I went dancing last night. At the club, three hit songs by R. Kelly came on, I sat down through them all. At one point my friends danced and laughed gleefully at `stepping in the name of love’, but I insisted on sitting down through it and implored then to sit out the song with me.
Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly in the entertainment world is recognized and celebrated as a music (R and B) icon with major hit songs, platinum records and music awards, but his interaction with younger-aged women has trailed his success. R. Kelly is presently accused of child sexual abuse. According to BlackDoctor.org Kelly is accused of; `holding underage girls hostage in a sex ring. He’s been accused of doing a lot of things with underage girls. And no matter how you feel about R. Kelly, he seems to surround himself with young women. Why is that?’
Kelly has pled not guilty. But I have chosen to wait until the findings are concluded. I have chosen to ere on the side of caution on this one. The issue of child sexual abuse is not a dancing matter. There is nothing to `step in the name of love’ about when it comes to child sexual assault, molestation, abuse and rape. I know because I was sexually molested from the age of 7 to 9 by neighbors and friends of the family in Nigeria. I was molested in three cities that my father was transferred to as a government ministry of finance employee.
The frequency in which this happened to me, including the diverse location with different perpetrators leaves me with the strong belief that child sexual abuse and pedophilia is rampant, under reported and consequently unaddressed in Nigeria. Almost all children sexually assaulted do not disclose this experience even when they become adults. There is a stigma attached to grown women or men speaking up about child sexual abuse in Nigeria, talk less of child victims of sexual abuse and misconduct. Child sexual abuse, assault and molestation is not more prevalent in Nigeria, but in Nigeria like most of the rest of Africa the rate of disclosure is very low. The silence shrouding child molestation across Africa perpetuates it. Many of the child victims are not clear if and how to let adults know that it is happening. The perpetrators usually threatening or motivate the kids not to yell. Parents must be proactive in raising awareness in children around their sexual boundaries. In being reactive, the damage might already be done.
It took me 20 years after my abuse to start working on healing myself. Many in Nigeria including close friends in Nigeria always told me it was wallowing in self sabotage to believe that child sexual molestation, rape and abuse could have an impact on us in adulthood. Many who protested strongly when I brought up issues around the prevalence in Nigeria and the under reporting of this issue were so uncomfortable and quick to dismiss it leaving me to believe many were victims of child sexual abuse. The encouragement I got to pursue recovery came from my friends from the West.
Many Nigerians I have spoken to dismiss the possible impact on their adult life. There were no resources in Nigeria that empowered young parents to seek help for their children if sexually abused. There was no space to talk about this experience.
In one incidence of my sexual abuse, my father almost killed the perpetrator; he was mad, and the neighbors were all mad with the perpetrator, he was almost lynched. I was 7 years and taken to the hospital where I was tested to ensure my virginity was intact and once it was confirmed my hymen was in place, I was ignored.
To my family, friends and committee my case was not as bad as I still hard my hymen (virginity) intact. To them, I was not a `damaged’ good. In my heavily traditional world, I was still of high value to future suitors as my virginity was intact. I lived with and managed this traumatizing experience for two decades and sought help myself for me. I emerged out of this abuse a winner because I sought help. I sought help when I moved to Canada. It was my friends from the West that helped me understand that I cannot internalize the impact of this abuse in shame and stigma as it was not my fault. My Nigerian friends believe you hide it, don’t talk about it and move on.
I sought help because I understood it was not my fault: I moved from victim to survivor to winner, I am committed to helping other victims emerge winners and whole from child sexual abuse.
In the series of sexual molestation, I suffered from age 6 to 9, I did not speak out because I did not know if it was right or wrong. Nobody told me it was wrong: when I became parent two decades later, I told my son it was wrong. From the age of three, I started explaining to him that his ‘P’ as we called it was his and he must not allow any man or woman to touch it, use it etc. I told him too, that he must not do likewise to any man, woman, boy or girl: any one. I have reiterated this all through the years. Now in his teenage years, I continue to update him on sexual boundaries, the lines between consensual sex amongst adults and sexual abuse, and the legal age and ways of consensual sex should be interpreted.
I don’t know if R Kelly is guilty or not, but until it is confirmed either way, I am sitting out his songs. Child sexual abuse is not a dancing and/or singing matter.