- By Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the WARIF Survivor Stories Series, a monthly feature, where stories of survivors of rape and sexual violence will be shared to motivate and encourage survivors to speak their truth without the fear of judgement or stigmatiza­tion and to educate the public on the sheer magnitude of this problem in our society. The Women at Risk Internatio­nal Foundation (WARIF) is a non-profit organizati­on set up in response to the extremely high incidence of rape, sexual violence and human traffickin­g of young girls and women in our society. WARIF is tackling this issue through a holistic approach which covers initiative­s in health, education and community service.

WARIF offers assistance to survivors of rape and sexual violence through the WARIF Centre a safe haven where trained profession­als are present full time, 6 days a week including public holidays to offer immediate medical care, forensic medical examinatio­ns, psychosoci­al counsellin­g and welfare services which include shelter, legal aid and vocational skills training. These services are provided FREE of charge to any survivor who walks into the Centre.

This is Modesire’s story

Some things are better imagined than experience­d. Some people are of the opinion that experience­s shape our perception and whether you believe this or not, I encourage you to listen to my story. My sincere prayer is that we learn from other peoples’ experience­s and learn to take lessons out of every situation. I am from a polygamous home and my daddy married 3 wives but he is committed to taking care of his family. He made a personal vow that he would train all his children to the University level and he constantly reminded us about his vow. This shows the extent of love he had for us. Whenever my daddy was home, he showered us with love and attention. My mom is the first wife and she had 3 of us, my elder brother, my younger brother and me. I have 6 other siblings from daddy’s wives and in total, there are 9 children. My dad’s business was thriving irrespecti­ve of the happenings in the country and we have access to the basic necessitie­s of life. My father could afford to send us abroad for vacation once in a year and this was always during the summer holidays. We have been to Dubai, London, Kenya and USA to mention a few. It’s important to state that my dad is very protective of his children but in a good way. I finished my secondary school education and gained admission into a university in 2019. Finance wasn’t a challenge so I had all the support I needed physically, emotionall­y and mentally. The school I choose was outside my state. It was in the Federal capital territory of Nigeria, Abuja and my parents consented to my choice.

Everything seemed to be working according to plan because my dad’s childhood friend Mr. Owonikoko was living and working in that location. My dad’s friendship with him started way back from when he was in primary school. My dad told me that his friend was the one who introduced my mom to him and he liked her and decided to marry her. I was told that when my mother was proving tough at early stages of their friendship, it was

Mr. Owonikoko that helped him woo her over. As you can infer, he was the best man at their wedding ceremony and the bond they share is still very strong. He was to become my guardian in Abuja and of course I was in safe hands because he is also a father to me. When it was time to resume at my new school, my dad and I boarded a flight to Abuja and his friend Mr Owonikoko was at the Airport to pick us up. We passed the night at his house and I got to know him better. Indeed, it was a pleasant moment for me because he was a man full of wisdom and experience and he also has a good sense of humor. It was a weekend so we had 2 days of fun and rest at his residence.

My experience at my new school was a challengin­g one, meeting new friends from different background­s and trying to cope with the different activities was quite tasking for me. Whenever I am on holidays, my dad’s friend comes to school to pick and drop me off at the Airport and my dad’s driver will be waiting to receive me at the Lagos Airport. At that time, Federal Government declared a short public holiday and we had been informed prior to that time that school wanted all students to observe the holidays off campus. My dad decided that I spend the short vacation at his friend’s house to avoid the stress of travelling as well as the insecurity in the Nation. I felt that was a good decision and so as usual, Mr Owonikoko picked me up from school and took me to his house and because this was not my first visit, I warmed up quickly. He had to return to work so I stayed home with his domestic staff and by the time he returned I had gone to bed.

It was a weekend so I got out of bed late in the day, I cleaned up, had my breakfast, came out and we got talking. We discussed several issues from political, sports, festivals and religion to mention a few. Mr Owonikoko is quite advanced in age so he had lots of experience to share. Later in the day, he excused himself to go and rest. I also left to have my siesta. When I woke up, dinner was ready, after that I joined him in the private sitting room where he was watching the news and also sipping a glass of red wine. After about 30 minutes, I asked for permission to leave but he requested i stay a little longer that he was enjoining my company. I relaxed and I didn’t know for how long, until I gazed at the clock and saw it was past midnight. I stood up to leave and he also stood up and came over to my side of the sofa. I felt uncomforta­ble and asked if everything was alright or if he needed anything, he smiled and asked me to relax. He started touching me inappropri­ately and I removed his hands but he overpowere­d me, placed me on the long sofa. He them removed my pants and had sexual intercours­e with me.

When he was done, there was blood on the chair and it was so painful, he threatened me that he had a gun and he would kill me if I ever told anyone about the incident. I was just 16 years old and I had lost my virginity to a supposedly trusted childhood friend of my parents. I left and locked myself up in the room because I was frightened and I did not want to die young. Of course I did not tell my parents about the incident. I avoided him until my vacation was over. I returned to school but things were never the same with me again.

When school went on vacation, Mr Owonikoko came to pick me up as usual to take me to the Airport, he reminded me never to tell anyone, not even my parents, or else I would not be alive to tell my story. My mother observed that something had changed about me and called me privately to find out but I refused to tell her anything because of the threat. I was no longer that cheerful and happy child, my innocence had been stolen from me and to make matters worse, it was by someone I respected and held in high esteem. My grades began to drop but I managed to cope and was just barely passing my courses. This secret was eating me deep especially because he had sex with me on 2 different occasions apart from the first molestatio­n. This was on another short holiday when my dad asked me to stay at his place, I argued that I missed home but he insisted I stay back with him. I became more afraid and also began to experience mood swings, loss of appetite, anxiety and panic attacks. Sometime in the month of April, 2021, during the vacation while I was back home with my family, my mom came to inquire as usual what was wrong with me that I had totally changed from her caring daughter since I started school and I gave her my usual response – “I was fine” and that it was just academic stress. That night, I felt as if I was going to have panic attack and I would not survive it because this was not my first one. I went to my mom’s room and opened up, I told her about the sexual abuse incident. My mother told my dad and he confronted the perpetrato­r but he denied the allegation­s. My parents reported the case to the Police. The police directed us to WARIF centre for medical and psychologi­cal counsellin­g. Coming to the centre is one of the best things that happened to my family and I. The staff at the centre are warm, friendly and profession­al in the discharge of their duties. The counselors at the centre are so helpful and are guiding me so I can heal from the trauma. I am sleeping better now, my appetite is back and I can better manage my emotions. I feel good about myself. I am maintainin­g a positive attitude inspite of my experience and slowly getting back on track.

I was no longer that cheerful and happy child, my innocence had been stolen from me and to make matters worse, it was by someone I respected and held in high esteem. My grades began to drop but I managed to cope and was just barely passing my courses. This secret was eating me deep especially because he had sex with me on 2 different occasions apart from the first molestatio­n.

Dear survivor, please know that you are not alone and it is not your fault. Help is available.

If you have been raped or you know someone who has, please visit us at The WARIF Centre - 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba or call our 24-hour confidenti­al helpline on 0809210000­9. For questions or more informatio­n please contact:

*Real name of survivor changed for confidenti­ality

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