Anonymous Story: He Betrayed My Trust

Anonymous Stories

Anonymous Story: He Betrayed My Trust

By October 27, 2020 One Comment

Anonymous Story: His Choices Were My Ruin

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When I was 14 years old I was repeatedly sexually abused every day for several weeks by a 25 year old man. It was the summer before ninth grade and I was at summer camp with a couple of friends. He betrayed my trust and now I can’t trust people as easily because I’m afraid they’ll break me the way he broke me. He was so much nicer than the counselors that summer who were too busy with their own lives and dramas to care about the campers. He wanted to hear my opinions and he would look me in the eyes when we talked. He treated me like an adult, and when I was 14 being treated like an adult was the best and rarest thing in the world.

He asked me questions about my life and interests which I wasn’t used to but I loved. The only time he asked me questions that should have been major red flags (but didn’t) was when he asked me if I had ever had sex. This was part of the lead up to his putting his fingers inside of me the first time. At the time I remember being confused and taken aback by the question because I had never had anyone ask me that before. That’s why I thought it was weird, not because he was a 25 year old man asking a child if she had had sex. Try to find someone more naive then I dare you. I remember laughing because laughing is my coping mechanism and saying no to the question.

His answer repulses me even to this day. I’ve put my fingers down my throat to make myself throw up because of it. He said that’s a shame because nice girls deserve to feel good. I’m just, what the actual hell was wrong with him? Who deserves that type of treatment? I didn’t deserve to feel good! I thought it was a compliment because I didn’t know what he was alluding to, but it wasn’t. I didn’t deserve what he did, it wasn’t what a nice girl deserves, what any girl deserves yet, I thought it was a compliment so I accepted it. That piece of shit. He didn’t even make me feel good. It hurt. I cried, I used to tear up when he did it. He knew. He saw.

He didn’t like seeing me upset for some wack reason even though he was the cause for my pain, the cause of my tears. He’d act all distressed and tell me to stop crying, promising me it would get better but it never did, did it? But I learned to fight the tears. I’ve always hated being the cause of someone else’s suffering. And since he seemed to suffer when I suffered, I fought the tears. I numbed myself. I learned how to separate my body from my soul. I feel like it was my subconscious trying to protect me even though I still believed all of this was normal. I told myself don’t worry he’s a good guy.

He means well. You can trust him. This is normal. He said it is. He promised, so don’t worry. That monster.. He had me so manipulated. It sounds so twisted and probably doesn’t make sense but there’s a part of me that wishes he had been violent or aggressive with me. He never was. He never hit me. He never choked me. He never outright threatened me. He never “forced” himself on me. And it’s not that I want this. No one deserves or wants this kind of treatment. But if he had done those things I think I would have realized something wasn’t right when it was happening rather than several months after the fact. I was young yes, but even kids know violence isn’t okay.

I feel like if he had been violent I would have figured out that he was a danger to me. The abuse wouldn’t have kept happening. Instead he was nice, tried to be gentle- or as gentle as one can be when you’re FUCKING RAPING SOMEONE. He was kind, he listened to me. When I was thrown from a horse, he was the first person by my side, showing real concern like a father shows for his daughter. But I wasn’t his daughter now, was I? I was a child who he preyed on. I was a child who he violated again and again again. Sick person, that’s what he was. Always toying with my heart, always knowing how to get me to submit to him.

He took what he learned from me and took those weaknesses and used them against me. He knew I hated being the cause of other people’s pain so he would act like he was suffering so I would feel bad and give in. He’d act like my tears hurt him so I stopped crying when he put his fingers in me. He knew I was quiet so I was very unlikely to tell on him. He wasn’t wrong. I didn’t tell on him. A piece of shit. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I won’t forgive him, never, I won’t forgive him. I don’t care if he’s out there feeling remorse or guilt, I don’t care. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.

I’m normally a forgiving person but when it comes to him, I will never ever forgive him. He took something from me, I can’t fill the void in me. I can’t do it, he took something from me and he had the nerve to smile at me before he left me to keep myself from shattering. It’s been four years. Some days I’m fine, some days I’m great, but some days I can barely hold myself together. I’m lost. I’m trapped. I don’t feel free. Nothing will set me free. He made the choice for me and trapped me. I had no choice. He is free but I am not.

“A small gesture can turn somebody’s situation around. Support survivors by ONLY leaving a kind and thoughtful comment.”

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One Comment

    • Steve says:

      No one deserves such. I can’t imagine the trauma but You’ll get over it. Try to transfer that pain into a strong push to protect other young girls from such heartless predators.

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Sexual Violence: The Victims, The Perpetrators And The Criminal Justice System

InterviewsRapeSexual Abuse

Sexual Violence: The Victims, The Perpetrators And The Criminal Justice System

By June 21, 2018 3 Comments

Sexual Violence: The Victims, The Perpetrators And The Criminal Justice System

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Sexual assault is a seriously under-reported crime. Victims and survivors do not report their assault to law enforcement for several reasons; such as, fear of retaliation from perpetrators; feelings of shame and embarrassment; a belief that the rape, abuse or harassment was a minor incident and not a police matter; and a concern that police and prosecutors would question their veracity and credibility. Victims who report the crime and are willing to cooperate with police and prosecutors as the case moves forward may encounter criminal justice officials who are skeptical of their allegations and who question their credibility. Sadly, victims experience these negative outcomes all too often. There is much to be done, there is much that can be done if sexual assault is to be treated as the violent crime it is and if victims of sexual assault are to be treated with respect and dignity.

We had a sit-down with Prof. Chidi Odinkalu to discuss the state of the criminal justice system in the country and the impact it has on the rate of rape prosecution. Prof. Chidi Odinkalu is a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist. He is the senior legal officer with the African Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative. He is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the Chairman of the Governing Council of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. Prior to joining the staff of Open Society Justice Initiative, Prof. Chidi was a lecturer in laws at Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Senior Legal Officer responsible for Africa and Middle East at the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights in London, Human Rights Advisor to the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone, and Brandeis International Fellow at the Centre for Ethics, Justice and Public Life of the Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, among other great accomplishments. It is a huge honor to have him lend his voice on this topic.

The pain of sexual assault doesn’t just end once the assault is over but is rather perpetuated both by the response from the survivors’ peers and by the authorities who continue to fail survivors. Why do think this happens, and how can we change these experiences?

Well, I’m not sure I can fully, authoritatively tell you why it happens, but it is possible to speculate and so what I will say subsequently is speculative because I don’t necessarily have conclusive, empirical evidence, but I think there are one or two things it is possible to point to. To begin with, one of two sexes could be victims of sexual violence – the female or male sex. The experiences of sexual violence by both sexes are considerably different…

No one experience is the same actually.

Thank you. Now, for the female in our society, they are for the most part objectified and largely seen as a piece of meat. They are sexualized into subservience and acceptance of objectification and the reflex response to reports of sexual violence against a woman who is outside marriage would be, “so what were you wearing?” “what kind of come-on did you give him?” “why did you go there?” so that becomes double or triple victimization. For instance, with a victim who has contracted a disease or who got pregnant from the rape, the victimization just goes on. With a married woman however, the answer is that as a married woman you cannot be raped assuming the perpetrator is your husband. If the perpetrator is not your husband or partner, you lose everything. You lose your marriage, you lose your children because the popular assumption becomes that it must have been an affair, you must have been guilty and so there is also multiple victimization. For the male, first, society denies that you can be raped. So, there is multiple victimization. Now, around all these narratives of multiple victimizations comes an additional factor of difficulty of proof. We are not a society that is heavily invested in forensics of anything at all, not to talk of forensics of sexual violence. And so ultimately, you’re left as a victim or survivor on your own. And I do think that that default setting of leaving victims and survivors on their own is at the heart of the question that you posed.

You’re right, then how do you think we can change these outcomes and experiences?

Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all. To begin with, I do think we’ve got to be a society that cares about much more than “it is not your portion!” and “God forbid! It will never happen.” That means we’ve got to be the society that cares about evidence, cares about trying to establish facts and cares about following facts to wherever they lead to, irrespective of who is affected. We’ve got to be a society that cares, period! If you don’t care you’re not going to pursue these things. And because particularly, sexual violence is that specie of crime in which the evidence is inside the body of the victim, it’s very intrusive. And a hypocritical society like Nigeria that believes in outward appearances and piety at the expense of rigor and evidence is not particularly equipped to deal with what it can reveal. The human body is an awkward place to look for evidence anyway. If it’s male, you’re looking for it in the orifices that you may not like and if it’s female, you’re looking for it in the orifices that the female may not like. Either way, basically these things require sometimes that you look in orifices that people don’t believe are meant for any form of sexual activity, for the most part. We are a society that thrives in denial. So, all those things add up to a society that is not prepared to form facts objectively and without that it is difficult to address these pathologies.

We believe the legal system is in dire need of serious reforms to redress the balance in a system that is stacked against victims. How do you think this can be achieved?

The problem with the legal system is inertia. I say inertia because our laws of sexual violence are very Victorian. They were made when Queen Victoria was the Queen of England. And Queen Victoria died in 1901. Our criminal code and penal code for the most part, except for Lagos State which reformed its criminal laws in 2011, every other piece of criminal legislation was inherited from Pre-Colonial England or Pre-Colonial Sudan. And they were drafted sometime in the period between 1885 and 1895, Queen Victoria was still the Queen of England then. And the notion of human sexuality and of sexual violence has dramatically evolved since then but it has not yet been captured in law. Lagos, for instance, updated its law in 2011 and when you look at the sexual laws of Lagos and compare them with the rest of the country, the difference is like night and day. And it’s no accident therefore, that Lagos has begun to record some progress in accountability for sexual violence. It may not be exactly where we wish it to be, but Lagos is recording some progress in criminal accountability in response to sexual and domestic violence and in addressing post-violence trauma for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Lagos is not just acknowledging something that needs to be acknowledged but it is making a lot of progress compared to the rest of the country, where we are still stuck in Victorian and new Victorian attitudes. So, it is that inertia that has precluded the State and the Federal Capital Territory at the Federal level from changing the laws from what was inherited from those Pre-Colonial times.

So how can we turn this around?

We’ve got to update our laws. We’ve got to update our attitudes. We can’t continue to live with laws which no longer have a place in our 21st century. The idea that a husband cannot rape his wife, for instance, is a load of bullocks. It happens every day. It has happened to one of my sisters. In my extended family in the village, I have a first cousin who wanted to have sex with his wife few weeks after she delivered a baby and went on to have his way, and then the woman naturally started weeping at night and this alarmed us. Of course, she did not consent and as she was weeping he started beating her and that is how folks gathered around. What do you call that, If not rape? Everyone one of us knows these things but we deny it and the law does not offer any redress. Now, you think of the distinction between rape and defilement. Under our laws, it is a distinction between an adult victim and a child victim. So, if a child is raped it is not rape but defilement. And under our criminal code, that is supposed to be a lesser crime attracting lesser punishment than rape, which is totally ridiculous. I’d like to think that the idea of raping a child is much more serious than the rape of an adult, but that is inverted in our criminal code. So, these are the kinds of things that we’ve got to change. And then when you consider proof of the crime itself and the requirements of corroboration, all of that came in an age where there was no DNA evidence and there was no trace evidence and forensic science had not even evolved as such, now we currently have lots of stuffs that makes a lot of that entirely unnecessary, but it’s still in our laws of evidence, that’s where we are. And by the way, rape can only happen under these new Victorian pieces of legislation through penetration of the vaginal orifice, that means a perpetrator can perfectly rape someone through the anal orifice and it is not rape. If you do work on policing, you’ll see that a lot of times police do rape women not with the phallus as biological weapon but with their truncheons, inserting it into the woman’s vaginal orifice or into the anal orifice. That is not considered rape under our laws because it is not a penal penetration.

Australia and Michigan were the 2 first territories to reform sexual violence laws so that penetration of any bodily orifice with anything becomes rape. That is the status of the law in Lagos now. So, if you penetrate the mouth, the anus, the vagina, the ear, any bodily orifice with anything against the consent of the owner of the body penetrated, that is considered rape. In every other state of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory, that would not be rape unless the penis is involved. So, there’s a very substantial reordering of the schematics of our legislation that we’ve got to do to bring us up to date with the 21st century. Of course, there’s nothing like homosexual rape represented which happens a lot particularly in the uniform services and amongst communities that are involved in long distance animal husbandry, for instance, and things like that. But those are not considered rape. And of course, among student populations, it’s also serious and in hostile communities, you see lots of rape through what is called unnatural offences, through orifices other than the vagina but we don’t address those.

It can be empowering to have a resolution in court that restores a sense of justice to victims and survivors of sexual assault; but oftentimes the legal process, from the encounter with police force to conviction in court can be traumatizing. What do you think can be put in place to prevent secondary victimization?

I’m not quite sure it is necessarily empowering. If you were a law student and a female, you’d probably know that the most traumatic class in the law undergraduate program is the class in criminal law where you study offences against a person, particularly the offence of rape. Why? Because the boys will not stop needling you. And all the sordid jokes about your bodily parts and the anatomy will be saved for that class. Just think about going through that class, think about any form of nasty comments that could be inflicted on anyone and you’ll see it in that class. This is just behaviors and reactions in class, now I’m thinking about a victim who must go to court to tell this story and expose their most intimate bodily parts in secret to secure a conviction, that is not empowering. It can be annihilating and traumatizing. It can destroy you. And we are in a society in which the skills for preparing people for that experience don’t exist and when an average victim or survivor anticipates that experience or lives through it, they’d rather avoid it. Because you’re not just going to live through that experience, the laws of evidence allow the defense to put your entire life on trial, your entire sexual history on trial, and invent things that don’t even exist. And so, it does not become a trial of the perpetrator, it becomes a trial of the victim or their virtue, or lack of virtue.

Therefore, in this country most people don’t think we should be prosecuting sexual violence against a sex worker because the defense would simply make negative comments of the sex worker and their vocation and everything. And yet, every night, in pretty much every major city in this country, law enforcement agents round up sex workers to extort money from them and the ones they don’t extort money from, they rape. The sex workers would simply wash up, go home, and try to pick themselves up and go to work the following day, that is the way it is. Now, many of them don’t think of it as a crime, those of them that think of it as a crime cannot report, they don’t have any recourse because for the most part nobody thinks that the crimes committed against them are worth prosecuting. It’s the underlying premise of the question that I think needs to be thought about again. It’s well possible that at least in this society conviction is not empowering because to convict you must go through prosecution and no victim wants to go through prosecution in this society. And the numbers of successful prosecution of this crime are not very great across the world and not just in Nigeria, granted some parts are better than others. Even in England the numbers are quite abysmal. In Australia there has been considerable progress since the reform of sexual violence laws in the early 70s, Michigan has made some progress as well. And that’s because you can now convict for different degrees of rape, now you’ve got 4 degrees of rape not just one and you can convict for those different degrees of rape, and you can convict for homosexual rape, marital rape, and so on. And then, the improvement in forensics has also accounted for the increase. So, overall, both the throughput and the output are still limited compared to prevalence.

Let me use that to return to your question about secondary victims. There is a great deal of secondary victimization in sexual violence which I think is also part of the reason for the absence of accountability because lots of families don’t regard sexual violence as a crime against the victim, they regard it as a crime against their honor and against their faith. And so, fathers and mothers would deny it so that they can palm off their traumatized daughters into the prism of the dignity of marriage which is nonsensical, it doesn’t make sense when you think about it. Because what you’re telling me is what they want to do basically is to avoid addressing the underlying damage that their daughter or son has suffered. And if they cared enough about the victim rather than about themselves, it would be much different.

Is it an issue of care or ignorance?

I think it is care. I don’t believe it is ignorance. Because you can see that we care about ourselves, our standing in society, and so they think, what will people feel if they found out that my daughter or son was raped or abused? Like, who cares really? But because we are invested in our social standing, we forget that the person who has been through this is a human being who needs care and that, I believe, holds the key.

Rape culture influences victims’ experiences with the justice system. How do you think rape culture can be effectively addressed? Through education, or what?

Yes, education is a factor. I also do think Law reform is a factor. Law enforcement agency reform is a factor. We’ve got to address the way Law enforcement handles sexual violence. But Lagos is showing the way, I do think Lagos deserves considerable commendation. The Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) is a multi-agency team. It’s got all manner of skillset and not only law enforcement. It’s got psychologists, legal people, medical people, etc. So that massing of a set of skills around the problem enables you to address it in a multi-dimensional fashion- the pathology of rape and the cultures that appertain to it and support the absence of accountability for it. I do think that that is the way to go. But we also need zero tolerance beyond just talking about criminal sanctions. For instance, in universities and tertiary institutions there’s a great deal of sexual violence that goes on. Young girls have got to hide and if the leader of one of the cults likes you, you’re finished unless you yield to him, you are going to be raped or drop out of school. Or if a lecturer likes your looks and your body if you don’t yield up to him or her, you stay in the university for eternity. So, universities have got to do a lot more.

That also means that professional bodies and unions like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) can no longer continue to be complicit because the more they remain complicit and continue to support the unaccountable conduct or misconduct of their members, the more they become irrelevant. Students can no more take them seriously, so when ASSU speaks up on issues they may well have expertise and a good point of view on, I personally don’t take them seriously because as far as I’m concerned, they’ve lost their moral standing by condoning the culture of sexual violence against students and the objectification of students by their members. And that is why I’m generally not an ASUU supporter. I think ASUU has been criminally complicit in sexual violence in our universities. Yesterday I was with two recent graduates, one has just finished her youth service while the other is about finishing hers and both said separately and in the same setting, a lecturer can do anything and get away with it and they were telling me this in the context of stories upon stories of how lecturers have sexually molested students for marks. These lecturers doing this are not contract lecturers, these are members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Academic Staff Union of Universities do know that these things happen, they’ve opposed the adoption of minimal standards and guidelines or regulations addressing sexual violence or sexual harassment in tertiary institutions. That is just criminal. I don’t think that is right. Now if bodies like ASUU and indeed if bodies like the Nigerian Labor Congress are not willing to support minimal standards against this kind of misconduct we have no hope of re-educating people.

Can you imagine if ASUU and NLC today woke up, and then you had FUMWA (The Federation of Moslem Women’s Associations of Nigeria) and you had CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) and you had Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs deciding you know what, we must end this thing, it will end. And we will have the kind of educational resources and values reorientation resources behind this thing that we have never been able to contemplate, but no we are not interested in this. What are we interested in? North/South, Yoruba/Igbo, Christian/Moslem, Hijab or no Hijab, those are the things that we’re interested in not in things that will bring people together around constructive solutions to problems that affect people irrespective of race, or creed, or religion, or status, or sex, we’re not prepared to do that.

There is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture that surrounds sexual harassment in corporate organizations. Is there any hope at all for a truly conducive working environment for employees in relation to sexual harassment?

I don’t think that is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture, I think that is a culture of impunity. No, that’s a misnomer. In 2013, I led an inquiry into the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and one of the things we found was a pervasive culture of sexual harassment in the legal profession, across the board – from entry level to conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and appointment to the judiciary. Lots of females are asked for, and people take it for granted that you can appropriate the virtues of a woman in return for her career progress which is criminal as far as I’m concerned. First, we say there are no ladies at the Bar, then what happens is that the ladies that are at the Bar for the most part, their male colleagues call them conference materials. And so young women at the Bar are appropriated as conference materials by senior colleagues who then look at them as objects for fun and enjoyment from one conference venue to the other. Whether it is National Conferences or International Conferences and it’s the same thing in most of our professions, institutions, and organizations. These are the kinds of things people get to deal with. 

We need to have minimum standards of regulation, at the minimum, for every school, every tertiary institution, every organization. And there need to be ways to apply sanctions across the board. If, for instance, you had universities commission doing that, you had the Nigerian Stock Exchange saying that you know what, we’ll have these standards on these things for our shop floors and the corporate sector, and then you had the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Medical Association doing that, and other institutions following suit, things will change.

You can imagine the number of female patients who have gone to see doctors… you go to see your dentist, there is not a lot exactly that links your mouth to your breasts. So, you go to see your dentist complaining of tooth ache or tooth decay and the dentist tells you to remove your blouse and unhook your bra and he’s playing with your tits. Now you see, unlike the lawyers who do their courtroom advocacy in the open, doctors do their consulting behind closed doors. You’re a young woman and you go in there and your dentist is male and they finish fondling you and then write whatever they write which you don’t see, and in our society most people have been brought up not to question whatever doctors say or do, but what happens – the next day when somebody tells you to visit the doctor and you say no, you don’t want to go, and they don’t know why you said you don’t want to go. Now, if you had a situation where the major professional bodies have got basic standards governing these things, and of course the churches and mosques because a lot of pastors, priests, imams, alfas, bishops, are fondling their way through everything in a skirt. I’m not saying people will not have temptations, neither am I asking people to be perfect but I’m saying there are also ways through which we can promote positive cultures and one of them is by adopting basic guidelines on conducts in discipline and how people can grow. And through adopting the guidelines then promote skills, something very basic. For instance, lecturers or pastors or priests or imams should not be consulting young women behind closed doors, leave your door open. Something as basic as that. Other ways like standard setting, regulations, some scaling up on training, promoting constructive example, before we even talk about coercive enforcements. There are ways and means in which we can help to promote and address these issues. Like I said, DSVRT is an outstanding example from Lagos which I think every other state should adopt.

Is prison the only punitive measure for perpetrators? Can victims have monetary justice?

Prison obviously isn’t. I’ve talked about administrative measures, disciplinary measures against people, whether it’s against people in public service or schools, or corporate institutions, or law enforcement or indeed the boardrooms. You see how the #MeToo movement has led to a lot of these perpetrators being outed and made to face consequences of years of sexual harassments and assault.  Of course, monetary compensations, why not. Of course, again that has got to go to a court though and then the difference between seeking monetary compensation in civil proceedings and seeking imprisonment in criminal proceedings is the difference between proof and the balance of probabilities in civil proceedings against proof beyond reasonable doubt in criminal proceedings which is a little higher.

Do we have crime victim compensation program in Nigeria?

No, not that I know of. There is really no compensation program for anything in Nigeria, not just crime victims. It’s victims of abuse of power. It’s victims who lose their lands to the expropriation powers of the State, powers of eminent domain. It’s anything and everything.

Most times victims are afraid to appear in court because they fear facing the perpetrator, is it possible for a victim who wishes not to see the perpetrator to still give testimony without appearing in court?

Yes of course. There are different ways of doing that in different countries. You can disguise the appearance of the victim. You can assign a different identity to the victim. And in fact, different countries have legislation to limit or exclude the cross-examination of the prior sexual history of the victim. So, there are ways in which you can, through both jurisprudence and law reform, minimize the trauma of appearance in court and incentivize victims who would otherwise have precluded themselves from showing up in court.

Many times, the prosecutor may not be diligent in following up a case. In such instances, what are the options open for a victim at that time?

Without support it is difficult, frankly. As a victim, you’ve gone through this thing that is quite traumatizing, why do you want to be chasing up the prosecutor all by yourself rather than looking to see how you can heal quietly and contain your shame and indignity. It’s entirely illogical. It’s counter-intuitive for a victim who does not have support to be chasing up a prosecutor. The first thing we must find out is how we can construct a society that cares enough to provide minimal support, at least, to the victims.

What about in cases where the victim is an infant, how are testimonies gathered especially when the child cannot talk. Are these hearings public? How can evidence in such situations be gathered?

First of all, the Constitution and the Child Rights Act create mechanisms which make it possible for courts to preclude the public from proceedings in which the well-being of a child is an issue so that is not a problem. Of course, the only form of evidence is not just oral testimony, you can have forensic testimony. If for instance there is likely the penetration of a child, particularly the younger the child is the more likely it is that you’re going to have some physical damage, it’s not just physical evidence. There’s damage to tissues, organs and structures of the physiology of the child and all of that constitutes evidence of what transpired, then ultimately it is a question of the skills with which people are willing to mop up that evidence and organize it in a way that is understandable. And for that you don’t just need the body of the child, you also need the role of experts who will understand what is happening and be able to take the court through a concise explanation of what has transpired to enable it to reach its verdict.

We are deeply thankful to Prof. Chidi Odinkalu for graciously answering our many questions. You can find him on Twitter: @ChidiOdinkalu. The conversation is far from over, what has been your experience with law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a victim of sexual violence or as an advocate/activist? How do you think we can do better in this area? Kindly share your thoughts. 

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3 Comments

  • Chidi Okafor says:

    I have never been this enlightened on this topic. I’m particularly pained that our laws are obsolete in issues as sensitive as sexual abuse.

  • Funmi Johnson says:

    As a former prosecutor and domestic violence expert, I was very pleased to read this article. There is much to be done, but it is not impossible. It requires political will and that is where I fear things will fall down. In the UK, a victim of rape or other sexual assault can have an application put into court, that will allow her to give evidence from behind a screen or from a remote location. Perpetrators are precluded from cross examining victims of rape or sexual assault. The victim has anonymity in terms of the reporting of the crime. Not rocket science, but requires people to be serious about dealing with these offences.

  • igheneki lucky oghenekome says:

    Nice article…… in the Nigerian law/ justice system, I feel the need for more effort towards persecuting the perpetrators involved in rape cases and sexual assaults, it should not be about monetary settlement. They need to feel every inch of pain they brought upon their victims. More so the victims hummmm I don’t what to say because we leave in a society where it is very easy to apportion blames to the victims of such scandals, this alone makes people leave with the stigma and fear of their own society………

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Anonymous Story: I Don’t Want To Remember (2)

Anonymous StoriesSexual AbuseSubmissions

Anonymous Story: I Don’t Want To Remember (2)

By October 1, 2019 No Comments

Anonymous Story: I Don't Want To Remember (2)

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Continued…

HERE’S THE THING NOW.

Like I said after this incident, my brother and I never spoke of it again. So, we continued our relationship as usual (only now I had a sudden and intense urgency to constantly beat him up, which I would. Of course, now it all makes sense).

But, we’ve been best friends since.

Now that I’m thinking of it, what probably happened was that he was entering the puberty-age, and I think maybe he was scrolling through TV channels late at night. Sometimes, on HBO or Showtime, they would show dirty movies (I know this because I later discovered this when I first started puberty at around 9). I know that when I came across a dirty film for the first time (around puberty age too), THATS WHEN I first had any feelings of arousal and a desire to just touch myself. I began masturbating at first by humping pillows, I guess it’s animal instinct or something, or maybe I learned it from the film or maybe I subconsciously remembered it from the incident, I don’t know.

Anyway, I would hump, and I think that’s where he learned how to do all of that too. He probably didn’t have much knowledge on the matter or what was appropriate or whatever, he only knew that on TV that’s what they did and that it made you feel good.

However, I am starting to think that he WAS INDEED old enough to at least know better than to do that to your little sister. But who knows, I guess.

After none of us mentioned it again, my bro and I continued our relationship as usual and then he had his own things going on (his coming out in high school etc.). When he got to high school age and I was in middle school, we began to become really close. I would talk to him about crushes and he would give me advice and all of that. He would let me hang out with his friends, drive me places, we’d sing together, it was awesome. He graduated high school the same year that I entered, so by the time I got to my own high school drama, he was busy working and attempting to go to college and stuff. But we got closer because the house was in such chaos, after we found out that my dad had been having a year affair with my mom’s cousin and that they had a kid together. At this point in high school was when I began to take my downhill spiral. In middle school, I remember not being able to socialize well. I got over it a bit, but then my energy transformed into self-hatred, rather than a lack of fronted confidence. I began to self-harm, developed an eating disorder. This was the first time I had ever wanted to die. I didn’t know why I just felt guilty about something, like I was paying the price for something horrible that I must’ve done at some point beforehand in my youth. But I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. I guess now I know…

In high school, after finding out about the affair, and my gender dysphoria and general discomfort in life was reaching its peak. My depression and severe anxiety worsened slowly.

In my junior year, my social anxiety was so severe that I missed at least 2 days from each week of school, and I left early every other day usually because of my panic attacks. I was having a minimum of 6 panic attacks PER SCHOOL DAY. I had a special pass to leave class whenever I needed to panic and then go back when I was calm. I was at most isolated, and I was just battling so many negative feelings within me. Most of them were my feelings of fear regarding my being trans, my anxieties about my parents, and my sudden nihilistic existentialism, but I always had a feeling that this wasn’t all there was to it. I was truly in a state of crisis, and it wasn’t until my multiple suicide attempts that I got help. I checked myself into a mental health hospital and I was there for 7 days, which I honestly do believe saved my life.

After I left I saw my life in an entirely new light. I was calm enough to finally accept my trans identity and that’s when I came out. Since then, I’ve started testosterone treatments and my confidence is finally existent, at least a bit.

Around the same time, I had a spiritual awakening, and since then I have slowly been changing my life for the better. I’ve been debunking past traumas, wondering why I do the things I do now. I’m figuring myself out, while trying to keep as busy as you can without a job or going to college. Discovering my own spirituality has really helped me.

However, My spiritual guide is my brother. We’re still so close and we hang out every day.

I’ve been remembering this incident lately and it’s been making being around him a bit weird, but I’m handling it a lot better than I ever imagined I would.

I don’t want to bring it up to a member of my family, ever. I don’t even want to remember it anymore, but it happened. This is the first time I’ve ever acknowledged details of the event. I was willing to take this to the grave, that’s my first thought whenever I remember ANYTHING about this incident.

For those reading, I assure you that my parents are the kindest parents in the world. They never abused us, verbally, physically, or emotionally. They protected us like we were fragile, and they did the absolute best that they could’ve done. And even my brother, he is always looking after me and for what’s best for me and all of that. Like I said he’s practically my best friend.

I think that’s what makes this incident hard to admit, because relationship now is so good. To me, it’s not worth ever mentioning again to a family member because everything is so good right now. He is never inappropriate with me like that now, and I’d like to hope that maybe he also believes that the events were just dreams.

Why would any of us EVER bring this up again? It’s really messed up if you think about it.

I’m still not sure what to call it other than “an incident”. I know what it was. I know the word used for it. It wasn’t rape, it never got to that, but I guess it was a form of assault, and it’s worse because it’s a child on child assault AND it’s technically incest.

That’s the sickest part. I Think THAT is the part that sickens me the most about this. The part that will subconsciously keep me up at night, the part that makes me shutter anytime I see that word, anytime I hear an incest joke, the part that makes me afraid to trust anyone, including myself and my own thoughts and recollections. People think of incest and they picture game of thrones or something royal where families started to breed only within themselves. People think of it as a sickening thing where a brother is in love with his sister or something. They don’t ever tell you that incest is when your child brother touches you as a child, when you’re too young to even realize what is happening until it’s too late.

I feel guilty because of it, dirty, disgusting. I know that I was too young to realize what I was doing, but I SHOULD’VE KNOWN that it was BAD. I think…well, that’s what I feel, but I know that that’s not true. I was too young to know. I thought for a while that this happened because I did something to make it happen, but I know now that that’s also false.

I don’t want to face this issue yet because I can’t say what it was yet. I’m writing this, so I’m hoping it helps and that maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight.

*one last deep breath*

It is 2 AM, I have been writing this for about 2 hours now….

Okay…I can say it…

When I was a young child, I was molested, by someone I trusted – my own brother, who was also a child at the time.

There. It’s out.

There’s no going back now. I’ve acknowledged that this did indeed happen and that instead of running from it, I could finally face it, before I implode.

I only intend to share this with therapists never anyone who is currently in my life that knows my brother. He’s a good person. He’s got so much to give this world and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let an irrelevant childhood memory that hasn’t been brought up in over a decade fuck that up.

Well, I guess that’s my story. Thank you to those who stuck around and if there is ANY advice that anyone has on how I should move forward with coping with this, or my relationship with my brother, or how to overcome the social skills that I have because of this, I’d love to hear it.

Thank you for listening and I hope the vibes in your life are positive.

” A small gesture can turn a person’s situation around, support survivors by ONLY leaving a kind and thoughtful comment.”

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Anonymous Story: I Was Raped Twice

RapeSexual Abuse

Anonymous Story: I Was Raped Twice

By December 3, 2020 No Comments

Anonymous Story: I Was Raped Twice

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I was raped twice. The first time, I was 7 or 8 years old. My mum had to work for our family so she never really had time to come pick me up from school, my siblings were all in boarding house so it was just me most of the time. My neighbor was the one that picks me up, on that faithful day she sent another of our neighbor and I reluctantly went with him. I got home and had to wait at his place till my mum got home. I slept off while waiting and woke up to manly hands around my thighs.

I tried to scream but he muzzled my mouth with his hands, I remember feeling him penetrating me with his fingers, then proceeded with his penis. I cried the whole time and somewhere along the line his brother’s kids walked in and alerted the neighbors. They all gathered and were all raining abuse on the guy and I can’t remember much. My mum got to know about it when she got home. She didn’t say much about it, she only scolded me and said it was my fault, if only I had stayed at home (mind you, I was always alone at home), I remember feeling everything was my fault.

I stopped going out to play for a while, because of shame. I swear I was ashamed. “It’s your fault,” I always told myself. I got over it alone, it was hard but I did. The guy was arrested after a while for stealing his brother’s properties, or so I heard. The 2nd time was a guy who was dating my friend back in school. She asked me to go with her to Lagos to get goods she can sell in school. I was reluctant, but she pleaded saying I had good taste when it comes to shopping. I obliged her and went. We were supposed to stay at her aunt’s place but the lady traveled the day we got to Lagos.

She then called the guy and he said we can crash at his place and he feigned annoyance saying she could have considered his place first. We got to his place and he kept on giving me side eye and perverted glances. Night came and I begged my friend to please sleep with me in the guest bedroom, but you already know the answer to that request. The room door couldn’t be locked from inside, so I said I was gonna stay awake till they both fell asleep because I didn’t trust him. I remember trying to stay awake the whole night, I finally fell asleep.

I woke up to the door creaking (I sleep very lightly), I opened my eyes, praying silently and I saw him come in. I begged him quietly, knelt down, asking him to please don’t. He then proceeded to tell me that begging won’t make it easier, and that my friend wouldn’t even hear me (which was true because she snores deeply). He grabbed me, I tried screaming for my friend but he closed my mouth. I struggled and struggled, then finally I got tired. He pinned me to the floor, raped me within few minutes and left. I didn’t have any emotions left, I stayed awake till morning. I didn’t even shower, I took my bag and left immediately at dawn.

I think he woke my friend up, because she caught up with me on the street. I couldn’t even tell her because I didn’t want to be the reason she broke up with the guy, but she somehow knew what was wrong and asked me to wait near an aboki shop on the street. She returned few minutes later panting. I didn’t want to know what she did to him but I knew she did something to him and she never told me up to today. She took me to her uncle’s clinic to have me checked out, paid for my treatment. I kinda kept on telling her I was sorry and that it was my fault. But she always scolded me and got angry, and said that I was being stupid.

 

“A small gesture can turn somebody’s situation around. Support survivors by ONLY leaving a kind and thoughtful comment.”

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Anonymous Story: I Was Raped By My Cousin

Sexual Abuse

Anonymous Story: I Was Raped By My Cousin

Anonymous Story: I Was Raped By My Cousin

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I’m not sure I’d call it rape or molestation. I can’t remember how old I was when it started, but I’m sure it went on for a while, my mother’s cousin used to have sex with me. Most times, whenever I went to their house to play with the kids there who were my age, he’d call me into his room, send the other children away and sleep with me.

At a time, I started looking forward to playing with his penis. He used to always warn me not to tell anyone. I remember one particular day, he came visiting at our house, my mother was cooking in the kitchen and it was just him and me in the sitting room, he had sex with me, and ejaculated on his hand. I asked him what it was, but he didn’t say.

It stopped when I was about 7 and that was because I told my cousins who I used to play with, and they in turn told our uncle who called me and asked me if it was true. I told him everything, he threatened the pervert, and that’s how he stopped.

Writing this now made me realize how much I shut that part of my memory all in a bid to forget. I’d like to be more open about my experience and help other people who have been through such and are also in need of help. Not to also deny the fact that I may need some help myself.

 

“A small gesture can turn somebody’s situation around. Support survivors by ONLY leaving a kind and thoughtful comment.”

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Can Men End Sexual Violence? On Men And Masculinity

RapeSexual AbuseSexual Harrassment

Can Men End Sexual Violence? On Men and Masculinity

By January 15, 2019 No Comments

Can Men End Sexual Violence? On Men and Masculinity

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Overwhelming evidence indicates that the majority of rape and sexual assaults are perpetrated by men against women, and by men against men. However, not all men are perpetrators! In fact, the majority of men have never raped or sexually assaulted anyone. Even so, sexual violence against women has become an epidemic which has led to the discourse on how to engage men in the fight against gender-based violence.

From infancy, boys and girls in all societies are taught to behave in certain stereotypical ways; they are treated differently and are expected to behave along these prescribed patterns. Different messages are conveyed to them through the media, religious leaders, parents, schools, peers and others. They learn gender roles and what is expected from them as boys and girls. In most cases girls’ and boys’ expected roles and responsibilities are associated with their future roles: as mothers and wives for girls, and as husbands, fathers, bread earners and head of the household for boys. Young men typically learn that it is considered ‘masculine’ to be strong and dominant, sexually active, not to show emotions, and to exercise authority over women and children of their families. This process of socialization actually shapes men in the same way as it does women. These messages play a vital role in sustaining gender inequality and perpetuating harmful masculine norms that govern gender roles in almost all societies.

The idea of involving men and boys in interventions aimed at putting an end to gender-based violence is relatively new because primarily gender-based violence was only thought of as women’s issues. More recently, however, the male-engagement field has been looking at men more holistically. Work with men and boys that recognize that men can be partners in GBV prevention; that they do care what happens to their partners, their families and in their communities is now slowly beginning to gain momentum. More so, Understanding the self has been found to be the foundation for ending violence against women and men, this is based on the premise that social change is inextricably linked to changes within the self. As products of a patriarchal society we must all examine and recognize our roots, and when we work on issues that challenge the very identities that we hold so central, looking at the self becomes inescapable.

Gender-based violence (GBV) occurs and is perpetuated by an imbalanced power distribution, and men, in most societies, are the holders of entitlements and power at the family as well as societal level. The demarcation of social spheres for men and women further contributes to widening this gap. At the domestic level, discrimination and violence can take the form of limited opportunities for girls/women to get education or employment, limited or no participation in decision making, control over mobility, physical abuse, etc. Similarly, at the community level – sexual harassment, bullying, and undermining women are common forms of violence. Primarily, it is men who are the perpetrators of violence at domestic and community levels; however, men’s behaviors are rooted in the way they are raised. Providing men an opportunity for reflection, and through reflecting on these inequitable gender norms and what price they pay to fit in the popular “male box” can play a vital role in initiating change.

“Masculinity refers to the socially produced but embodied ways of being male. Its manifestations include manners of speech, behaviors, gestures, social interaction, gender stereotypes and a division of tasks ‘proper’ to men and women (e.g. ‘men work in offices, women do housework’), and an overall narrative that positions it as superior.

While masculinity brings with it many privileges, it also brings with it many costs that men have to bear in response to proving their masculinities and live up to the expectations to be called a real man. Masculinity also carries with it constant competitiveness and therefore tensions over power. The fact that many men also suffer from poverty and are placed in subordinate positions in relation to other men and women from other classes also creates tension and frustration in them; because on one hand masculinity gives them control and power, and on the other, they have to deal with the contradictory and very real experience of powerlessness in this context. One aspect of masculinity is that it demands from the person to prove it and often being potent is considered an important proof of masculinity in our society. Therefore, different expressions of sexuality are linked to masculinity. Since sexuality has a close link with masculinity, there is pressure on men to always seem ready for sex and to initiate it.

At a time when rape and sexual assault occur at what can only be termed epidemic rates, the wisdom of targeting primary prevention programs at boys and young men seems unassailable. It is important to understand that the question of rape and women’s bodies lie within the domain of ethics, where physical integrity and emotional security are fundamental human rights. If a change has to happen it has to happen at all levels. However, the most important aspect to challenge and change are the values and beliefs (roots) of the society that we have internalized, often unconsciously. We need to become aware of the costs of these values and norms on ourselves and others around us.

Want to break free from the “Man Box”? watch this video:

 

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Anonymous Story: Another Statistic

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Anonymous Story: Another Statistic

By November 12, 2019 No Comments

Anonymous Story: Another Statistic

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I was in 300 level in the university of Lagos and for all my outgoing persona and loud talk, I was still a Virgin. It was internship period and there was a break that year, so students were few in school.

This guy had been hitting on me for a while and one evening when everyone had gone out I decided to finally take his offer for lunch. Later, he asked to get something from his flat and looking back I blame myself for being naive, trusting and not discerning.

While in his house it began raining and I asked to go back to my hostel. We went out and he tried to start his car but told me that it couldn’t start and I believed him. He then called a mechanic,  when I told him that it was getting late and I would just get myself home, he said the car was gone with my stuffs in it including his wallet and so there was no way to pay for anything. He convinced me to spend the night and promised I would be fine.

At first, he was a gentleman. He slept in the sitting room and then at 2 a.m, I heard a knock and he asked me to open the door. “It’s his house,” I thought, “let him get what he wants,” and I opened the door. But then the story changed, all efforts to plead to his human nature fell on deaf ears. I was ushered into sex through rape, my face pressed into the bed while I choked on my tears.

I self-harmed for a while to numb and cope with the pain and some other mishaps.

I can’t remember my rapist, but I read about rape and I understood that I am blocking him out in my mind. I don’t know if that’s bad but all I know is that I am at peace now and I can say I have finally healed.

 

“A small gesture can turn somebody’s situation around, support survivors by ONLY leaving a kind and thoughtful comment.”

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Post-Traumatic Growth

Sexual AssaultTrauma

Post-traumatic Growth

Post-traumatic growth

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As you recover from rape and childhood trauma, you will begin to get back in touch with your authentic self, untainted from the trauma’s effects.  Most survivors grew up too fast. Their vulnerable child-selves got lost in the need to protect and deaden themselves. Reclaiming the inner child is part of the healing process. Often the inner child holds information and feelings for the adult. Some of these feelings are painful; others are actually fun. The child holds the playfulness and innocence the adult has had to bury. Indeed, although trauma from sexual violence does incalculable harm, survivors can start to become the person they have always wanted to be, it will take a lot of work but healing, and eventually thriving, is possible. It is most likely that it’ll force you to develop strengths which you may well now be in a position to utilize to your advantage.

“Post-traumatic growth can be defined as the positive psychological change that results from the attempt to find new meaning and resolve after a traumatic event.”

The traumatic event itself does not cause the positive psychological change, but rather what results from the shattering of a person’s fundamental beliefs, values, and understanding of themselves, others and the world. It is when an individual realizes that old meanings and purpose for living no longer apply, and then subsequently begins to search for and create new ones that result in the psychological shift known as post-traumatic growth.

It is very important in the recovery journey, for survivors to forge new meaning in order to transcend the experience. The struggle to find new meaning in the aftermath of the trauma is crucial to positive psychological growth, as well as the acceptance that personal distress and growth can co-exist, and often do, while these new meanings are created.

While, prior to recovery, your life may have been dominated by reliving the trauma and acting out its effects, you can begin to discard the ‘victim identity’ and pursue your goals and aspirations, no matter how frightening the thought of doing that will be in the beginning. You can begin to discard those aspects of yourself, caused by your traumatic experiences, that are dysfunctional and that holds you back in life.  With a new understanding of why you developed the dysfunctional behaviors in the first place, you begin to treat yourself with compassion and kindness, you learn to forgive yourself. This process of self-mastery and cultivating a new world view won’t be neat and tidy, it might involve some risk-taking, trial and error, and an acceptance that you might make mistakes along the way.

 

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Sexual Revictimization: Repeat Assault On Victims Of Sexual Violence

Child AbuseRapeSexual AbuseSexual AssaultTrauma

Sexual Revictimization: Repeat Assault On Victims Of Sexual Violence

By February 19, 2019 No Comments

Sexual Revictimization: Repeat Assault On Victims Of Sexual Violence

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One of the saddest legacies of repeat sexual violence is that survivors often feel that if it’s happened so often, they must somehow deserve it. Unfortunately, we live in a society that often agrees. While it is important not to subscribe to stereotypes that a certain “type” of people are repeatedly raped, according to research, the risk of revictimization by sexual assault is approximately doubled for survivors of child sexual abuse. However, it is equally important to do away with the generalization that only child abuse survivors experience repeated rape. Sometimes, even people from stable, loving families are subject to the dynamics of later domestic and sexual violence. And it cannot be stated strongly enough that any person can be a victim of sexual assault. Nevertheless, child sexual and other abuse can leave victims with vulnerabilities that perpetrators may be quick to exploit. It’s crucial to see repeated victimization not as a reason to hate oneself, but as originating from wounds incurred through no fault of the victims’ and for which the victim deserves compassion.

The occurrence of childhood sexual abuse and its severity are the best documented and researched predictors of sexual revictimization. Multiple traumas, especially childhood physical abuse, and recency of sexual victimization are also associated with higher risk. People who were revictimized show difficulty in interpersonal relationships, coping, self-representation and affect regulation, and exhibit greater self-blame and shame. Some studies that have examined more discretely the age at which the child was victimized have found victimization in adolescence to be a stronger predictor of sexual assault in adulthood than victimization in childhood, although childhood victimization is associated with a higher likelihood of victimization in adolescence; those women who were victimized in childhood and adolescence face the highest risk.

In a society where the subject of rape is still taboo, the idea of even one attack is hard to grasp. The idea of multiple attacks seems far beyond probability. This makes it unimaginably hard for the considerable number of victims who do undergo multiple sexual assaults. It’s not an unusual phenomenon. A little-known fact is that being sexually assaulted puts one at a much higher risk of being assaulted again in the future, as does childhood sexual abuse. Being sexually assaulted greatly increased the risk of future assaults, with one study purporting that being sexually assaulted once meant a woman was 35 times more likely than others to be revictimized.

“The percentage of women who were raped as children or adolescents and also raped as adults was more than two times higher than the percentage among women without an early rape history.” – National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010, CDC.

Victims may take years to recover from a sexual assault. Being assaulted multiple times can compound the trauma. Sexual assault victims are much more likely to suffer from depression, attempt suicide, develop PTSD, self-harm or use maladaptive coping strategies such as eating disorders or substance abuse. The repetition compulsion is a phenomenon that still confounds researchers in terms of successful interventions even though there are theories on intervention strategies that could help minimize the likelihood of revictimization. Nevertheless, informal, but steady support from friends or family is still highly effective in any victim’s recovery process.

 

 

Girl’s Globe: https://girlsglobe.org/2015/08/04/the-repetition-compulsion-why-rape-victims-are-more-likely-to-be-assaulted-again/

National sexual violence resource centre: http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_NSVRC_ResearchBrief_Sexual-Revictimization.pdf

 

 

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