The coordinator of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team DSVRT, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, has said that some parents actually make it easy for an abuser to defile their children. Vivour-Adeniyi said parents leaving their wards in the hands of neighbors has overtime made it easy for an abuser to abuse them. She added that some men with erectile dysfunction who have abused little children said they did it because the little children will not laugh at them.
‘Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi is the coordinator of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team DSVRT. The DSVRT team was set up in 2012 to respond to issues of rape, domestic violence and child abuse. In this encounter with HANNAH OJO, she speaks more on the factors fuelling abuse of minors.
Is your office engaging in activities geared towards sensitizing the boy child on sexual abuse?
This year, we are bringing more attention to the issue because last year, we carried out a research and the result showed how 85 percent of those abused as minors grew up to abuse children later in life. The result of the research has influenced the way we engage children in our advocacy as we are now insisting that the focus should not be on girls alone but on boys as well. No gender is immune to sexual violence. People used to think that it’s only girls that could be defiled but it’s not true. Boys can also be sexually abused as data has shown. When you have data, it helps to strategize awareness and propose policies that are structured to the needs of the society.
Your data shows there have been cases of sexual violence in places like Alimosho and Kosofo, is it right to say that these cases happen more in low income areas?
We aggregate our data to the 20 local governments in the state but there are some local governments that are densely populated like Alimosho and Kosofe, so it should not come as a surprise to see a lot of cases in those areas. It doesn’t mean that it’s only those areas that these vices are being committed. Perhaps it is also because of our awareness in those areas that these vices are being reported. After the awareness, we see an increase in reportage, but I wouldn’t say that it is only in low income areas because sexual and gender violence is not a respecter of class or creed, religion or gender. It can happen to anybody.
Apart from the excuse of poverty and depression, what other factors are fuelling sexual violence?
According to the data gathered from our research, the first factor is the abused abuser factor. Another factor was that some people said they had poor performance with their peers –this is real data. Some said it was as a result of poor erectile dysfunction and they were tempted because the children obviously would not laugh at them. However, it is important to state that some people actually make it easier for children to be defiled. The idea of leaving children with neigbours is condemnable. Parents are not supposed to leave their precious jewels with any kind of person. Perpetrators don’t just pounce on children, they groom them. They gain their trust, get their confidence and it can start with something so basic but you will be amazed what that can do to a child over a period of time. Some people will say why didn’t the child speak up? It’s because the child did not know better and that is the danger we have in sexual violence. Society most times often blame the victim, even when it is a child. These are the things perpetrators take advantage of and use to groom children.
It is often said that many victims of sexual violence are often discouraged from pressing charges as a result of delayed justice?
The testimony of the child must be corroborated; that is why we ensure that the police conducts proper investigation and that is what has informed our engagement with the Nigerian Police Force in terms of training, empowering and equipping the force with relevant materials. That is one of the reasons why we have relevant support units across 11 divisions in the state. When it comes to legal issue, you cannot be emotional and sentimental, it is facts that can be proved and the evidence. That is why the police is critical because they are the first respondent. There are also the role medical officers play; if a survivor presents himself early, it is very likely that evidence can be preserved and that will help aid investigations.
A DNA lab was launched in November, it is at Odulami Street in order to help victims of sexual violence to able to preserve evidence and ensure justice. In the DPP, we also have the Sexual Offence Unit dedicated to addressing these issues. At the High Court, we have the sexual offence and domestic violence court, so we expect that we start to see an increase in the number of cases that get to court as well as an increase in conviction. We will also start to see a reduction in the time it takes to prosecute these cases.
Since you have been the coordinator of DSVRT, can you recall the most pathetic case you have handled?
All cases are bad, especially when it involves children because they are vulnerable. Who is supposed to have prevented them? Who is supposed to have ensured that it did not happen? It is the adults. Those are the pathetic cases, especially when it is obvious that these cases could have been prevented if different safe-guarding measures were put in place. When an abuse happens to a child, it means that secondary care givers have failed in their responsibility.