Nigerian women experience sexual assault; according to the stats, one in four Nigerian women have experienced a form of sexual assault before they’re 18.
After the news was reported that Uwa was raped and killed in a church, people expressed shock that it took place in a church. The context of their shock lies in slut-shaming and victim-blaming: the belief that women, in this case Nigerian women put themselves in a position to experience sexual assault. This is a false and harmful narrative. Women have continuously told their stories to dispel this myth, proving that there’s literally no place safe for women.
That’s why we asked a few Nigerian women where they experienced sexual assault. Their responses range from religious gatherings to their own homes.
TW: This article contains stories about rape and other forms of sexual violence.
1. In a gathering of my Christian sisters and brothers:
It wasn’t church, it was just a gathering of Christians where we played games and gisted with each other. Me and this guy (who is really like a brother to me) were alone in another part of the building when he started making passes at me. Because I considered him a brother, I tried to educate him on why what he was saying didn’t make sense. He stopped. But then later (when we were with other people), he started to touch me inappropriately. I resisted quietly because I didn’t want to cause any trouble.
2. In the hospital:
I was 17, doing my IT in a military hospital. This doctor claimed he liked me and said I should visit him during his rounds. We ended up going to his quarters and before I knew it he was sticking his penis in my vagina. I just stood there because I couldn’t shout or scream. He kept reminding me I went with him willingly.
3. In the activity hall used for church services:
I was in Babcock, in the activity hall beside my hostel. A “friend” called me to talk about the rumors of him having sexual relations with someone outside of his relationship. I knew it was true but I don’t know why I thought I would get him to confess. I had an injury on my ankle and in the course of our conversation he stepped on my injured ankle and fingered me till he came and just stood up. and left. I felt like an idiot because I wanted to prove a point and the point I proved was that he was a sexual predator. Nobody believed me sha.
4. In my father’s house:
I wasn’t raped, but I was abused by my cousins. They used to live with us and when I slept in their room, they’d touch me inappropriately. I didn’t even know it was abuse at the time. I wasn’t up to 8.
There was another family friend who visited very often, I remember that one day, when we were alone, he brought out his penis and asked me to touch it, I ran. I remember talking to another friend who knew him and she told me not to ever be alone with him — we both knew he did weird things
5. In Yaba market
I went to buy jeans in Yaba. I had just finished trying on the jeans when the seller came from behind to ‘adjust’ something. Next thing I knew, he held me down and started rubbing his erection against me. It became a struggle but I was so scared because he was a lot stronger than me and it was a corner shop — it could get violent. He eventually let me go, but I remember just breaking down in tears when I got home. All I wanted was to buy jeans.
6. At home:
I had a neighbour who used to come over and touch me inappropriately for years. It didn’t help that it was a female neighbour, so no one suspected anything. A lot of times, the abuse happened with an adult in the room next door.
7. In public transport:
I don’t like to talk about sexual assault because I have been raped too many times to count. Since I’m poor. I expect it to keep happening so, I’ve learned to make myself unpretty. Cut my hair, wear ugly clothes can’t afford skincare so that’s that.
I was 7 my mother asked me to stand in the Molue we boarded and this man kept poking me from behind. That’s one.
I was on my way to school in my first year. I was 18. The bus stopped at Enugu and we couldn’t continue on to Ebonyi. I didn’t want to sleep because I was in a bus filled with men. I didn’t notice when I dozed off. I woke up to find my fingers wrapped around a guy’s dick – the guy sitting by my left. Meanwhile, the one on my right was running his hand down my chest.
8. In church:
I was in church for a program. Deeper life. The church was in full swing and was boring, so I fell asleep. It was then I started feeling something running down my chest. Anytime I jerked my head up to check what was going on, there was nothing. So I closed my eyes again and decided that instead of jerking myself awake, I would be quiet. And that’s when I noticed the boy sitting close to me. He had bent his head in the sameway mine was to to give the impression that he was sleeping. Meanwhile, he was touching my breasts. My boobs are really small by the way.
When the news started circulating. A memory that I’d forgotten surfaced and I remembered that as a baby 2 years or so, a crippled uncle that stayed in the public compound we lived in used to ask to carry me and he stuck the cover of a biro and his fingers simultaneously in my vagina.
9. In my grandmother’s house
I was two. It wasn’t rape. But it was a dark room, I can remember my pants being removed and that he touched my vagina. He was my teenage cousin. I remember liking how it felt, but I didn’t understand anything. Not then. I remember him “peeing” though. I didn’t tell anyone at home, for some reason. And I blocked out those memories for so long that it started to feel like I imagined it all. But as I got older (it’s been 20 years since) a lot of things started making more sense. The memory became clearer, and I remembered that he stopped because someone else came into the room. An uncle. He didn’t do anything, but he didn’t say anything either. And I just forgot about it.
10. Walking home in broad day light:
I was walking home from work when this guy lunged at me from nowhere. I walked as fast as I could just to get away from him because I assumed he wasn’t well. Unfortunately, I got to the road just before my street. It’s such a busy road and so I couldn’t outrun the guy. He touched my arm first. Then my back and was making his way down when I started shouting, “leave me alone”. No one helped out. I ran into the road without a care, still he followed me until I entered into someone’s compound, pretending it was my house. I waited there for more than an hour.
11. During a family event at my sister’s house:
My sister’s husband groped my breast, literally in front of everyone and I couldn’t say anything. I was supposed to stay over that day, but I refused. When my mum asked why, I told her what happened and she called me a liar.
12. In the office after work hours:
This happened to me twice in one night. I stayed late after work to catch up on some stuff that I couldn’t attend to during the day. There were other people around too, but we weren’t a lot. A few hours later, the security man — probably patrolling the building –walked into my office. I used to joke with him and so it didn’t feel weird for him to sit on the seat across from me and for us to talk about nothing in particular. I don’t even know how but this man pinned me against the wall and started putting his hand up my skirt. I started shouting, “what do you think you’re doing” but he kept telling me to shut up. Luckily, a few guys came to help out. One of the guys dragged the security man away, while the other guy stayed with me because I was very clearly out of sorts. Do you know that this other guy still tried to touch me on my thighs after he saw that I had just had to fight off what could have been rape? Again, I got lucky and the guy who left came back to check in on me, stopping what would’ve happened.
13. My boyfriend’s house:
I was in my boyfriend’s house, but he wasn’t home yet. He asked that I wait for him. His brother was there. We weren’t even talking to each other when this guy came to me and forced himself on me. He said I had been sending him signals. He raped me and told me that no one would believe me. Luckily, my then boyfriend did and by himself made a report to the police, although it didn’t go beyond that. Apparently, it wasn’t the first time his brother was sexually assaulting someone he was dating.
14. Pastor’s office:
I went for counseling and the man asked me to take off my shirt shortly after he prayed. I didn’t wait to hear anything before I ran and never returned to that church. When I used to hear that women (even Nigerian women) experience sexual assault, I used to think it could never happen to me with the way I dressed and all. What a fool I was, because that day in the pastor’s, I was full clothed – you couldn’t see an iota of my skin.
15. Ile kewu
I don’t remember much about it, just that my brother was with me and then he wasn’t. I wasn’t more than 7, but the man teaching us tried to put his penis in my mouth. I must have blocked out the memory because I don’t remember much else after that.
16. Teacher’s staff room
I went to collect scripts for a test my class had done. I was the class captain and this was ss2. I didn’t meet the teacher I wanted to see. There was a staff meeting or something so the staff room was empty. I instead met two corpers. One of them taught my class, so I knew him. I was going to leave, but one of them told me to hold on. I did. Both of them started to touch me inappropriately and make lewd remarks at me. I was so uncomfortable. I eventually left and then made a report to a family friend the HOD of a department. He reported to the principal. Although she sanctioned the guys, she announced on assembly that I was an example on why girls shouldn’t go the the teacher’s staff room.
17. In church:
So I was 9 and we used to attend an Anglican Church. He was the son of the choirmaster so he was quite famous. I think he was in his early twenties. Every Sunday service, he would come to the children’s department, take excuse from the teacher that he needed me to help him get something, and she’ll say I should go with him. There was an abandoned building in the premises, the only room being use there was the children’s department church. So he’d take me into one of the other rooms, take down my skirt and pant and start fingering me while I would look on, totally oblivious of what was going on. He did it every Sunday until I changed churches.