It is closer to home than you may think
By Rosemary Ekosso
Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I remember a friend of mine telling me about a local man who was sleeping with his teenaged daughter.
Her mother knew. Her siblings too.
The community in the city where they lived also knew. But nothing was ever done. My friend told me that the family would be sitting in the living room, listening to their husband and father abusing his daughter. But the girl’s mother would not react.
We all know the possibly apocryphal story of the man who was taken to court for sleeping with his young daughter. He said: man go cook soup no tast'am? (Shall one cook his soup and not taste it?).
Some of you will remember the stories some years back of a five-month old baby who was raped in South Africa. The child required emergency surgery. There were more that 50,000 cases of rape in that country in 1996, and it is estimated that only one in twenty rape cases was actually being reported.
The madness was partly fuelled by the belief that if an AIDS patient has sex with a virgin, he would be cured.
Recently, there was an outcry in the Dutch and international media because a group of paedophiles formed a party. An irate public advocated lynching and all sorts of imaginative punishments. Others said it was a good thing that the perverts had come out of the closet (or should we say nursery?).
Now, they said, it would be easier to identify them and keep them away from children. The party’s internet service provider took their website off its server.
Some people advocated moderation. They are probably the ones without children of their own or with no connection to the children of their family members or their friends. There should be no moderation in protecting the rights of a defenceless child.
In Britain, the spectre of paedophilia has caused a form of hysteria in which previous offenders have their addresses published, in one case in a newspaper. The offender, who had served time in prison for his crimes, was hounded into leaving the neighbourhood. It is the kind of hysteria one might well give in to, if it is considered that a neighbour might get his hands on one’s children.
Paedophiles are male in about 90% of cases, we are told, but there are also known women paedophiles. As Tammy Ruggles says in an article,
“A female paedophile usually abuses a child when partnered with an adult male paedophile, and is often herself a victim of chronic sexual abuse”.
How save are our children from paedophiles in our community?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2003, approximately 906,000 children were victims of abuse and an estimated 1,500 children died of abuse or neglect.
In the Black community, we don’t keep statistics about these things. We don’t even want to acknowledge them.
But paedophilia is with us, and has been for centuries. In a recent write-up in a forum of which I am a member, one Cameroonian woman said:
"In my days, little girls used to walk around with just their panties, and nothing else and it was quite common to have a man grab your nipples, in kind of an "how are you doing" gesture. It wasn't a comfortable experience for us girls even though it was treated so casually but by instinct we knew it was wrong. On the other hand you had [identifying information deleted] who were pathological rapists. They would lure little girls selling bananas, peanuts, etc. into thinking they wanted to buy these things, and them rape them."
Does that ring a bell?
Many of us have heard stories of house-help interfering with young children. It has happened to people we know. In fact, many parents are careful never to leave their young girl children alone at home with a male employee.
Some of the children thus abused (there is no other term for having sex with a young person who cannot understand what you are doing) give birth. The youngest mother in known history was Lina Medina, who was five years old when she gave birth in 1939.
There are several kinds of paedophilia, or “intergenerational intimacy” as the whitewashers prefer to call it. What do you call a marriage to a very young girl? Tradition? How many of us reading this come from cultures where girls are married off at the age of ten or eleven? I remember a case reported to me of a former governor of a province whose daughters were studying abroad. In his seventies, he got himself an eleven-year old to “warm his bed for him at night”.
Do you think the poor girl served exclusively as a hot-water bottle? Someone made a comment recently about fathers who are feminists when it comes to their daughters. That is good. We need all the help we can get. But why, in the case of paedophiles, do they not extend this to other people’s children?
Marrying very young girls is a form of paedophilia. The age of consent in Cameroon is officially high enough not to be too worrisome, but in some of our traditional societies, all of that is ignored when it comes to choosing young girls.
What I find most distressing about this is the wall of silence that surrounds institutionalised paedophilia. People know, but no one will take action, because it is not their business. Will it become our business only when our children are attacked? What is this apathy that inhabits us?
There might be a glimmer of hope, however. I remember the story of one woman whose soldier husband came back home one day, called her to one side and announced that he had joined a secret society for the advancement of his career, and one of the initiation rites required that he sleep with his teenage daughter.
His wife was silent. Then she said: “wait for me one moment, I’ll be back.” When she returned, she was carrying his gun. She chased him out of the house and out of their lives. If the story is true, then that is a real woman, not like those fakes who keep silent about abuses of their children because they want to stay married.
The Exclusive type of paedophile, says Tammy Ruggles, is attracted to children only. The Non-Exclusive is attracted to both children and adults. So when Black people hear stories of paedophiles declaring themselves and shudder in superior horror, we should remember what we ourselves condone.
Silence is consent.
Rosemary Ekosso is a translator and court interpreter with the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. She blogs frequently at Ekosso.com
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