Most African women’s first sexual experience is one of abuseSanusia, in a clubhouse room on 21 January 2021.
The statement above is quite a big statement right? It was my intention to welcome to you to my blog with a light-hearted Valentine’s Day post decorated in red roses and hearts. You will see red all over this post; unfortunately not roses. This post has hearts; unfortunately they are broken fragments scattered around the statistics I will be presenting you and my personal account. Let’s get to the lovey dovey stuff another day.
Statistics are the numbers and percentages we use to validate a statement or an experience of a group of people. We are all pretty much on the same page on the fact that many women get sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime right? At least I hope I don’t have to insert some numbers in here to convince you of this reality. On the discourse of sexual assault and rape in Africa, statistics simply do not represent the extent of the damage done.
Rape statistics in Africa are badly skewed because our society includes that of rape culture on steroids. You know…. the victim blaming; you are a girl why were you wearing that? Why did you go to his house? Why were you out at night alone? Why do you want to embarrass our family with such an accusation? He is your uncle, you have to respect him. This is just what men do, boys will always be boys….
Why am I talking about this today?
This post is inspired by a series of events that transpired after joining a Clubhouse room. This room focused on Black women statistics with the discourse centered on mental and sexual health. The hosts present a statistic and open the conversation for contribution from the audience (more statistics, a statement, perspective). We were presented with a research by Public Health England on sexual competence at sexual debut. This research stated that lower amount of Black African women reported being sexually competent at sexual debut. The amount of education you have on sex, safe sex and consent contributes to your sexual competence.
My response to this was ” most African women’s first sexual experience is one of abuse so they have cultivated a culture of silence and shame. Sex is introduced as something done to them not something they are an active participant in therefore they are usually not sexually competent….” My statement was important and relevant and I was taken aback by the anxiety that enveloped me when I started speaking so I quickly finished off without presenting statistics on this statement. I did not realise that even though some speakers who had spoken before me presented no numbers, the absence of statistics invalidated my statement and made it unfathomable. I immediately left the room after speaking and went into a meditation room to calm my anxiety. A couple of hours later I research the hashtag to catch up on any relevant information I had missed, then I found this.
she made a big statement based off nothing.
I repeated that statement over and over again. I was filled with rage. Why am I so angry that a stranger disregarded this statement? Surely it’s not that outlandish of a statement right? Why am I crying? I breathed. It did not stop. I woke the next morning and the bells chimed loudly in my head again. See to a sexual assault victim, their statements are always based off something even if it is just their own experience.
So here goes NOTHING…..
- A local organisation in Zaria, Nigeria found that 16% of patients with STDs were girls under the age of 5, a sign of sexual assault.
- In the single year of 1990, The Genito Urinary Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, treated more than 900 girls under 12 for Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
- 2,579 cases reported yearly in Sierra Leone of rape is rape of a minor.
- 76% of the reported 3,137 rape cases reported in 2018 were children under the age of 15 as young as babies. This number has doubled in the past year.
I could spend an entire day giving you numbers to justify the reality of these experiences but as someone who understands that the statistics on sexual assault in Africa in greatly underrepresented particularly in minors because of a culture of silence, shame and blame; I will give a story of someone who would’ve made 0.1% of the statistics if she participated in any of this research at the age of 6 and 13.
TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptive sexual assault and rape.
It has taken me a decade to understand and accept that these experiences I had are categorised under these terms. When I say “most African women’s first sexual experience is that of abuse” I speak for the “most” women who were not in the areas the research was done, so they didn’t make it to the statistics.
I speak for the “most” women who live in a society where sexual assault is so normalised that it will take them a decade plus to realise that the first time they had sex they were assaulted.
When I say “most” I speak for the 5 year olds, the babies, the 6 year olds, whose sexual assault traumas will be buried deep in that part of their brain that protects their innocence.
When I say “most” I speak for the girls who were raped by the 46% of men who admitted to committing rape when they were 10-14 in South Africa.
When I say “most” I speak for 6 and 13 year old Sanusias around the continent who will only have the courage to face the reality that their sexual debut was an experience of sexual abuse decades later.
6 year old Sanusia loved dancing. She happily joined Uncle Sofie’s dance competition he organised for the girls that night. If you win, you get a special prize. Of course I won. I have always been competitive and a great dancer. Uncle Sofie took me to his bedroom to give me my gift. I vividly remember my skirt being lifted, he complimented my panties and pulled them down. The rest well.. my 6 year old brain is still protecting me from that.
You know how the first sexual experience is usually depicted in the movies as two clueless teenagers exploring their bodies….. well reality is a little different for some of us. At 13 I was the most beautiful, radiant girl. Thanks to puberty the hips were doing their thang. I had gotten into an argument with my “boyfriend” at his mom’s house, she was not home. He was 19. Mid argument he slapped me and pushed me over the table. He took off my underwear and pushed, and thrusted, and pushed and thrusted until he was in. I winced at the pain from the force of him pushing and I hate myself for not crying, for not fighting, for simply laying emotionless watching him thrust and thrust until he was done. I was not ready for sex. I did not know about contraceptions or STDs I just knew I was “in love” and I was powerless. I got up when he was done and put on my stuff and left. This experience will repeat a few times until someone asks me for the first time when I was 20 “are you sure you want to have sex with me”.
I do not speak nor attempt to speak for all African women. I speak for the 0.1% of the statistic that each girl who couldn’t voice their experience would’ve contributed. In another post we will explore how abuse as a first sexual experience influences sexual behaviours. Again in that post and future topics like this, I will provide you with some numbers to add some validity to reality but I will always speak for me and for the “most” who do not make it to the statistics.