There are erroneous assumptions that boys are at lower risk of being sexually abused than girls. Assumptions I vehemently refute! In Nigeria for example, the chauvinistic nature of the society has made it easy to assume that girls need more protection than boys. The common thoughts are that boys are stronger and more resilient. Even the Laws on sexual abuse lean so much towards the protection of females; that they might as well be written in pink. So, whilst parents are busy protecting their daughters, they show more relaxed attitudes towards safeguarding their sons. However, a non-gendered assessment of any society, will reveal the importance of a universal approach towards protecting all children from abuse.
One gendered thought is that ‘rape is a male.’ Whenever there is a reported rape incident, the instant assumption is that the victim is female, and the rapist is male. The truth is that some boys are sexually abused and raped by adult females! In my younger days, tales of nannies and ‘aunties’ (older females, not necessarily relatives); “dis-virgining” boys in their care, were whispered on playgrounds. It wasn’t strange to hear boys boast about their sexual escapades with their nannies or aunties. Looking back now, some of those boys were as young as nine! Then, they were the envy of some of their friends; when in fact they were the victims of sexual abuse. Their bravado kind of saddens me now, due to their unwitting acceptance of stolen innocence.
Another assumption is that men abuse only girls not boys. Arghhh!!!! I hear some people dismiss men sexually abusing boys as a western thing. It is so not true! In 2011, a well known London based Nigerian pastor was convicted of sexually abusing young boys, one of them was under 16 years of age. Other stories from Nigerian news media show that in recent times, more and more men are arrested for abusing boys. Irrespective of these, some parents would still say that they trust their chauffeurs taking their sons to school alone, and never their daughters. Why there is disparity in safeguarding their children, is something I can never understand. A single mother of one son told me once, that she was “lucky” because she didn’t have to worry about her new partner sexually abusing her son. To her, it was a blessing not to have a daughter in that sense. How wrong! Some paedophiles prefer boys!
One of the most ridiculous assumption I’ve heard, is that only gay men abuse boys! Being gay does not make one a paedophile! Gay men are attracted to adult men, and not children. Paedophiles are attracted to children, not adults. There is a general consensus in Nigeria that if a man is gay, then he is likely to abuse boys. Therefore, as long as a man is heterosexual, he is deemed safe. Ha!! Firstly, I know some Nigerian gay men (although coveted), who would never ever abuse children. Secondly, I’ve heard of heterosexual men abusing boys.
And then, there is the internalised assumption that sexual abuse affects girls more than boys. I remember a man who walked in on an ‘auntie’ abusing his 8 year old son. He was so angry that he nearly killed her. What stood out for me though, was that, he repeatedly told her to thank her stars that it wasn’t his daughter she abused. A thought also echoed by neighbours who gathered round and thanked God that the abuser wasn’t male. Oh how upsetting it must have been for that boy; to hear that his sister was kind of more valued than he was! Who said that it’s less traumatic for a male victim if the abuser was female?
Until my late 20s, I never heard about boys being raped or sexually assaulted. To me, girls were the only victims. Maybe it was due to ignorance. Maybe it was due to the thick shroud of secrecy that usually covers the sexual abuse of children in Nigeria (all in a bid to protect already stolen honour). Maybe it was due to the internalised assumption that it wasn’t rape or assault when the abuser was female. What I know now is that, sexual predators do not take a gendered approach in their debasement of victims. Boys are equally at risk of sexual abuse as girls. The emotional and psychological effects of sexual abuse are not gender specific. The gender aspects are imposed by societal attitudes and responses to it. So let’s hear it for the boys!!!