The prevalence of sexual assault, rape and gender-based violence has recently been highlighted on a national scale and it is undeniable that these gross acts of violence and the ensuing lack of justice for survivors are misdeeds that expose a need for the restructuring of our criminal justice system. We spoke to a few sexual abuse counsellors at The Mirabel Centre, a sexual assault referral centre established to provide psychosocial and medical services to survivors of sexual abuse, on the fight for justice for survivors, the need for education on consent and more.

-MO ADEFOPE-

 

Many survivors who step forward to report an attack have the misfortune of coming in contact with the police as a first port of call. These [mostly] men have little to no training on how to manage these situations. They are also severely underpaid and have no real interest in working towards improving their part of the process. Is there an alternative to this step?

Most cases that land at the Mirabel Centre are referred by the police. In our first year, nearly two-thirds of all the cases came from the police. The Justice for All programme has worked with the police in developing their capacity to handle sexual offence cases. Rape is a crime, and if a survivor chooses to pursue a case legally, the police will have to be informed. However, this is not a process they have to go through on their own. One of the strengths of the Mirabel Centre is its central role in developing relationships with other key service providers within and outside the government. This coordinating role is critical if the problem of sexual violence is to be addressed effectively. The Mirabel Centre is a client focused sexual assault referral centre. This means that when survivors come to us after abuse, they get extensive forensic medical care by a medical doctor who creates a medical report based on the result from the examination done. That report can be used as evidence in a legal process.

It is evident that quite a number of people are grossly ignorant on the subject of sexual assault and what exactly constitutes consent. In a bid to ameliorate the rate of sexual abuse cases, how does your organisation disseminate information to educate the public about consent and sexual assault?

Our strategy towards stamping out sexual violence has always been multifaceted. We have created and facilitated multiple awareness programmes for children and teenagers in secondary schools across Lagos State. This is an ongoing and continuous process, not just for students but for stakeholders as well. We believe that having the right information about sex education, consent, and masculinity would help the next generation. We’ve also turned our focus online, to educate the communities that see our content. The content that the Mirabel Centre creates about sexual assault is multipronged, for example. Depending on…

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