A ‘Save the Boys Initiative’ outreach in a school in the FCT
Child abuse is a complex phenomenon and a recurring reality that happens in places where children should be safest: their homes, schools, worship centres and even online.
1 in every 8 boys is sexually abused before the age of one, and unfortunately, such cases are rarely reported.
According to UNICEF, many victims of sexual violence, including millions of boys, never tell anyone and when it is reported, the victims are often girls, though there are many cases of victimised boys who never get to tell their stories.
Reality of sexual violence against boys
Ebuka Ede is the founder of Save the Boys Initiative, a non-profit organisation that helps troubled boys get back on their feet. He thinks that sexual violence is the most common kind of abuse that boys face.
Ede claims that boys’ issue has been hushed up, stating that according to the cases that the organisation has been handling, there are a significant number of boys who have been traumatised as a result of sexual abuse.
“Sexual abuse of boys is grossly underreported because people believe it only happens to girls. There is gross negligence. Previously, laws did not protect sexually abused boys, which is why victims did not speak out…Boys are raped/abused by both men and women; research even shows that more boys are abused than girls,” Ede said sternly.
“From the cases we’ve handled, we’ve seen women fondling boys’ private parts, forcing boys to put their hands in their private parts, exposing their naked bodies to the boys, and even exposing these boys to pornographic materials… Many of these cases come from trusted peoples such as aunties, housekeepers, caregivers, and family members.”
He said the government must make a deliberate decision to do more to protect boys because “a broken man in the future will also molest others, and this was the best time to guard against that.”
This doesn’t mean that all abused children go on to become abusers, but it is impossible for someone who was not abused to become an abuser.
No one is born evil. As Ede put it, “A baby cannot hate the mother, without the mother first hating the baby.”
A victim recounts his ordeal
Nonso had been sexually abused since he was in primary school.
He said it began with a 14- or 15-year-old female student who was his senior. “She was always putting my hand in her private parts.” As a child, I had no idea I was being abused because it felt good at the time.”
He recalled another incident from his secondary school days involving an aunty who made him ‘fondle’ her private part. He said he only realised those experiences were sexual abuse when he was 19 years old, and it dawned on him that the perpetrators, who were older than him, knew exactly what they were doing.
The aftereffects of this exposure made him attracted to older women and craved more of such experiences as he grew older, he admitted.
“Boys are actually neglected; the reason is that society prioritises girls when it comes to sex. Nobody seems to care about the mental harm this causes boys.” “You cannot stop sexual violence against boys; I believe early sex education for boys will teach them that it is wrong,” he added.
The psychology of sexual violence against boys
Juliet Yop Pwajok, Clinical Psychologist at the University of Jos, explained that boys have been left to deal with the consequences of these violent experiences.
“Boys suffer higher levels of physical violence, neglect, and sexual violence than girls, which is quite disturbing.”
Adults are not always the perpetrators of sexual violence against boys, according to Pwajok, who is also an adolescent mental health and skills instructor as well as a substance abuse expert.
“The default belief that men are always perpetrators and women are always victims is based on damaging stereotypes about male vulnerability and obscures the truth.”
UNICEF reports that 60% of children experience some form of violence, with 10% of boys being victims of sexual violence.
Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, has spoken out against sex education being included in school curricula.
He contended that sex education does more harm than good to students.
He directed the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) to remove sex education from the curricula.
However, experts say that more and more young people are turning to technology for answers and guidance, which may not always be the best option, because religious organisations are not always the first choice for many people.
Governments and educational institutions should, however, focus on providing a foolproof method to prevent young people from continuing to risk sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies, and violence.
Writing by Muzha Kucha; Editing by Saadatu Albashir