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A few days ago, news houses and blogs ran the news that a certain Daniel Okereke had been accused of raping a student of the University of Lagos.
Rape is such a bitter thing to happen to anyone; it can completely destroy a woman’s life. For those who survive, the scars remain and their confidence is almost never the same. The major problem with rape in Nigeria (as in most parts of the world) is that the rape victims tend to just keep quiet about it, which is understandable to some level particularly when we are in the habit of shaming and blaming the victims. So they just decide that the shame and devastation of being raped is bad, but at least no one knows about it so they carry these feelings inside for the rest of their lives.
Thank God though, things are changing a bit more and people are now seeing the rapists for the monsters they are and not the other way around. More women and girls are speaking up and the justice system is beginning to deal with them. It’s not nearly enough, but we’re getting there. Which is why we need to recognize courageous women like the young woman who did not just meekly walk away after she was raped.
According to news reports, she was tied down by three men while the said Daniel Okereke raped her several times. When he was done he untied her and told her to get out of his house. But she was not about to go quietly. She destroyed his house and in the process, damaged a neighbour’s car. It was that same neighbour who called the police and the girl was arrested. But on hearing her story, she was sent to the hospital and there, her story was confirmed. Then the police went after the man. The case is now before the court.
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It did not take the media very long to discover that he was the brother to the celebrity, Stephanie Okereke and a lot was made of it. The woman has come out to address the issue and this is what she had to say:
[On her reaction to the news] I am distraught and devastated to hear of the recent allegation of rape brought against a relative of mine, Daniel Okereke (my brother). While it is a very difficult time for me, and my family; I feel the need to make clear my position, lest there be any doubt. Rape is rape, regardless of who the face of the accused is.
[On her work with sexually abused persons] Indeed, the irony is not lost on me. I have spent my lifelong career advocating and living my conviction that women around the world should be able to live free of violence, sexual harassment or any form of abuse against their persons. This conviction led me to be involved in numerous initiatives combating violence against women in several countries including the U.S, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Describing how distraught she felt, she said:
So, again, it is indeed heart breaking for me to receive and deal with news alleging a family member of mine is an alleged perpetrator of sexual violence against a woman. I am devastated.
This case is now in Nigeria’s criminal justice system as the accused awaits arraignment. I have also encouraged and assured the alleged victim of my stance against rape and applaud her for her bravery to upset the culture of silence, in Nigeria; even as I accord deference and patiently wait for the criminal justice system to determine the guilt or innocence of my brother.
She also felt dismay that her name was being linked with the alleged rapist, some even going as far as using her name as the headline of the story and putting her pictures alone. This is not right and we agree with her. Her brother is the one who is being accused and in as much as they are both legal adults, he is responsible for his actions, just as she is responsible for hers. Stephanie has carried herself with dignity and has been a well respected member of Nollywood. We appreciate her courage in coming out this way.