Opinions Sat, 28 Oct 2017

Another perspective - No more silence

I just became privy to a story of a well-known Ghanaian man who was convicted and sentenced to prison for the crime of sexual assault on the London Underground four years ago.

I'm gobsmacked at the level of wanton ignorance at the seriousness of his crime and how nearly every comment under the article tried to justify his actions of rubbing himself up against this 28 year old woman, blocking her from moving as he had his arm around her and then performing a sex act on himself as the icing on the cake.

I had a similar encounter a few weeks ago which was reported on this very platform. What you don't know is that I've been subjected to unwanted sexual contact on the underground four times - this was the only time I had the courage to report it.

The trousers I wore when this happened had to be washed repeatedly because I felt so dirty by what I'd encountered.

Sexual assault in ANY FORM is a gross violation of your being and that's all there is to it. It's not what we ask for and it's certainly not our fault, yet the comments condemning the victim and not the perpetrator were pitiful.

I realised that there's an immense amount of work to do when people make comments like, 'He's a friend of mine' or 'He must've been drunk' or 'It's not like he raped her'... And we have the audacity to complain about why the victims of Weinstein kept silent?

We get no credit for speaking out. We get no applause for being brave. We get no respect for using our voice. Instead it's abuse, disrespect, disbelief, JUDGEMENT and worst of all... BLAME!

It's in the little things that will change the narrative around sexual assault, rape, child abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation. STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR PERPETRATORS!

STOP allowing people to get away with bad and criminal behaviour just because of your ignorance on the lifelong devastating effects of unwanted and unsolicited sexual contact.

Over the last few days I’ve come across at least four horrendous cases of child sexual abuse. Two involving 4 year old girls, one involving a little boy, another involving a 13 year old who is now pregnant, and a story that was published reporting that over 300 school girls have been impregnated by the teachers that were employed to teach them and not touch them! – Yet the likelihood of anyone being convicted of these gross crimes against humanity will probably go unpunished.

One of the 4 year old’s attacker has actually been identified, but get this – the Chief of the village consulted the ‘gods’ and they have proclaimed his innocence… please let that sink in for a merry moment.. THE GODS HAVE DECIDED… So now Ghana is devoid of all common sense, human compassion, due legal process and one of the most dangerous components, and that is our silence and nonchalance.

When are we, especially as women, going to be angry enough, fed up enough, moved enough, to stand up and say ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’, #NoMoreSilence. When? How many innocent children have to be robbed of their innocence just because we refuse to rid ourselves of the myths surrounding sexual violence?

In 2017 we still use the word ‘DEFILEMENT’…Really??? The word ‘defile’ in simple terms means, ‘to make unclean’… take a moment once again to let that sink in… An innocent child is raped, often beaten, threatened and sometimes loses their life, and yet they are termed as being ‘unclean’, ‘damaged goods’ – Why?

The terminology we use is as powerful as the act itself. Why do we dilute it by placing the shame on victims? Children never ask to be raped! Why can’t we call it what it is? The act of someone persuading, grooming, coercing or forcing a child into engaging in sexual acts is sexual abuse.

Children will not always understand what is happening, and that’s why it’s called child sexual abuse; their lack of understanding doesn’t it make it any less heinous or any less a crime.

Children should be allowed to live their childhood free from being touched sexually and exploited for the sexual pleasure of adults.

We need more understanding of these issues before we can be affective in combatting this huge epidemic sweeping through our country. We have revelled in ignorance for way too long and the result is that we have offered our innocent children as a living sacrifice to the insatiable monster of rape and abuse.

So let me give you Another Perspective: How about the real women amongst us, the real men amongst us, the real people who care about the welfare and wellbeing of the innocent who are hit to their core when they hear about the suffering of children, begin to act and do more? How about we all in unison shout: #NoMoreSilence?

How about we make the law work in Ghana around these crimes, where families no longer have the right to empower rapists and child abusers by taking money as compensation without the law being involved? How about those in authority add their voices to ours and make Ghana safe for four year olds to be able to run free and play without being violated and discarded like used goods? Who is going to fight for the children?

It’s about time we stopped making excuses and victim blaming. It’s time we just took action.

I've started doing that more. You cover up a lie here, a lie there... then what? Lies become the truth and the truth becomes the lie.

This fight against abuse is a tough one. Too many of our boys and young men have ZERO concept of the respect for sexual boundaries and this must change.

Sexual assault is a laughing matter to many, and we women and children are the joke - only we don't get to laugh - we're just the punchline. #NoMoreSilence
Columnist: Dilys Sillah
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