives.
Most importantly, speaking plainly about abuse ensures that the abuser doesn’t get the chance to rape again. One in three rapist/sex offenders attempt rape/assault more than once, and often with multiple partners, and being explicit about the details of rape can help protect other people from becoming victims.
But that can only happen if the victim takes the time to process their trauma and overcome it before attempting to publicly speak about their rape.
She attributes her recovering post abuse to salvation and her personal faith and asserts proudly that she told other girls who had suffered abuse as a minor to look to salvation.
It is obvious that TY Bello hasn’t truly processed what happened to her as a child. Because when she speaks about it, she still refers to overcoming her abuse with Christianity as “being washed clean”.
Sexual assault does not make it’s victim “dirty”, “sinful” or “evil”.
There is nothing a child could have done that would be bad enough to warrant sexual assault. The very suggestion that it is the job of the victim of abuse to purify themselves, and that the stigma of sexual abuse is some kind of sin that can be ‘purified’ is dangerous. It keeps young women who need to seek professional help from doing so.
You can be a Christian and very religious and still need therapy. All through the Bible there are instances of men of God needing therapy. Elijah after his greatest victory over Ahab and Jezebel, Ezekiel for most of his life, Job after his family was killed and his wealth taken, Timothy while he was finding his foot in Christ. The body of Christ is not a monolith.
This doesn’t mean that TY Bello’s religion did not give her tools to function in the real world after her abuse, but she is not everyone. She is only one woman, speaking on her own personal experience. It would have done a world of good if she reiterated this constantly, and properly and encouraged victims of abuse who aren’t Christian or Religious to seek help anyways. That wouldn’t have detracted from her testimony.
There are two times when a victim should speak about his/her abuse, after it happens so the perpetrator can be caught and prosecuted while the rape is still within the statutes of limitation; and once the statutes of limitation have passed, only when the victim has properly processed what has happened to them, found healing, and educated themselves on how best to prevent other girls from having to go through the same horrors, a.k.a when you are educated and truly ready.
TY Bello, a professional career woman with 20 years in the business, showed up for the biggest and most important interview of her life unprepared, armed only with religious platitudes and regurgitated proclamations. That wasn’t entirely her fault.
However, in doing so she for the first time, let down the little girl who because of a system of institutionalised silence and misogyny had her life changed by a man/woman who should have protected her.