Why we might need a relocation program for victims of domestic violence, violent crimes in Nigeria

The issue of rape continues to do media rounds as perpetrators continue to engage in their vanities while our clogged and outdated judicial system is too slow to do justice.

The Nigerian Judicial Problem

Our legal system is infamously slow and fraught with corrupt practitioners.

Sometimes, some cases get booted over technicalities, other times, some cases never see the light of day while the perpetrator rots in a prison somewhere, till he is freed by a Governor’s prerogative of mercy without being tried for his crime.

While wrongful accusations are as much of a phenomenon as legit rape accusations, the legit accusations have received too little attention from our judicial system.

The sheer neglect has somewhat promoted the horror for rape and victims of domestic violence because sometimes, justice offers closure and a sense of rightness.

With cases open, it leaves the impression that a wrongdoer is walking free while a victim lives in a horror hole of shame, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and for some, even worse consequences.

Sometimes, simple cases of enforcement of judgement takes weeks and even months to finalize.

It is then not impossible that serious cases like rape can run into years, prolonging the pain of victims and sometimes, the laxity leads to victims abandoning those cases after being worn out by constant clogs and technicalities.

The Legal Problem

The worst part is that our legislators have not been as proactive on sensitive matters.

There is no reason why a system similar to the multi-door courthouse style and fast-track, that works to expedite certain less-sensitive disputes like land matters and defamation suits should not been introduced for issues like rape.

If our laws could make special provisions for sensitive matters or even find a way to overhaul our entire judicial system to ensure cases are dealt with expediently, then it will be fantastic, but it is a long shot.

We live in a country where national budgets take months to pass and people in high places get away with forgery and other heinous crimes.

There is a stark disillusionment with the entire issue of rape and its aftermath with the trivial handling it gets from influential offices and people.

Even worse, some legal people help perpetrators of rape get away with their crimes, not as regards their legal duty to defend victims, but through illegal means like filibuster to slow down processes.

The case of victims

As stated earlier, most of the victims have to live with PTSD, inadequate medical attention, lack of funds, shaming, fake attention from would-be sympathizers who only bring back bad memories, being stuck and so forth, all while seeing their abusers flourish and live freely.

It is not unpopular that victims of domestic violence and violent crimes never really get over the trauma or heal completely from these wrongdoings.

Some of them even get completely lost in the madness and spiral out of control in some extreme ways like substance abuse and promiscuity, to numb the pain.

Some even take to self-mutilation due to self-loathing while they blame themselves for something they could not have in reality, controlled.

Others also become psych ward patients over the trauma. The point is, rape is a life/course/path altering event.

There should be a way to work against these people.

What then is the solution?

This scribbler once heard a senior Nigerian Lawyer, Mrs. Olayinka Odukoya talk about a program called;

Relocation For Victims of Domestic Violence and Violent Crimesor simply, Victim Relocation Program.

What is Victim Relocation Program?

Victim relocation program is simply a processes that overhauls the entire lives of victims of domestic violence and violent crimes, considering their trauma and how it affects their lives.

Most victims never remain the same again. Those that even show signs of healing take a fair bit of time while others only learn to live with themselves due to months and even years of consistent therapy.

Some victims even run away to get over the familiarity of the environment that failed them.

This program aims to afford these victims the opportunity of total change and a fresh start, alongside other factors that could help them heal and thrive in new surroundings.

While nothing is guaranteed, even with the advantage of change, some of these factors included in relocation programs are steady finances, therapy, schooling/job opportunities, new environment, a fresh start, [sometimes] a new identity and other factors that come with change.

For Nigeria, the relocation will definitely be to a chill place outside Africa, where life can get easier and ease can aid healing. Again, it is not guaranteed, but we have to at least give victims a fighting chance.

In most ways, getting a victim away from the scene of their abuse and from the compassionate, familiar faces of people who know their story; people who also sometimes unknowingly engage in victim shaming can help.

Arguments have been canvassed on how this program could be risky as some victims only heal within the comfort and safety that familiar faces and family offer and they are valid, but sometimes, people know what they need till they have them.

Asides that, some of these programs also seeks to relocate entire families to afford victims the warmth of familiarity, while soaking in the advantage of new environments.

This program is also done in clandestine manner, with secrecy as a fundamental ingredient for success. Sometimes, even those funding them are not privy to the new environments of these victims.

In some extreme circumstances, the victim’s families are also not privy to the victim’s new location, at least for the first few years of the process.

The idea is to aid victims to heal without the constraint and horror of familiar environments, while aiding affording the mostly promising prospects of new, better environments.

Who funds this program?

The major problem with this program is consistent funding.

We live in a country where civil servants are owed arrears on salaries that run into months; where retired civil servants in Ekiti State have not been paid their gratuity and retirement benefits since retiring in 2015, with no pension, while they their salaries have been stopped.

The same public servants also somehow have funds for elaborate election campaigns and terrible PR stunts, and energy for political propaganda.

We definitely cannot place the onus on the government to fund this program. The same government cannot even sustain its scholarship programs to students it sent abroad to Russia and Ukraine. A lot of those students have taken to prostitution and other extreme measures to survive and go through school.

The idea behind scholarships and victim relocation are somewhat similar, only that victim relocation is more expensive. If a government cannot sustain scholarships, how then can it sustain victim relocation program of a people that it constantly shames and pays no attention?

It is even more than a far cry. What will end a governmental aid for this purpose will be corruption and embezzlement while these victims are led worse than they were, filled with regrets and facing extreme choices.

Not-for-profit organizationsand International Aid

Sadly, while a few Nigerian not-for-profit organizations can adequately fund this program, most of these organizations cannot fund even one relocation program. These programs can be pretty expensive.

Where Nigerian not-for-profit organizations might be broke, the answer might be international aid organizations like the United States Agency for International Development [USAID] that has a yearly budget of $27.2 billion.

The USAID also pumps millions of dollars into various Nigerian causes, majorly in healthcare.

Another organization is the United Kingdom Agency for International Aid [UKAID].

These bodies definitely have the means and power to aid and absorb victims of domestic violence through their healing phases. Another factor that could aid is international bilateral agreements between countries to aid these individuals.

Wealthy Individuals

The alternative is to look towards wealthy individuals, but that isn’t certain, except they create self-sustaining non-governmental funds like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation or The Clinton Foundation aid altruistic cusses across Africa.

Sadly, that is also a far cry. We seldom hear our super rich people do anything altruistic than throw lavish parties and try to buy Arsenal. While they might be interested, it will be unreasonable to place hope on them. They might start it, but sustenance is another issue entirely.

What might be reasonable will be to create a pool of funds from a number of wealthy individuals, operated by an independent fund manager to ensure independent administration of funds and limit the prospects of the fund being used for illegal purposes like money laundering.

Wealthy Perpetrators

On that day in 2015, Mrs. Yinka Odukoya opined that since rapists never really change, it might be nice that some of the wealthy perpetrators of domestic violence fund the relocation program and sustain them.

When one thinks about it, it does seem reasonable these perpetrators bear the brunt of resettling their victims. Although, what might be reasonable will be to take a lump sum off these perpetrators to be managed by an independent fund administrator.

If the perpetrators are left to perennially submitting these funds, they might claim bankruptcy or something later to get off these commitments. Processes to confirm these problems might also be arduous and unproductive in the long run.

Funding this program will however not absolve them of punishments like imprisonment.

The problem with this though is that, what happens to victims of poor perpetrators?

That’s a million dollar question. The simple answer is that sometimes, it might be good to take enough funds off the rich perpetrators to fund more than one victim when possible.

Other times, it will be good to have more than one means to fund this program.

It is also noteworthy that not all victims require relocation. Some are better off in the comfort and warmth familiarly guarantees.

While rape might be a global issue, we cannot downplay the place of change and how could aid healing for victims of domestic violence.

Nonetheless, there are risks to this relocation program.

Risks

Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is simply the process of expediting criminal cases by leveraging the testimony of an individual with factual knowledge, also usually and ordinarily complicit in the case he is to benefit from.

These individuals also usually submit the ‘guilty’ plea for lesser sentences since they cooperated with the law to expedite these cases with their knowledge. Some of them also go into witness protection and identity changes after these processes.

While we don’t have plea bargaining yet in Nigeria, fears are that it is an inevitable reality in our judicial system as clamours continue to intensify, especially in the face of aggressive corruption.

This same corruption is the reason why some fear influential perpetrators might use plea bargaining and the advent of cooperation with the law to absolve themselves of prison sentences, mild sentences and public trials.

While relocation will aid victims, the perpetrators are not aiding the case in anyway. It is also a fundamental principle of law that ‘you cannot benefit from your own wrongdoing.'

Nonetheless, one has to acknowledge the constant possibility of exploitation by connected individuals who perpetrate the horrors of domestic violence and violent abuses.

Someone might be cheap enough to aid them. Everything is for sale in Nigeria.

False accusations from desperate people who want to travel

We do not need to rehash the details of fake accusations but one must note the possibility of false accusations.

Desperation can birth elaborate schemes. We have seen instances of people who fake their own deaths to claim certain entitlements or commit arson to claim insurance compensations.

False accusations against wealthy people by desperate individuals to see America is always a possibility.

Will it be done for all victims?

There is a tendency for bias if funding is limited to only a particular stream, like wealthy individuals. Victims of less fortunate individuals could feel even more violated.

The way to balance this possibility is to create a stream of funds from international aid to wealthy individuals and to wealthy perpetrators.

While nothing is guaranteed, victims of domestic abuse and violent crimes might just stand a better chance with victim relocation program.

At Pulse, we hope this is considered and more importantly, well planned before execution so people are not worse off than they were. Human life should not be a canvas for political propaganda.

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