If people are too scared to talk about abuse because of stigma, this solution can make that fear disappear.
For the last few weeks, the most constant headline in the news is sexual abuse. In foreign media, it’s mostly reports of people coming out with stories about their abusers, sometimes decades after.
It clearly says one thing; the biggest problem with fighting rape is the culture of silence. And it’s hard to blame the victims. In a world where the first thing society does is ask the victim “what were you wearing?”, many victims choose silence over the guilt-tripping.
So, Ajoke Emekene is trying to change this, one report at a time. She recently founded Biri.ng, a chat bot where victims can go to report cases of abuse or share their stories.
We think it’s awesome, but then, we had a lot of questions to ask.
Pulse: Hey Ajoke :)
Ajoke: It’s really glad to hear from you, thank you. I really value feedback
P: I want to know how Biri really helps. Like, let’s say I report an incident, what happens next for the victim? For the rapist or abuser?
A: When an incident is reported, the person has the opportunity to instantly book a session with a trained and certified counsellor. Right now to start, we are focused on the survivor and so we are building our network of Counselors who would follow up with them and lead them through the healing process. Subsequently, though, we would include Legal Practitioners to guide with legal actions. We are tackling one at a time and the survivor comes first.
P: So most things are triggered by a scenarios and incidents. What was the problem you noticed that made you realise Biri is important?
A: You are right, it was a combination of many things that resulted in our action. This year, there was a popular story that made the rounds about some schoolboys going on a raping rampage, somehow that story stayed at the back of my mind. Then when I had the idea for this tool, in my mind there were no easy means to report such incidences, so before I started creating the bot I did some research on reporting rape in Nigeria and found out that the statistics were bleak, it didn’t add up. I read a report that said 192 rape cases were reported in Lagos a city of over 20 million. I knew there was a problem.
P: “What’s the feedback been like?”
A: The past few weeks have been focused on iterating and getting feedback from a small set of users. We have also slowly been building an online community, first on Instagram and now we’ve joined twitter a few days ago. For us, getting the conversation going on abuse is really important, because it’s not enough to provide a way out, we must somehow make it more comfortable for abuse survivors to come forward without fear of shame or stigma. We’re on Instagram as Biri.ng.
P: Nigerian tertiary institutions are a hotbed of sexual abuse. Are there plans to hit schools and spread the word?
You hit the nail on the head here and took the words right out of my mouth. This is the next phase of our work. We first wanted to be sure that we have the infrastructure to support the work and we do, so now we have been getting our team set up in preparation for the work ahead. Universities, NYSC locations and places where we find a concentration of young people would be reached in the coming weeks. Our plans are not finalised yet on set dates
The chatbot is still far from perfect, but its a start, and hopefully, it can only get better.