By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
Men have been identified as one of the tools that can be used in the fight against Gender Based Violence, GBV in the society. Speaking to Shey Lesley Ringnyu, founder/CEO of Lesley’s foundation, said men must take a decisive stand against sexual and gender-based violence before real progress can be made.
According to statistics from Knoema.com, the rape rate in Cameroon in 2015 stood at 1.9 cases per 100,000 populations. Most at times, when individuals are raped, they tend not to report the incident. A survey in 2009 by the Inter Press Service news agency (IPS) revealed that 20 per cent of women in Cameroon have been raped at one point in their lives, while another 14 per cent said they had escaped a rape attempt.
Reporter: What’s opinion about sexual abuse?
Shey Lesly: In my opinion Sexual abuse is sexual behavior or a sexual act forced upon a woman, man or child without their consent. Sexual abuse includes abuse of a woman, man or child by a man, woman or child.
Sexual abuse is an act of violence which the attacker uses against someone they perceive as weaker than them. It does not come from an uncontrollable sex drive, but is a crime committed deliberately with the goal of controlling and humiliating the victim.
Reporter: What are the effects?
Shey Lesly: The most immediate person affected by sexual abuse is the victim/survivor, but the effects of sexual abuse also go far beyond individual survivors, impacting their closest relationships as well as impacting communities and our society at large.
Each survivor reacts to sexual abuse in their own unique way. Personal style, culture, and context of the survivor’s life may affect these reactions. Some express their emotions while others prefer to keep their feelings inside. Some may tell others right away what happened, others will wait weeks, months, or even years before discussing the assault, if they ever choose to do so.
It is important to respect each person’s choices and style of coping with this traumatic event. Whether an assault was completed or attempted, and regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it may impact daily functioning. A wide range of reactions can impact victims. Some common emotional, psychological and physical reactions follow: Guilt, shame, self-blame, Embarrassment, Fear, distrust, Sadness, Vulnerability, Isolation, Nightmares, Substance use or abuse, Concerns about pregnancy or contracting an STI or HIV- some health outcomes can be fatal such as suicide, homicide, maternal mortality and AIDS related deaths
Reporter: How can we prevent GBV especially sexual abuse?
Shey Lesley: Preventing sexual and gender-based violence involves identifying and removing those factors that make certain members of the community vulnerable to this kind of violence and designing a range of strategies that improve protection for all. These strategies will be most effective when they are designed, implemented and monitored by all sectors involved in protecting and assisting communities and by the people , themselves
Focusing prevention and response strategies only on women ignores the fact that men perpetrate most incidents of sexual and gender-based violence. Men must therefore be part of the solution to this problem. Men must take a decisive stand against sexual and gender-based violence before real progress can be made.
Help establish and support groups of men who are committed to ending sexual and gender-based violence in their community. These groups can reinforce the idea that sexual and gender-based violence is not only a “women’s issue”. Important lessons can be learned from those who work with men in family planning programmes. When men are seen to be working to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, they give the issue the credibility that can convince other men to join them.
Start early: provide training to parents about gender, equality and the dangers of violence so they can pass these messages on to their young children. Classes on sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender awareness should be offered to adolescents in schools or through other community-based programmes.
Reporter: What is your foundation doing in this regard-ending GBV?
Shey Lesley: the foundation (LESLEY’S FOUNDATION) have empowerment sessions that we also training teenagers and children below teen with skills that keeps them busy within holidays, since we have discovered that most at time is idleness that causes some them to be victimized.
We have school to school project for students that we have sessions with them on self-worth and we are also identifying victims of sexual abuse with team of counselors to carry out counseling session with them.
We also advocate against GBV and encourage victims to speak out against it (breaking the silence). It is true to an extent because men get attracted by what they see and it is difficult because under normal circumstances a man can’t abuse a woman or girl sexually when she is well dress (decently dress).
Reporter: Any last word?
Shey Lesley: My last word is Sexual and Gender-based violence is neither exclusively a woman’s issues, nor men’s issues, but it is a society wide issues. So let us all take action against SGBV or support those who are taking actions.
According to sociologist François Guebou, speaking to AllAfrica.com, she said “families prefer an amicable arrangement to preserve their image. Bringing the problem into the public domain is confused in an African context as an attempt to attack the reputation of the family”. However, in Cameroon, it is very hard to prosecute suspected rapist due to lack of evidence and the reluctance of survivors to testify. While rape conviction is punishable by up to a life sentence in prison, only about 5 per cent of rapists are convicted in court” She added. The onus therefore is for the victims to speak out so as to bring their perpetrators to justice. If they don’t, another person may fall victim