Founder of Every Child Initiative, Oluwatobi Raji Olawode has been a Child Safety Advocate against Child Sexual Abuse since January 2017 and also has over 5 years of experience as a social/ humanitarian worker.
In this chat with AN24 Reporter, Tobi Adebayo, the child sexual abuse survivor recounts her horrific experiences while growing up.
Could you narrate your first sexual abuse experience?
It happened on 26th April 1997 at about 11:45pm. My youngest sibling celebrated his first birthday, and family and friends came to celebrate with her. The culprit is my maternal uncle.
After the first incident, I have been raped 10 different times by 10 different persons. These unfortunate incidences occurred when I was between the ages of 8 and 19.
I was threatened not to reveal the abuse to anyone.
Did you get any form of help when the first one occurred?
I didn’t get any form of help. It was difficult to trust or confide in anyone since my mother who could have been in best position to help, didn’t.
My dad was alive at the time but due to the threat, I couldn’t tell him what happened.
How did these incidences affect your personal life?
I lost my self esteem as a girl, withdrew to myself. I suffered emotional trauma coupled with depression which later led to mental health issues.
I became a shadow of myself. I attempted suicide three times as a child to end the shame and ugly memories.
When I met my husband, everything changed. He became my only confidant and best friend, someone who understood me more than myself. He sacrificed his time, energy and resources just for me to get the right medical help.
What steps are you taking to heal?
I am doing great. I currently receive psychosocial support and therapy from medical experts.
The horrific incident is also why I am a Child Safety Advocate and I have been trying to make an impact in my own little way.
Did these experiences affect your relationships?
Yes, my past relationship was nothing to write home about. I became scared of the opposite gender. I used to feel so insecure because I do not know what the next person would do. At a point in my life, I started seeing the penis as a gun. I did not experience sexual urges. My former partners saw me as a strange person.
I never knew the emotional trauma I passed through had made me slip into depression which graduated into mental health.
I only noticed when I was beginning to lose my memory. I explained this to my husband and he reached out to his doctor, who after listening to my story, referred me to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric hospital Yaba.
During this period, my husband kept promising to stand by me, which he did. April 1st, 2018, he proposed marriage but I declined saying I couldn’t marry him just because I felt he couldn’t cope with my challenges and would one day leave me.
My husband wouldn’t take no for an answer and in August 2018, we had our registry wedding. In September 2018, we had our traditional marriage. He gave me all the support I needed.
What measures do you think can be put in place to curb child sexual abuse?
I advise that effective awareness, campaigns and sensitisation programmes for parents, teachers and guardians. I also suggest that the government take proper action against sexual offenders.
What projects do you have in place to help your cause?
Child sexual abuse has become an epidemic in Nigeria, having one to five children before the age of 18 sexually abused in a day.
As a Child Safety Advocate, I devised a means in reaching out to the general public using “House to House” sensitisation strategy to pass the message across to my target audience.
This idea was birthed after a thorough survey understanding that not all target audience can be reached via social media advocacy.
In five to ten years, my vision is to partner with more orphanages and also set up a structure that will ensure safe space for every child by putting a system in place called a Home for Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse and Vulnerable Children Living in the Streets.
Currently, I run a pet project titled “Save The Street Child.” This is a rescue mission for vulnerable children living on the street by providing shelter for them in orphanages to prevent them falling victim of sexual abuse.
This year in March and July, 2019, two girls were taken off the street and were sheltered in two private orphanages.