With much attention still being focused on victims as instigators than abusers, the reality of rape culture is still the elephant in the room in our communities. By taking a closer look into African societies and how they perceive rape, the culture of silence is often encouraged, especially in the case that the abuser is known figure or a close family associate or even a spouse. By this very notion, victims of abuse are suffering in silence.
The recent Sebina saga has not only become a national social campaign to right those that continue to be wronged, it has also become a reflective moment into the undisclosed abuse that happens in our own families ÔÇôa day of reckoning for the silences that have befallen many children.
In many ways, society continues to underline secrecy as a facet of culture we must protect, and this is mainly done at the expense of victims. We have heard whispers of situations in which sexual abuse is ‘purged’ or appeased by the slaughter of a cow or a family meeting, to which then the matter is seen as rectified. In such situations, it is mainly the pain and trauma of those victimized that remain neglected. “This is a family matter, and we will deal with it as a family. We don’t want the Counsellor to be shamed as this is embarrassing for him and his reputation,” said the mother of the 16 year old pregnant teen in an interview. A study on the effects of child sexual abuse states: “The repercussions of childhood sexual abuse can be devastating for survivors. They are at risk for a myriad of both short and long-term symptoms of psychological distress.”
Through the guise of culture, most continue to treat sexual perversion with leniency in fear of ousting family members, close family friends or those in positions of power. In the event that the abuser is the breadwinner or in a position of financial influence, it is common for family members to forgive the matter.
Onkokame Ratanang Mosweu, who works as an advocate for the rights of women, children and other minority groups, says communities must create a culture of openness and transparency to safeguard those who are vulnerable: “This attribute of secrecy shows and tells a story of who and what Botswana is. In my line of work I see women protect men and rapists being defended everyday, I get clients asking me to never mention what they tell me to another person. It makes it difficult for the true healing of victims as they often protect those who have abused them.”
I Shall Never Forget ÔÇôa tagline that has mobilized many in vilifying acts of abuse that are not sufficiently addressed, grew into a platform on which many women are sharing their own traumas which they were told to ignore in favor of someone’s reputation.
While we teach children to be careful of strangers, we do not give them the same warning in regard those they trust and are close to them. Understanding that secrecy does more harm than good for survivors is something that can curb the mentality that implies sexual abuse is a taboo topic.