Sunday, 27 February 2011

The UK: Child Sexual Abuse in Nigerian Communities

From Facebook to blog

This blog started from my getting involved in a commenting on a status on Facebook, a news story about an evangelical minister who had been charged with sexual offences [1].

As the story goes, the “man of God” had sexually assaulted a child under 16 and is to appear in court next week.

There are many strands to this story many of which can so easily distract from the core issue; the community is Nigerian, the sexual assault leans towards homosexuality and it is a fundamental Christianity setting.

A distraction from the issue

The first comment had already seized on homosexuality and the all too rampant homophobia prevalent in that community even though it was situated in the England rather than back home in Nigeria.

In what always appears to be the religious race to “I am holier than thou” the virulent had taken front stage to condemn homosexuals with the starkest terms and began to compare them with convicted murders and the comments veered between moderated and extremis without the hope of agreement which called for a basic religious lesion.

A comment that suggested that what seems to pass for Christianity today is more like what Jesus Christ railed against in religious leaders of his time on earth, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and scribes.

The comment when on saying, God had dealt with rather interesting people in the bible as Rahab, Samson, David, the woman at the well with Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the lady caught in adultery, the church in Corinth to name a few.

Surprisingly, it is in the letters to the Corinthians that we are taught about love and spiritual gifts - I think that would do for our Sunday lesson.

Now, this is not written for purposes of biblical instruction but those who are informed would very well understand that context being created of sexual weaknesses not necessarily precluding the actors from interaction with the grace and mercy of God.

Open minds or open heads?

However, when another comment was posted with the postscript, “we all need to keep an open mind and be vigilant and teach our children about being safe”, it was apparently misunderstood and it gave rise to the comment that followed which I have fleshed out for a blog.

Now, this really gets my goat, the comment about keeping an open mind is that way of pussy-footing around a rather serious and dare I say endemic problem in our Nigerian communities.

We had already gotten distracted with the homosexuality bogeyman like hounds after a kill, someone I had fallen for until the reality slap hit straight in the face - Thanks! :)

The fact that a church leader is involved is hardly the issue now, it is that no one wants to broach and attack the issue of child sexual abuse head-on because of the stigma and social issues that accompany the matter.

Societal attitudes to child sexual abuse

We all adopt a hush-hush attitude to it and I can imagine that it would have taken more than a mountain of courage and daring for the child abused to have come forward with the accusation, then for him/her to be believed by anyone who could act on it and then to surmount the blinding stupidity that puts elders or "men of God" beyond error.

Somehow, I would want to believe that the fact that this happened in London might have helped expose the assault, it is very unlikely this would have found any public forum in Nigeria itself, though Nigerian communities abroad can have a tendency to be insular, closed and not very integrated on social or sexuality matters.

Too many times the abused child would face ostracism, condemnation and more abuse as the elders concerned try to “settle” the issue and hope it would go away - the child receiving neither help nor support twice raped by the abusers and the people they are supposed to trust as protectors.

The failings of our traditions

The patriarchal society we come from defers to elders on all issues with the idea that all wisdom and all truth flows downwards and none of what they say can be contradicted. What makes for keeping the peace and structure within the community allows for outrageous abuse to go unquestioned and ignored by many who should know better but are numbed by societal norms.

My comment had gotten so long that I had to exercise a modicum of restraint with my outrage and annoyance by saying, “Don't get me going, I was taught the amazing "joys" of sex from the ripe old age of 7 - yes, I will keep an open mind, if I can crack open the heads of the abusers”.

[How do you hiss and kiss your teeth in words? I have done that a thousand times already.]

We have to come out of the nonsense that we call our tradition; the inability to openly, seriously and honestly challenge and condemn child sexual abuse in our so moral, religious and respectful communities.

As I was writing this blog, a comment was posted that the context of “open mind” referred to believing the children who had been abused; I probably had flown off the handle but the open mind hardly begins to manage the situation and damage to children who have been abused sexually – in my view, it is in the right direction but still one of the weakest of responses to what is more serious than we dare to accept.

Sources

[1] Evangelical pastor charged with sex offences - Channel 4 News

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