There are a number of ways the crime of sexual violence can begin unfolding in one’s life.
It is not always a rude shock moment, like in the case of an acquaintance, who woke up one day to a beloved older nephew forcing himself on her in the very room next to her mother’s. It was a rude shock not just because it is a violation – which she knew even then it is – but also because of the hitherto dotting relationship she had with him, a relationship all the other kids in the family envied.
Very often – perhaps more often than we care to admit – sexual violence occurs in contexts so muddied that even victims may believe for a very long time that no wrong happened. Perpetrators are often genuinely bewildered when they are called out for it because they honest to God couldn’t see what happened as a violation.
Take the case of yet another acquaintance whose lover of 8 months, confident in all they have shared even on the very night he did what he believed was a continuation of an enjoyable sexual interlude that began at around 9 pm which my acquaintance later realized was a violation because he was inebriated.
It was a violation, but the context was too muddied that my acquaintance couldn’t bring himself to believe he was raped by his boyfriend on the same night they had enjoyable consensual sex multiple times before he passed out.
“I remember waking up to him just going at it, on and on, and my muddled brain was confused that it was happening because I didn’t remember initiating, or agreeing to his initiation of, sex,” he said as we sat with the gravity of his realization.
He will bring it up with his lover on the advice of our friend group, and they reached a resolution, after forgiving and healing, to never initiate sex without clear consent.
There is a sexual violence epidemic in Nigeria, and it affects Nigerians of all cultural, religious, and regional backgrounds as well as sexual orientations. The latter is however unique in how we speak or not speak about it.
Who is looking out for Nigeria’s LGBT+ children?
You may want to read this: #PrideMonth: Raising queer children takes more than a village.
Perhaps due to the report after report pushing forward the gravity of sexual violence in Nigeria – particularly as it affects children – Nigerians are increasingly speaking about sexual violence.
We are speaking up, defining and redefining parameters by which to gauge what constitutes sexual violence and what doesn’t, and learning – often for the first time – all the ways in which we may have committed, enabled or encouraged the epidemic of sexual violence in the country. Yet, in all this discussion, we leave out the children whose identity remains taboo – LGBT+ children.
When Nigerians who aren’t LGBT+ speak about the LGBT+, there is a sense in which it comes off as though all the LGBT+ adult Nigerians who are brave enough to bare their being for the world to see even if only online, just fell from heaven one day fully grown and violently gay.
LGBT+ Nigerians are in fact – however hard it may be to believe – as human as everyone.
Born as babies, no different from anyone else, grown-up among heterosexual and other LGBT+ peers, and came into their own – however difficult the route they took to this arrival – before they became the adults a bigoted society treats with hostility or as an obnoxious lot that must be silenced, ridiculed or ignored.
Very often, that route to becoming is filled with sexual violence perpetrated by adults who take advantage of the isolation that entrenched bigotry forces on LGBT+ kids.
But who is looking out for LGBT+ kids who sometimes in trying to make sense of the unique ways their bodies demand to be experienced – which they know from interaction with their environment is considered taboo – fall prey to sexual predators?
The answer is hardly anyone at all.
Not the adults in their lives – both those who themselves have been through the same trying times and those who are cis-heterosexual and are set in the belief that there can be no other way to be human but their way.
Not the Churches and Mosques that only dip their fingers into LGBT+ matters to stir the filth of irrational disdain they remain determined to perpetuate towards this unique being.
Not state institutions who sweep any possibility of a natural existence of LGBT+ people – which a recognition of LGBT+ children will necessitate – to justify their criminalization of this human group as an aberration – a crime.
Read the report by NOIPOLLS that says, “about 3 in 10 Nigerians (26 per cent) disclosed that they know someone who has been raped in the past and the rape victims were particularly minors and young adults aged between 1 – 15 years (72 per cent) and 16 – 25 years (24 per cent) respectively. What immediately comes to your mind is unlikely to be that part of this disturbing number of victims are LGBT+ minors who may never be able to fully open up about the nature of the unique violence they experienced.
It isn’t just because they fear further violence related to their sexuality either – although this is a genuine fear of many. It is also because a lot of sexual predators seek out these vulnerable kids, groom them with promises of security and some stability, then sexually molest them repeatedly, leaving where stability might otherwise have grown a cracked shell of a person.
The thing about grooming is that it insidiously lures a naïve child into a sense of safety before the rude awakening to the wickedness a childish innocence could never envision manifest to shatter the heart of the child or – in the many cases that a victim is unaware what happened, a suddenly discerning adult.
A gay Nigerian Twitter user posed the question this week, ‘When are we going to talk about the rampant grooming happening in the queer community?’ and went on to invite people to share their first sexual encounters.
“I was 6. He was around 20+ then,” someone commented with a prayer to someday, “get the courage to talk about it.”
I hope he does. Above all, I hope we collectively come together to create an accepting enough society such that LGBT+ children are captured in the data and protected uniquely as God intended.