Turning the Searchlight on Rape

National Council for Arts and Culture in a quest to stop rising rape cases in Nigeria, organised one-day training for journalists in Abuja.

Rape and professional reporting of rape took the centre stage in Abuja on Wednesday, July 7, when the National Council of Arts and Culture, NCAC, and OmniMedia organised a one- day training to equip journalists with modern skills to investigate and report rape cases.

Shola Oshukeye, chief executive officer, OmniMedia, said the training was to equip media practitioners with appropriate skills to eliminate the prevailing cases of rape and other forms of violence in the country. He further stressed the need for relevant stakeholders, particularly the media, the judicial system, police, civil society organisations, and others to ensure to carry out proper investigation and prosecution of rape cases to serve as warning to others.

Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, director general, National Council for Arts and Culture, NCAC, convener of the training, said his objectives were simple – to use the NCAC platform to change the narrative of rape in Nigeria. He unfolded the packages he had mapped out for the program, which ranged from getting the best resource experts for the training, presentation of plaques and certificate of attendance to each participating media house, including TELL Magazine

On how to eradicate rape, he said, ˝The issue of rape has to do with physical violence, emotional violence and sexual violence. Some families are not willing to speak up about their children; that victim may end up committing suicide. A lot of journalists are being very careful to report rape. They are afraid of the legal implications and we need a special understanding of the legal implication of reporting so that the victim will not become victimized. For me, every rapist is an animal who is supposed to be in the zoo˝.

Otunba Olusegun Runsewe Photo
Otunba Olusegun Runsewe

Femi Adesina, special adviser, media and publicity to the President, encouraged journalists on need to always develop their capacity on reporting different issues, especially rape.

According to him, ˝There is a saying that an ant has been created with all that it needs for life; but unlike ants, human beings need capacity to build them up. Particularly when you are a journalist, capacity building is very important because every journalist is required to know a little bit about everything, and if you do not develop yourself, you may fall short˝.

He said that journalists should be alert at all times to align themselves with recent events in the country, like the increasing rate of rape. “The issue of rape is sensitive, and if you do not report rape, you will further destroy the victim. Therefore, we need tact, skill and compassion. There is need to report rape in human and professional dimensions˝ he concluded.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, shared her experience with a rape victim she encountered some years back and how she struggled to bring the girl out of depression. ˝This rape victim was 11 years when she was raped by two men; she was coming back from school when she was raped by her neighbours. I tried to get her to speak up by getting closure; I found out the environment was a huge risk because her parents were not ready to expose their child. I took them out of that house and paid rent for them, sponsored her school and she has graduated from the university. Today, she has started a small business and she is doing very well. But the only problem is that she still experiences the psychological trauma. She is afraid of men and marriage and she feels every man that comes around her want to take advantage of her˝.

Femi Adesina Photo
Femi Adesina

Femi Adesina, “The issue of rape is sensitive and if you do not report rape you will further destroy the victim
Dabiri-Erewa, advised journalists to create awareness that can make rape victims willing to talk about it.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa Photo
Abike Dabiri-Erewa

Furthermore, Abiodun Adeniyi, Professor, Head, Mass Communication Department, Baze University, Abuja, said journalists were change agents, hence had the ability to adhere to the ethics of the profession and highlight prevailing issues on rape.

Professor Abiodun Adeniyi Photo
Professor Abiodun Adeniyi

Rabi Abdullahi, Manager, News and Current Affairs, NTA Headquarters and one of the resource persons, said journalists should not just stop at writing reports on rape, but also ensure to follow up their stories to make sure justice was served. She further encouraged journalists to create awareness on the need to stop shaming and stigmatising victims of all kinds of violence.

Bassey Ita Ikpang, Assistant Manager, News, Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, one of the trained journalists, expressed her excitement and appreciation for the rare opportunity to improve her wealth of knowledge ˝I am too passionate about gender issues and attending a forum like this where experts came to tell us about various ways of ending rape in the society was not a waste of time. Rape is something that nobody wishes for his child so when there is an opportunity to talk about how to curb rape to the barest minimum, it is always worth it. The training section is something that will live long in me and I will put it into daily practice especially reportage on rape and other forms of gender-based violence˝ she remarked.

Bassey feels the highlight of the training was how to do follow-up. ˝We do not just need to report, we also need to follow up to reach a good conclusion. There was this case of a two- year-old baby girl that was raped 2013. This reporter was not able to follow up to see how the baby was able to cope and if she needed any other help; just like Abike told us about a victim of rape who still lived in fear despite several years of taking proper care of her. So, as reporters, we should not just report but follow up to the point that we can attract a psychologist to the victim; any means to bring about solution so the victim will be able to come out of the whole situation. The victims find it very difficult to mix up with men; even when they eventually get married, they still have that issue with their husbands˝ she concluded.

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Bassey said she has learnt valuable investigative skills that would be useful to her reports from every of the experts.

Like Bassey, Chinelo Chikelu, a reporter with Leadership Newspaper, and one of the journalists who also benefitted from the training programme, also feels she had learnt new investigative skills that go beyond reporting. ˝The highlight was the follow up technique; it goes beyond reporting and not just leaving it at the first stage. There is a part where they told us about the legal issues of the use of words and how to avoid them, which was another interesting skill˝.

On how it will influence her reports, she added, ˝I have never covered a rape story before but with these new skills I have learnt, it will help me get into more serious gender-based issues and also insist that my medium publishes them. I will also follow-up for closure˝.

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