More victims reporting domestic, sexual violence

Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode leading other protesters in walk against domestic violence

•As Awareness Increases
A quarterly report of the Lagos Criminal Information System (LCIS) for the months of June to September 2018 disclosed that 56 miscellaneous cases (stealing-related offences), 95 sex offences, 79 robbery cases, 48 fatal motor accidents, and 35 homicide cases were received.

The report further stated that with respect to inmates charged for domestic and sexual offences, defilement took the lion share with 57 per cent; sodomy 22 per cent, while rape cases stood at 18 per cent.

Also, the state government recently revealed that no fewer than 3, 089 cases of sexual and domestic violence were reported in eight months. This, it said was over 200 per cent increase compared to previous year’s figure of 1, 044.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Justice, Mrs. Funmilola Odunlami, while reeling out the statistics, said from January 2018 till August 2018, Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) handled 3, 089 reported cases, which doubled that of 2017, which was 1, 044 cases for the entire year.

Giving a breakdown of the data, she said the team handled 1, 037 cases in the office; 939 domestic violence cases; 245 child abuse cases; 40 cases of defilement; 22 rape cases; 13 cases of attempted rape and sexual.

In all, she said it was about an average of 150 new cases monthly.

For many that have been following the trend of events in the state, the campaign against sexual and domestic violence has taken front seat. Not only has Governor Akinwunmi Ambode openly campaigned against domestic violence, ministries, departments and agencies of government have launched different campaigns, projects and programmes geared towards eradicating sexual and domestic violence.

With all of these, a drop in cases of domestic violence in the state was highly expected, unfortunately, that is not the case, as confirmed by the statistics.

Among other things, the DSVRT was set up by the state government to tackle headlong, the issue of domestic violence. This is in addition to programmes put in place by the first lady (in her pet project) targeted at curbing domestic violence.

Similarly, the state Ministry of Youth and Social Development and the Ministry of Woman Affairs initiated programmes and projects to checkmate issues of domestic violence in the state.

Recently, the state government equipped all Family Support Units within the State Police Command with gadgets, including phones, laptop computer sets and printers.

According to the Coordinator, DSVRT, Mrs. Titilayo Vivour-Adeniyi, the items were donated in furtherance of government’s desire to ensure that reports of incidents of domestic, sexual violence and child abuse are met with timely and holistic response.

Vivour-Adeniyi said the DSVRT, under the chairmanship of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, facilitated the equipping exercise of the Police Command with the belief that the gadgets would go a long way to strengthen the medium through which officers of these units would be accessible to survivors or mandated reporters of domestic and sexual violence.

She said the team also partnered with the state Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohinmi to design specific signage, which would be mounted on the front counter of all police divisions, as they are usually the first port of call for survivors.

The DSVRT coordinator said the phones would serve as dedicated lines through which residents can contact officers of the nearest Family Support Unit to make reports, and follow up, and to ensure the sustainability of matters that are instituted.

There is also an annual walk, which is usually led by Governor Ambode as part of the campaign against domestic violence and abuse.

Apart from the walk, which virtually all-state functionaries take part in, the state government also designates the month of September to specially create awareness against domestic violence.

An Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mansur Williams said the rising cases of domestic violence is not peculiar to Lagos State, but a rising national malaise.

“Our people need to come to reality with high morals, and the government needs to regulate access to the use of electronic devices. The fact remains that our society is very polluted with immorality, even as some state agencies and some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are self-seekers. We need more accommodation than what we have now, especially in Lagos, where six to 10 people share a small room.”

A psychologist, Johnson Ibidapo said increase in domestic and sexual violence is not unconnected with environmental, economic and psychological challenges that people go through.

He added that even without approved statistics, Lagos seems to be unique because of the level of awareness, which is high and probably responsible for more suspects being captured in the reports of domestic and sexual violence (D&SV).

“I personally do not believe that the campaigns against D&SV are ineffective; what we are witnessing is probably more reports of new cases. This year alone, I have handled a couple of cases where spouses came to report their partners in the office, and after counseling and showing them what the law says (especially the man) the abuses stop.”

According to Ibidapo, causes of domestic violence include, low self esteem, inferiority complex, harsh economic conditions, family influence, lack of self control, spouse sexual denial, over-sexualised society and media, third-party interference, among others.

The way out, he said is for the government to sustain the campaigns against domestic and sexual violence.

He also stressed the need for more civil society organisations to help with advocacy against domestic and sexual violence, by increasingly engaging the services of practising psychologists.

He added that government should improve the working conditions of workers, arguing that increasing the minimum wage would also help in dousing conflicts that are tied to financial challenges in homes.

For couples who have hard times in their marriages, he advised that they should seek professional help, “as seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, it is wisdom in itself.”

A resident, Funmi Babalola said to start with, Lagos has become one of the busiest cities in Africa, maybe around the world, and for a society that is globalising at such a fast pace, its socio-cultural aspect, if things are not well planned, or organised will begin to die, lose value, and such will evolve into a greater problem.

She added that due to this fast-paced development, the idea of family, or actions that were hitherto tagged wrong were losing meaning.

Babalola said: “Most couples, parents and individuals these days don’t create time for themselves or educate themselves on what is morally wrong or right. Also, the things we expose ourselves to all in the name of meeting trends are increasingly worrisome. These cause a huge number of people to apply themselves to vices, which lead to depression, anger, anxiety and frustration.

“And rather than call for help, the victims prefer to take out their grief and frustration on their partners because of the shame of what people may say, and once this cycle is started, it becomes very hard to stop because violence (for some crazy reasons) is what some individuals see as a therapy; they see a few minutes of inflicting pains and frustration on others through sex, or physical injury as something that makes them feel better.”

She noted that government must continue to campaign and put in place policies and actions that would deter these abusers from the foundation, which is the family.

Babalola suggested that the government should come up with family-based programmes that can help educate the masses and kick seriously against domestic and sexual violence.

Co-Director, Justice and Empowerment Initiatives, Megan Chapman argued that sexual and domestic violence remains a huge issue that is getting quite rampant, largely because it is so rarely prosecuted and remedied.

She pointed out that the increase in statistics may not really mean a surge in the number of incidents, but as a result of increased reportage because of the intervention of state agents and civil society groups, which has made it easier for survivors to come forward to make reports.

“Increased reporting (as opposed to increased occurrence) is actually a positive thing because it is only when cases are reported that there can be accountability, healing, and justice. Also, when survivors start to come forward, it also helps to put in perspective, the enormity of the problem that the society has to tackle.”

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