FATTEH HAMID, who notes that sexual abuse of the boy child is underreported, chronicles the experiences of men subjected to the nasty act while growing up
A student in a university in the South-West, Olanrewaju Tobiloba was 16 years old when he was defiled by two female neighbours who were then students of a tertiary institution in Ogun State. He said he was in Senior Secondary School 3 at the time. Tobiloba told Saturday PUNCH that he was defiled thrice and couldn’t speak out despite how terrible the situation was.
He said, “We lived in a ‘face-me-I-face-you’ apartment at the time. I just returned from school and it was a common thing for me and our neighbours to play together. Sometimes, they came over to our apartment and we went to theirs.
“That day, I went to their room and we were playing. At one point, I lay on their bed and one of them lay beside me. Suddenly, one of them started rubbing my chest and jumped on me. The one who was sexually abusing me was in her 30s at the time while the other one was 28.
“I was naïve to think that it was still our regular playful act not knowing that they had other plans for me. While trying to struggle and get her to disembark from the bed, the other sister came and started rubbing my legs. She removed my trousers and fondled with my manhood.’’
Tobiloba further said he tried to struggle his way out of their grip but the two sisters overpowered him.
He added, “They told me that they were playing with me and offered me a malt drink and poured milk into it. They took it too so I didn’t know what they had in mind. They told me they were playing with me. I took the mixture not knowing that they had mixed something with it. After some time, I realised that I had become weak to resist anything. They had their way. I was defiled that day. At least, when I came to full knowledge of myself that was what I noticed.
After that occurrence, I couldn’t tell my mum. I was afraid because I felt she would make it public as she always worried about me. I kept the issue to myself. I didn’t want to be a subject of ridicule. I kept the sisters’ at arm’s length and restricted myself from their room and tried not make them come to ours whenever my mother was not around.’’
The student stated that despite trying to avoid them, he still fell to their trap twice before the act stopped.
He said, “They asked me if I told my mum what happened among us and that they wanted me to tell her. I knew that they were aware of the disciplinarian my mum is but was making a mockery of me. They told me that we would still engage in the act. I was scared each time they said so but helpless and tried to avoid them. The abuse started between 2015 and 2016. It stopped after the third time. I took steps not to allow them violate me sexually again. I intentionally stayed back at the school till 7pm just to avoid them. I only returned home when I was sure that my mum would have either returned home or close to the house from her workplace. That way, I was able to overcome them.’’
Asked why he didn’t confide in anyone, Tobiloba noted that since he didn’t tell his mum, it was hard to tell anyone else until some years later after the incident.
He added that he met someone who acted like a brother to him after he completed secondary school education who offered him help psychologically.
He stated, “The effect the situation had on me was early exposure to sex. I was curious and started surfing the internet for sex-related activities. Also, I started having some pains which was later diagnosed as an infection.
“I had to start treating infections while learning to control my sexual urge because my libido became high. I have accessed information that I wasn’t meant to have at an early stage of my life and it had some effects on me till now.’’
Tobiloba, who noted that the therapy he got helped his healing process, told Saturday PUNCH that he also assisted other boys who opened up to him about similar experiences.
He stated, “I am somehow healed of the trauma and I thank God for helping me realise that I needed to work on myself early enough. I have been able to control my sexual urges to some extent. I have also been able to counsel some people who experienced a similar situation.’’
The ugly side
Tobiloba’s experience captures the several sexual abuse faced by the boy child in Nigeria with little or no attention paid to the dilemma.
Another victim is Olalekan Bashir, an unemployed graduate from a university in the South-West. He narrated to our correspondent how he was sexually abused by his elder sister’s friend when he was in primary school. He stated, “That day, I returned from school and came as usual to our place to help me take off my uniform. But instead she dragged my hands to her breasts. In my innocent state, I wasn’t comfortable with it but just complied. At one point, I tried to break free but she forcefully held my hand in that position as she was stronger. Fortunately, two of my friends came into the room at the time and were surprised. They told someone what they saw and that was how everyone in the neighbourhood got to know about the incident.”
On how his parents reacted when they got to know, Bashir disclosed that she was sternly warned against such an act. He added that with the way she was reprimanded and his initial feeling that the act was wrong, it was the last time he experienced such either from her or anyone. He stated, “I was able to stay focused because it was a one-off act and it didn’t affect me in any way. But sometimes I think of it amusingly as I am narrating it to you now.’’
Also, a photographer and website designer, identified only as Precious told our correspondent that he started experiencing sexual abuse at age six.
He explained that the act was perpetrated by a distant cousin who lived with them at their grandparent’s house between 2003 and 2004.
He said, “She used to strip me naked then and would tell me that we should both be under a wrapper. Then, she would touch my manhood and use my hands to caress her breasts. The situation endured for a long time.’’
Precious noted that the experience exposure him early to sexual activities and also made him sexually active at a young age. He said, “I became sexually active at age eight. I was already kissing my classmates back then in primary school due to what my cousin exposed me to. My joy is that I am not traumatised by the experience. I am trying to work on myself to be a better version. I think I am cool but cannot forget the experience.’’
Now a businessman, Uduak Sylvester, narrated how his elder sister molested him sexually at childhood. He stated that the sexual exploitation started when he was seven and his sister aged 11.
He said, “Our parents were not always home so we had a lot of time to ourselves back then. It started one weekend when my sister told me that she wanted to bathe me after I sweated after playing with my friends. While bathing me, she touched my manhood and I felt a sensation for the first time. She kissed me. That continued for a long time and our bond grew.’’
Sylvester further said that the act made her sister sexually appealing to her than any other female, adding that she enjoyed being with her.
He added, “I never knew then that it was incest. I was too young to understand that. I realised that there was an issue when I turned 21 and had a girlfriend. The lady didn’t appeal to me. Trying as much as I could to love her, I noticed that I was helplessly longing for my sister. My girlfriend thought I was being a gentleman for failing to get romantic with her until a day when she asked to know if I was a virgin and I said I wasn’t. She was surprised.
She wanted to know why I chose to be platonic with her and I explained my situation to her because I needed help. I summoned courage to talk to my sister and we decided not to engage in anything intimate again. We went spiritual too. We fasted and prayed several times about the awkward addiction. My girlfriend spoke to a psychologist and a mental health advocate group who helped me a lot. I am better now to the best of my understanding.’’
He, however, disclosed that it took him four years to get sexually and emotionally detached from his sister, stating that he intentionally severed ties with her for some time and got close to her girlfriend who stood by him when he underwent therapy.
He noted, “Our parents weren’t aware of what was happening because it was well managed. It was a troubling experience for me but I am happy I came out of it strong. Our parents didn’t know about the issue till today. It’s a secret my sister and I, including my girlfriend, buried in our hearts. We pray never to find ourselves in such a terrible situation again.”
In the case of a computer engineer and phone repairer, Sola Adeyemi, he was sexually exploited by their housemaid during childhood. He told Saturday PUNCH that he never knew that the experience would haunt him after marriage.
Adeyemi stated, “I can’t remember how it started but all I know was that I started having sex with her when I was 10. Despite her being older, she made me do nasty things with her in her room and in my naïve state, I thought it was normal.
“She had her way with me till I was 14 and afterwards, she left our house. My parents weren’t aware. She always told me not to tell anyone. Since she left our house, I discover that I get pleasure in having sexual relations with elderly women. It’s a burden to me because I find it awkward to even approach them.’’
Adeyemi noted that to cope well with the issue, she was advised to marry early to fend off likely effects on her.
He narrated, “After got married, I thought the trauma would end and I would spend more time with my wife but I still long for elderly women. I have not been completely healed of the past despite therapy but I thank God for the wife I married. She stood by me and I am on a journey of healing. It is a terrible thing for anyone to experience sexual abuse at childhood whether a boy or girl.’’
On his part, an artisan, Tunde Obisesan, narrated the sexual ordeal he suffered at the hands of her aunt with whom she lived while growing up.
He said, “She warned me not to tell anyone what happened between us. I tried telling a friend about my plight without revealing who the tormentor was. He merely told me to be careful. I feel intense anger anytime I see her, knowing I am helpless. But since she is my aunt, there is little I can do about my rage for her. I feel burning again when I see her age mates.
“I hope that one day I’ll be able to free myself of some bizarre thoughts that strikes me anytime I remember the things she did to me. I was a young boy then and the way I usually wept and became weak during the encounters was more than I could bear. There was a time I called her to tell her how I felt but she wasn’t remorseful.’’
She added that her aunt merely laughed it off as if it meant nothing and was a normal thing.
Legal protection against sexual violence
The Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that children have the right to live free from all types of violence. Sexual molestation of children is a violation of children’s rights with devastating long-term consequences.
Research is ongoing on the issue but it centres on girls, neglecting the needs, experiences and perspectives of boys identified outside the gender binary.
In 2015, the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that that one in 10 boys has experienced sexual violence before age 18.
A 2014 survey by The Cece Yara Foundation also stated that Nigerian boys are almost never abused by strangers. The perpetrators are typically people they have personal relationships with, such as family members, neighbours and caregivers.
Unlike male abusers, who are likely to use violence and force against their victims, female perpetrators tend to groom their victims, using coercion and emotional manipulation to make the abuse seem consensual. This makes it a lot harder for their male victims to effectively interpret what happened as abuse.
Also, in a study by a professor of paediatrics and neonatology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Isa Abdulkadir, it was reported that it is noteworthy that no cases of male victims of sexual abuse were found, owing to the fact that male victims are less likely to disclose their experiences after sexual abuse. However, that is not to say that the cases of male victims do not occur. Though the incidence rates have only marginal differences, it seems cases of female abuse have received more attention.
Researchers have discovered that the male child victim is more likely to be at a disadvantage compared to his female counterpart, in terms of having a redress. This disadvantage is directly linked to the reluctance of the male child victim to report the incident.
The non-reporting of incidents could be due to a variety of reasons. First, consciously or unconsciously, because females are said to be the “weaker sex,” they are perceived to be more disadvantaged sexually and thus more prone to be victims of sexual abuse than their male counterparts. This notion however may not always be correct.
A study by the Lagos Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team in 2016 at the Ikoyi Prisons and Maximum and Medium Prisons, Apapa, showed that most sexual offenders were previously abused while growing up.
Eighty-nine per cent of the inmates were abused as a child implying that they had become sexually active at an early age. This illustrates the trend of ‘abused abusers.’ Some inmates lost their virginity to family members and older acquaintances who took advantage of them during their early teenage years.
In the report, 60 per cent of the sexual offenders became sexually active at age 14 which can be linked to negligence of children (by parents, schools and the community). Many of them became sexually active in JSS2/JSS3 with their female counterparts i.e classmates.
Experts suggest way forward
A lawyer at the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and Executive Secretary to the state Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, stated that sexual violence against boys was a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of two, five or seven years or life imprisonment depending on the extent at which the violence was committed.
She said, “Lagos State under the Child Rights Law 2015 sections 261, 262, 263 and 265 weighs sexual assault against children depending on either there was penetration, without consent or other assaults generally. Though the law doesn’t specifically highlight boys, the law is gender liberal in as much as the abused is underage.’’
Also, a child development expert, Deborah Joseph, described the underreported case of boy abuse in Nigeria as a serious issue which demanded immediate attention.
Joseph said, “We have to all come out and start campaigns that will educate boy children to speak. We have to allow boys to be vulnerable like the girl child too. The ego men seem to keep is the major issue here. Since society has almost made it normal that a boy should be able to handle everything himself. After that, the government also has its own responsibility to play. It should ensure that the same rap attention given to sexual violence against girls is given to boys too. I’ve always said that we need to pay more attention to the boys as we do to the girls.’’
She further stated that she was aware of a case involving a boy whose parents knew he was being violated but the mother only told him that he was a man and would be fine.
She said, “This has to be discouraged. Many of these boys grow up filled with hatred and mental health challenges. Statistics show that men commit suicide more than women. These issues that we don’t pay attention to might be part of the reason such men who couldn’t later handle the whole thing killed themselves.
“Most of these boys grow up depressed and have anxiety disorders and other critical psychological conditions that are beyond them. We need to be conscious. When we have boys or men open up to us about their experiences, we should listen to them. Ensure you show concerns about what they have gone through, don’t blame them or motivate them they can handle it like a man. Let them be vulnerable to you, then refer them to experts; psychologists who can help them out of their immediate issue.”
She advised boys or men who had been sexually violated to speak up and seek adequate help to help them become better.
She said, “Ego and fear of not being man enough are what is damaging many boys and men who have been violated. If you have been sexually molested by anyone, you aren’t a fool to speak up. Ensure you speak to someone who you can confide in and have full trust in that they would be able to handle the situation better.
“Parents should also get closer to their male children the same way they pay attention to the female children. Parents should be aware of the environment their children is growing and when they realise that there’s a possible danger for boys, parents should be quick to effect a change to ensure that their boys are protected from such dangers.’’
Commenting on the issue, a psychologist, Dr Rotimi Adelola, opined that cases of sexual abuse against boys had become an issue threatening the psychological stability of boy child in the today’s world and should be given the same attention as that of girls.
He said, “Boys who are abused grow up and the trauma wouldn’t even allow them to have the confidence to approach an opposite gender. It is as bad as that. Basically, it’s a psyche issue and glue on the self-esteem of the abused.”
Adelola added that the government, society, and parents had a role to play in fighting and seeking an end to the molestation of boys, noting that abusers needed to be rehabilitated too.
He said, “The abuser should be the target of therapy because the abused is not guilty of any offence. He’s just a victim of someone else’s behaviour. The role of the parents is to ensure that their kids are well brought up and they should let them know that they are not to mingle with people anyhow. There’s a need for caution in mingling with people. Those who abuse young boys are the problem. They have psychological problems.
“Some of them may not even have the confidence to approach the opposite sex, so when she doesn’t get an adult to satisfy her sexual demands, she takes advantage of the innocence of a young boy and lure him to have an affair with him. In that wise, there’s the need for parents to treat the boys the same way they will treat a sexually abused female. Warn them to be aware of their environment and be extremely careful of such predators.”
He further stated many of the perpetrators were sex-starved women, who lacking men to satisfy their sexual urges, prey on the innocence of young boys whose manhood wouldn’t even give them the desired satisfaction.
Adelola added, “Boys should be encouraged to cry for help anytime they find themselves in such a situation. They should be encouraged to immediately report any form of abuse to their parents. When parents get such reports, they are expected to report to the police immediately so that the abuser can be apprehended and charged to court. I understand that sometimes, parents want to keep quiet because of the social impact such an event would have on the boy and the effect it would have on his self-esteem. In the light of that, most parents don’t want to speak out, they just cover it up. Parents should be encouraged not to cover up the issues, especially when the abuser is known. It’s a case of rape and they should really shout out loud and report.’’
He said the government has a huge role to play in the tackling the issue, noting that that the law should treat sexual abuse of boys the same way it’s treated against girls.
Commenting on the issue, a professor of Education Psychology, Guidance and Counselling, Faculty of Education, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Charles Nwundu, noted that the effects of sexual violence on boys were numerous.
He said, “It could lead to gamophobic syndrome which is the fear of committing to relationships or marriage. Because what has happened to some of them is so tough that they find themselves at 40 or 50 years, still finding it hard to get married. People will begin to get worried if he’s depressed or demonised meanwhile he has been traumatised. He might begin to have panic attacks when closer to the opposite sex.”
Charles also stated that the situation could lead into generalised anxiety disorder where the person becomes suspicious of any human being around him with the fear that they might be an object of attack.
He added, “It can also lead to sexual aberration or masturbation. It can at the same time lead to engraved bitterness when the person is soaked in memories of the old, memories of bitterness, and difficulty forgiving. Also, it can lead to troubled marriages. If the person because of culture and tradition gets married, he can become a bully. He would begin to unconsciously unleash terror on the opposite sex. As far as he knows, he didn’t grow like a normal human. His humanness has been destroyed and likely can become a beast.’’
The lecturer further said that the procedure to heal from the trauma would have to start with a strong will from the victim, noting that in many cases if a victim wasn’t convinced, it would be difficult to get through the stage. He said, “Strong self-will and determination is the first process of healing for the abused. Afterwards, we can refer the victims to a psychologist who will ensure complete healing and gradually, they will become normal.”
On his part, a medical doctor and a professor of adolescent gynaecology and reproductive health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calabar, Cross River, Prof John Ekabua, stated that sexual molestation of boys should be given adequate attention considering the fact that many boys wouldn’t come forward to declare that they had been violated.
He said, “It is actually wrong on all levels to molest boys. I have not received many of the cases because they don’t want to come out so I have not really managed any of the cases. Apart from the shame, the women involved tend to cajole or scare the boys into silence. If we also follow the natural pattern of possible sexually transmitted infection due to sexual violence against boy children, they are at high risk of contracting gonorrhoea and chlamydia developing in the early stages of their life. Also, the possible psychological effect of being molested is that such boys may grow up with an extreme feeling of attraction to women and sexual matters.”
John further stated that sexually abused boys risk infertility due to the effects of the violence against them. He added, “If the child is infected, he may end up with infertility as the infection could damage the testicles where the sperm cells are. Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are capable of destroying the testicles and by extension, causing a man not to be able to produce sperm for reproduction.”