Victim shaming is when we question or grill victims or belittle the experience of (rape) victims by telling them they consented to the act, encouraged their own abuse . It also happens when we claim they lie.
Tacit consent to rapists occurs when we point out factors that 'promote' rape instead of blame the rapists themselves. Giving tacit permission is when you tell people how to not act, dress or move - a move that encourages rapists. The rapist then subconsciously sees these things as reason to rape people who dress that certain way - a twisted defence or validation.
Speaking on Arise News to spread awareness on sexual violence and abuse education, Nigerian podcaster and Public Relations/Communications Manager at Stand To End Rape (STER), Jola Ayeye thinks, “It's a function of a breakdown in our understanding of society and our ability to empathize and give people full autonomy.”
Instead of offering tacit consent to rapists, she proposes that, “Just tell people that ‘I don’t like that skirt’. As a partner, as a parent, as a friend, you have to be careful of the language you use because what that means is you are sending signals. By saying that’s inviting trouble, the person who could make trouble; you are giving them tacit consent to do whatever they want.”
Current social media clime
As it should be, rape is one of the foremost discussions on social media.
Recently, two Lekki boys; 25-year-old Don-Chima George and 28-year-old Razak Oke were accused of raping a 23-year-old lady they allegedly took to a club before allegedly spiking her drink with a depressant, which made her sleepy. Reports also claimed they made a video while raping this unnamed lady.
On February 7, 2019, Nigerian social media – especially Twitter – was pasted with claims that the Lagos State Police Command had freed the two boys accused of rape. This rumour - which was later dispelled by Lagos State Police spokesperson, CSP Chike Oti - was started by a Nigerian Twitter user who runs the account @KingNelo2 a stir on social media.
Either social media activists and especially feminists realize or not, they have changed the tide, albeit slowly. A few years ago, a lot of people never understood the intricacies of concepts like rape, consent, entitlement (men) and self-worth (women).
For so long, we internalized systemic rape as normalized sexual life. Most people thought it could only be rape when screaming and sounds of ripping fabrics under the force of sexually-tensed fingers and blood-red eyes with increased heartbeat were involved - they were wrong.
These days, we seem to have forgotten that a most important thing in conversations against rape is protecting the potential victims - mostly women - before the fact. While that might lead to some decreased quality of life, it's better than rape. We don't conversations to protect potential rape victims enough.
While the definition of rape has changed and evolved in the Nigerian parlance to include the worrying tides of forced sex while victims repeatedly say, 'no', we have conflated that to mean protesting and telling people 'no means no' will stop some them from being rapists - it probably won't and it might not be enough.
Rape is usually a function of insensitivity, toxic self-absorption, entitlement, a sociopathic fetish or some other disturbing realities. Rape is a crime, and understanding the wrongness of a crime has never stopped people from committing and enjoying those crimes they commit.
Even in advanced climes with more aggressive attitudes against rape, rape still occurs. The National Sexual Violence Resource Centre reports that one of five women and one of 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Even more worryingly, In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
The worst part is that, 51.1% of female victims of rape reported were raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance. This reality is not helped by the commercialization of worrying fetishes of rape by the phenomena like the porn industry.
As such, our activism must transcend simply telling people, ‘no means no,’ and focus more on functional, protective mechanisms for potential rape victims - especially women. No, it's not about dressing or management mechanisms after the fact.
Will there really be a world completely rid of rapists and rape?
The sad answer is; while we hope and dream of this idealist reality, it’s probably a luxurious dream that blinds us to mechanisms which could prevent these heinous acts. At the root of rape is the fundamental issue of not understanding human liberty and having no respect for it. Yet, rapists who still rape and spike drinks know their actions are wrong.
Thus, while we want to live and be free, we must choose our crowds more reasonably. Putting the onus of stopping rape on the shoulder of potential rapists is risky. You don’t make a mad man guard a 3-day old baby or make a Lion the grand protector of a defenseless human being.
Rapists are not people of sound thought. It is their fault, but putting our mental health and safety at their behest because we hope them to be responsible is risky. While a lot of people will change their ways from our positive messages, a lot will sadly not change, not for any validation, but just because they're far gone in their disturbing realities.
Though an extreme analogy, but one that ones regardless; ritualists know the weight of their madness, yet, their belief or reason for committing these deranged acts blind them to all reason and empathy. Thus, we should not just preach that rape is wrong in isolation without preaching some avoidance mechanisms of individual responsibility and victim protection.
While most people rape for ignorant entitlement or a feeling of indestructibility, others rape for a fetish and a need to break their victims - they get off on it. Except we have a human manifestation of "The Purge" targeted at rapists, we might never be able to cleanse the world of these rapists.
The rapists for ignorant entitlement and toxic masculinity might, however, be able to change with more grievous legal punishments and INCREASED affirmative action from our judicial system as the fear of punishment promotes adherence.
Armed robbery and paedophilia are crimes under the various Nigerian Laws. Yet, people still commit these crimes. For some very deranged psychopaths, rape is their high. For other people, it's the fragile masculinity or fragile sexuality manifesting as a need for dominance.
In some other cases, some fools see it as retribution or retaliation. There's a vignette to the befuddling maelstrom of rape that we are all missing, the confluence of which promotes the needed realization that protecting the victim is more paramount than even promoting, "cease and desist," messages which have definitely been working, but will work better with more ruthless Laws which we don't have in Nigeria.
The very fabric of empathy from the human tapestry can, of course not be outrun. We must thread softly so that we don't give power to the oppressive rapist and exalt him into realms that we might live to regret.
However, we must understand that vices are as much a part of human existence as anything else should make everyone of us more responsible for each other.
Loose Talk Podcast - Episode 157 - Blue Kpali featuring Bad Girl Mo
The reality now on conversational platform Twitter is to explicitly shift the need for protection away from potential victims to outright charges to perpetrators, who we feel need to understand the gravity of their actions.
For the most part, putting an expectation of responsibility on rapists is excellent, but holding everybody to a standard of empathy is risking disappointment. The subconscious effect of that is that we risk forgetting to have conversations on protective measures.
While discussing very sensitive rape accusations of that 23-year-old girl by Don-Chima and Rasaq, the Loose Talk gang discussed the idea of collective responsibility to protect potential rape victims.
As one of the host of the podcast notes, "There will always be rapists."
The meaning of that is that, coupled with the damming and insufficient legal realities of this time and the obsessive/psychopathic tendencies of certain rapists, we need to employ as much protection for victims as much as we necessarily repeat that rape is bad while we equally have to necessarily shame rapists.
As the gang discusses on the Loose Talk Podcast episode, it starts from enablers of rape who are friends with these rapists and who know the potential effects of rape and the staggeringly low recovery chances of rape victims.
It starts with friends of rapists calling them to order. As Ayomide Tayo and Steve Dede note on the podcast, protection of victims is more paramount and it involves warning women off known rapists.
It involves telling women not to sip certain drinks when we notice those drinks got spiked in the club. It involves encouraging women to learn basic protective combat skills and carry defensive weapons like a pepper spray because anybody can turn out to be a rapist.
Sometimes, it also involves individual responsibility; sharpening our own instincts, choosing our crowds reasonably and knowing places to not move in. As we stress the mantras of consent, we should balance them with these realities.
It is not ideal and it is unfair, but hey, it's the reality. The message of 'No means no,' 'cease and desist' or 'women have a right to their own bodies' will definitely not reach everyone it should reach.
For those messages to be effective, we must balance with the understanding of how and why protecting potential victims is more paramount and arguably more important than shunning rapists in the battle to #EndRape, at least the our legislators wake up.
The whole reason we shun rapists is to protect the potential victims. We must make victim protection more paramount. It's not about saying women are hated by men or whatever. Only affirmative action will work.
You never know who a rapist is, so it will be unfair to just tell potential victims (especially women) to act or dress a certain way. People have to live, we can't give rapists more power than we give the power required to live life itself and be happy.
We must also take measures to help people (especially women) live happily, but in the conversations of rape, who will rape will still rape.
This, balancing the acts of shunning rape and rapists to not accord too much power to rapists is important, but since rape will probably never go away, educating victims on protection and taking personal responsibility to educate the ignorant or report them to the Police - even when they're our friends - is a duty we must take on.