In an effort to address sexual abuse against boys and provide them with the necessary support and education, the Save the Boys Initiative, a Nigeria based humanitarian organisations, in Abuja has taken the lead. Their mission revolves around creating a safe space for boys to heal and grow while overcoming the challenges they faced.
In collaboration with the Nigeria Health Watch, as part of the Solutions Journalism Africa Initiative, Saadatu Albashir sheds light on the endeavors to bring sexually abused boys to the forefront and highlights the efforts of one organization working to support them.
Studies conducted by “1 in 6,” a support group for men who have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual encounters, reveal that one in every six boys is subjected to sexual abuse before reaching the age of 18.
A significant number of these cases go unreported due to the shame, fear, and lack of understanding surrounding the issue.
To combat this issue, the Save the Boys Initiative introduced the ‘Safe Community for Troubled Boys Programme.’ This program serves as a crucial step in aiding boys in overcoming their challenges and rebuilding their lives, after going through traumatic experiences.
It is designed to establish a comprehensive support system that includes individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy, and various other forms of assistance.
This involves openly discussing the ‘encounters’, as it plays a crucial role in the healing process. By talking about the abuse, Save the Boys created an environment where survivors feel supported and validated.
Ibrahim (not real name) , a victim of abuse, shares his experience, revealing that he developed a preference for older women and a desire for similar encounters in adulthood as a result. He highlights the societal neglect towards boys’ sexuality, where society tends to place more value on girls. He said Save the Boys Initiative play a crucial role in providing support and resources for him while working towards eradicating this pervasive issue.
Ibrahim’s story resonates with that of Nonso (not real name), who has endured sexual abuse since his early childhood.
Nonso recounted how it all began with a girl who was his senior in school, initiating inappropriate contact.
“She was constantly letting me touch her nether regions.” I was unaware I was being abused as a child because it felt good at the time. Another time, an aunt forced me to “fondle” her crouch. When I was 19 years old, it finally clicked in my mind that the people who had done these things to me were sexual abusers and that they were older than me and therefore should have known better.
His experiences highlight the confusion and unawareness that can shroud a child’s mind when faced with sexual abuse, as he was initially unaware he was being abused due to the pleasurable sensations he experienced.
John, whose name is also withheld for privacy reasons, has taken steps to break the cycle of violence after enduring a traumatic experience.
“It is significant for individuals to address their own behavior and take responsibility, which is a difficult yet crucial step in the healing process for victims of sexual violence. It is importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for survivors to come forward and the need for education and resources to prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place.
The Boys Leadership/Mentoring Club, a program conducted by the Save the Boys (STB) Initiative, played a pivotal role in the transformative journeys of the boy in the height of the trauma. This initiative focuses on nurturing boys’ capacity, while also providing them with a supportive environment to open up about their experiences and facilitate comprehensive healing.
More boys than girls
Mrs Ruth Ede, a Coach with the STB, 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.” Men are not always the perpetrators of sexual violence against boys, according to Ede.
“The default belief that men are always perpetrators and women are always victims is based on damaging stereotypes about male vulnerability and it obscures the truth. Open discussions help break the silence surrounding the topic, allowing individuals to share their experiences, seek help, and find solace in knowing they are not alone”, she said, which the STB has provided for hundreds of boys.
The Director of STB, Ebuka Ede, said in addition to the ‘Safe Community for Troubled Boys Programme,’ the organisation a “Boys Leadership/Mentoring Club.” This club plays a crucial role in helping young boys develop essential life skills such as leadership, responsibility, self-discipline, teamwork, and decision-making.
Ebuka further emphasizes the significance of early sex education in preventing, or at least minimizing sexual violence against boys.
By raising awareness among boys about sexual abuse, organizations like Save the Boys Initiative have a positive impact on the lives of young people.”
Save the Boys Initiative is actively working towards building a solid support base for boys as they navigate life’s challenges. By raising awareness about the existing silence and societal negligence.
However, Ebuka said there was a pressing need for stakeholders that are analogous, form partnerships to maximize impact and reach a larger audience.
He emphasized the importance of collaboration among organizations with similar or related work in protecting and seeking justice for boys. By working together, these organizations can provide a comprehensive support system where one organization focuses on the healing process, another on pursuing justice, and yet another on facilitating resettlement.
Engaging with schools, community organisations, and the local government are some other ways Ebuka believes would help raise awareness about the issue, by encouraging them to provide additional resources to support the boys in their communities.
He also emphasised the need for a clear and comprehensive legal definition of sexual abuse against boys to ensure that perpetrators are not able to escape punishment or consequences for their actions.
This report was written by Saadatu Albashir and Muzha Kucha, with support from the Nigeria Health Watch