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#MeToo Nigerian women speak on rape and sexual abuse

One day, she was walking up the stairs in her office when she suddenly felt someone's hand reach underneath her skirt.

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Nigerian women and the #MeToo campaign play

Nigerian women and the #MeToo campaign

(CNN Nigeria )

It would have been appropriate to first give statistics of rape cases in Nigeria but that would be far-fetched - even economic policies are drafted without correct statistics.

What is certain, however, is that Nigerian women and children get sexually assaulted nearly on daily basis and they dared not speak out for fear of stigmatization and prejudice.

All that is changing now, as more Nigerian women and other victims across the world are speaking out, boldly.

According to a national survey carried out in 2014 (which is believed to be underestimated), one in four girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18.

The survey reported that of those who experienced sexual violence in childhood, only 38% told someone about it - and as few as 5% sought help.

The #Metoo movement, a viral hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment of women, has played a major role in the 'speaking out' development.

In Nigeria, where many victims suffer in silence, the women are using the opportunity to tell their horror stories.

Rape stories

play Brenda Uphopho (CNN)

Brenda Uphopho, a festival producer from Lagos is one of the five women who shared their sexual abuse stories with CNN.

According to her, she was assaulted three times by three different men but she never found the nerve to tell anyone until it was dawn on her that her teenage daughter was fast growing up in the same world that soiled her purity.

One day, she was walking up the stairs in her office when she suddenly felt someone's hand reaching underneath her skirt. She turned around and it was her boss.

"I screamed, and he was shocked at my scream. And I was shocked that he was shocked," Uphopho told CNN.

She was just five years old when she was first abused by a man who worked for her family - the man had forced her to touch him.

Uphopho said she did not understand how serious the situation was at that age, so she kept quiet.

ALSO READ: Father, young son jointly rape little daughter in Calabar

When it happened again she was 18, and old enough to know she had been violated.

"During a party, I found myself alone with a stranger who wanted to force me to have sex with him. He beat me up when I refused and sexually assaulted me. I was too ashamed to tell anyone about it," she said.

She added that: "I just felt if I was going to tell anybody ... they would ask me ... 'What did you wear? What were you doing there? How did you end up alone with this person?'".

So she believed it was her fault.

"I could be walking on the street and I would get my butt slapped by a bike rider. My coworkers would make unsolicited sexual comments to me and I wouldn't think it was out of place," she said.

Uphoho and her husband have co-produced a play called "Shattered," which seeks to encourage victims of sexual violence to speak up about their experiences.

play Eurel Nwafor (CNN)


Also recalling her ordeal, 22-year-old Eurel Nwafor said she was raped in August 2017 after some opposition union members stormed her former place of work.

She was working as a personal assistant at a market in Lagos at the time of the incident.

"There was a lot of chaos outside the office. On opening the door to see what was happening, I received a slap from a man and before I could recover, he dragged me outside," she said.

The man ripped her clothes off and forced himself on her.

"He didn't listen, though I begged him to stop," Nwafor said.

She said she has been making frantic efforts to file charges against the rapist, despite her family's disapproval.

"My mom wants me to leave everything in God's hands, likewise ... other family members, but I refuse to suffer in silence," she said.

She then shared a video on Instagram, where she pleaded for help - it went viral and caught the attention of support group Stand To End Rape, which offered her counseling and legal advice.

"I cannot wake up every morning, knowing that the person that did this to me is out there going about his daily activities like nothing happened," Nwafor said.

play Chichi Ogbonnaya (CNN)


Chichi Ogbonnaya, another victim, was defiled at 10 years old by an 'uncle'.

"This man was respected in our church and I called him 'uncle,'" she said.

Ogbonnaya was sent to live with the man by her mother, who could not afford to take care of her.

"He made me lie on top of him while his wife was away. He tried to penetrate me but when he could not, he went to get something that looked like a lubricant," she recalled the first incident with the man.

"He told me to stay calm and be quiet. I didn't know what was happening," Ogbonnaya said.

Ogbonnaya told CNN she remembers him handing her "the blood-soaked sheet to wash before his wife returned."

The abuse continued for five years until she was 15.

She is also speaking out about the assaults for the first time.

ALSO READ: 'Constant rape by my father forced me to flee Nigeria' - Libya Returnee

Ogbonnaya said the man even forced her to have an abortion, which was badly done, and this made her bleed alone in her bedroom.

"Even after I left the house, the act still continued and I just felt it was too late. I was too exposed to a whole lot of things ... I didn't have that sort of relationship with my mum to start telling her this happened to me," she said.

She now works as a program manager for Women at Risk International Foundation, a rape crisis center.

play Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi (CNN)

In 2010, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, now 27, was working as a volunteer in a local election when she was asked to register underage voters. Her refusal to carry out the illegal request landed her in trouble.

She said one of the candidates in the election tried to make her juicy offers just to make her budge.

"He said 'You are a young girl, after service, what is next for you? You want to get a job? I will give you money, get you a car, give you employment and make your life better,'" she told CNN.

Osowobi said she turned down the offers still.

"Nobody was kind except this young man who came to my polling center to register," She said.

He offered her a ride home, saying it was not safe for her to walk by herself at night.

"He made advances at me. When I declined, his countenance changed and I knew I was in danger. I struggled to get out of the car but he chased after me and dragged me on the floor with my braids. He assaulted me while I pleaded with him that I was a virgin. I felt worthless after," she said.

Osowobi said she was able to move past the traumatic experience with the support and counseling she got from her parents.

"I told my parents and apologized because I felt I had disappointed them. My mother said to me: 'Your worth is not in your vagina; your worth lies in your capacity as a human being to think, work and impact your generation,'" she said.

Osowobi said the experience inspired her to start Stand to End Rape - one of the two rape centers in Lagos.

play Omodasola Omibeku (CNN)


At age 6 years old, another victim, Omodasola Omibeku, was first abused by a distant relative.

"Anytime we were alone, he brought out his penis and asked if I knew what it was and wanted to touch it? He would put it in my hand or mouth," she told CNN.

The man lived with them in her family house, which she said was full of "aunties and uncles, some not even blood relatives."

"I was in a lot of pain when he raped me some months after. I still feel the pain any time I talk about it. It was like trying to force a huge spiky rock into a tiny hole."

The second incident was her first year in the University.

Omibeku said she was attacked while walking home to her hostel after lectures.

"I thought I was being robbed, so I offered him my bag and phone but he didn't want any of that.

"He pushed me to the ground, grabbed my right knee and raped me," she said.

ALSO READ: 5 reasons men rape women

According to her, the two experiences has messed up her sexual life.

"How am I supposed to enjoy sex without having to think about how someone forcefully raped me? It gives me the idea that that is what sex is supposed to be. It messed up my first knowledge of sex," she said.

Omibeku said she began to rise above the trauma after she met other victims of sexual abuse at Osowobi's Stand to End Rape center.

"Up until then, I thought I was the only person that had been raped in the world. I thought I was the only person carrying this pain," Omibeku said.

She has since volunteered at the center to offer support to other victims.

Omibeku wants her story and how she healed to help other women know it is possible to move past the trauma.

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