When I was thirteen, a house down the street from ours caught fire. The flames cackled with delight as they feasted on the belongings of the occupants and stuck out defiant tongue of fires in the faces of the valiant firefighters. Nothing of value was rescued from the inferno. In the days that followed, I, for the first time, saw heroes who didn’t exist on the pages of comic books. A neighbor offered his boy’s quarters to the victims. Food items and clothes poured in from all angles. Tribal and religious differences were laid aside as everyone pitched in. This is a story for another day.
On my way to work a few weeks ago, I boarded a bike to Ojuelegba. After an eternity of parting flood waters replete with chunks of garbage tossed from houses, we finally arrived at our destination-Ojuelegba. As I made to get down from the bike, I didn’t look back for any persons coming from behind me. If I had, I would have seen the man, right behind me, taking a litter of children to school. He was on his own and I was on mine but as I debarked from the bike and the heel of my raised shoe missed the head of his daughter by the smallest of fractions, our paths crossed for the briefest of moments. If I were any shorter I’d have gashed her forehead. He angrily said something in Yoruba which for all I know was an angry reprimand or an insult or both. You never know with that language. I just apologised in Yoruba and English.
As I moved in the general direction of the bus whose conductor was shouting Ikeja to the hearing of the entire city, and the look of shock on the girl’s face as my heel missed her forehead was foremost on my mind, I realised that I could have reacted differently. I could just as angrily as he had reprimanded or insulted me, asked what his daughter’s head was doing within the precincts of my foot or why she chose to be so tall for her age or why he didn’t take another route that morning. And I would have been an idiot if I had reacted any differently than I did. Why?
When our neighbour’s house got burned, no accusing fingers were pointed at them for tempting arsonists and no one was encouraged to reside beneath bridges as a deterrent. It is relatively cheaper to live beneath a bridge and in all my years of existence I have never seen a bridge on fire but I digress. When a house gets robbed, we don’t blame the victims for amassing material possessions and deserving the robbery attack. When a hit and run accident occurs, the victims don’t get blamed for staying in one place. If we don’t go against the grain of rationality when a lot of crimes occur why don’t we run with this mentality when a rape occurs? I am stuck here wondering why people would change the rules of the blame game when it comes to crimes involving sex and would rather victim blame than perpetrator shame.
Now anyone with two brain cells to rub together should see something wrong in the violation of a woman’s body. At the risk of stating the obvious, victims don’t cause crimes, perpetrators do so the ‘what was the victim wearing?’ question is an infinitely stupid thing to say when a rape occurs. It is even more severely silly to seat in a house with four walls and a roof and believe rape can be prevented by a woman dressing ‘decently’. The only thing a woman needs to do to be raped is be a woman. The fact that her gender, which is her sole contribution to the crime, is one that isn’t even determined by her mirrors her inability to cause the crime. Women have raped in all forms of clothing known to man so all forms of logic in support of this argument go out the window.
Clothes apart, what the excuse for men who rape children? They weren’t properly dressed. It just makes no sense to make excuses for rape.
The gravity of the offence that is rape is lost on a lot of us. A few months ago, I lost my wallet and I took a while to recover from the theft. It felt like a piece of me had been suddenly and very violently ripped apart from the rest of my body. My loss didn’t stem from the value of the items in the wallet as at the time of the theft. The wallet was a Chrsitmas gift from my brother and a lot of water-university, law school, NYSC- had gone beneath the bridge of my life between the time of acquisition and loss. The wallet was much more than a carrier of personal items, it was a connection to the time before I got my first reality checks and my life was less chaotic. And at the end of the day, neat descriptions aside, my wallet was little more than several pieces of leather strapped together. A woman’s body,on the other hand, is worth more than a thousand wallets could hold .It is the vessel she dwells in, she travels through life in it, everything that makes her tick is contained in it and rape is an invasion of that private space. One of my favourite Bible verses goes thus ‘…your body is the temple of God’. Rape is an indescribably intense and personal defilement of a woman’s temple which is her sacred building, in the worst possible way. Even Jesus despite his disdain for physical buildings couldn’t stand the defilement of a temple. The scars inflicted by rape run deeper than a river and the victim has to journey through life with the burden. No one should and if there is any justice in the universe trivializing it or blaming the victim for the act should be a cardinal sin.
On a final note ,at least for now, having considered the fact that all pro-perpetrator arguments have more holes than a sponge cake, the blame for rape should be placed where it rightly belongs, at the feet of the perpetrators.
To be continued.

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