Nigeria: Raped By a ‘Friend’ – Women Living With Disabilities Narrate Ordeal

Thousands of Nigerians, mostly women and girls, are raped annually with some of the victims being people living with disabilities.

If only Sarah Ajayi knew Bayo wanted to take advantage of her disability, she would have prevented any form of relationship between them.

Bayo was like a messiah and friend to the visually impaired Sarah. He was there for Sarah when she needed him and he took care of her like a sister and friend, she told this reporter.

Sarah was 16 when their relationship started. The first of four children, she was living in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, with her mum.

A few years before meeting Bayo, Sarah had to stop schooling when she suddenly lost her sight and was told she would no longer be able to see. Sarah said she had finished her primary school, but, had not started her secondary education when the incident happened.

She woke up from sleep and simply realised she could no longer see.

“Everything was black. I initially thought we were in the night and there was no light. I was shocked when my mother screamed at me and said we were in the morning.

“I shouted and started crying that I cannot see anything. My mother ran helter-skelter to restore my sight, but, due to financial challenges, the situation became worse,” she said.

Bayo, friend turn rapist

Sarah accepted her fate and continued living with her mum, who died in 2021, and her siblings.

However, she no longer had friends until Bayo came about.

He was always by my side, raising my hope and assuring me that things will get better, Sarah recalled.

That was until he raped her.

Narrating how she was abused, Sarah said the incident occurred on a Sunday in 2018 after her mother had gone out, leaving her and Bayo at home. She narrated that after a while, Bayo requested that they go to his residence to continue their discussion.

She followed him not knowing he had a sinister motive.

“Before I knew what was happening, he was on top of me. I was not ready, I screamed and cried as Bayo raped me,” Sarah recalled.

“He was the one that I saw as a friend who was always consoling me at that time, because of the frustration that I was in,” she said.

“We were together and he took advantage of the situation, slept with me and got me pregnant.”

Bayo, however, rejected the pregnancy. He said he would not accept a baby from a blind lady.

“After I discovered I was pregnant, we started calling him and he didn’t pick calls.

“My mom went to him to talk to him. He was not answering, he denied that he was not the owner of the pregnancy.

“He took advantage of the situation to have his way then and I was also frustrated, he was the only one close to me, so, I didn’t want to do things that will make him leave me,” she said in an interview with this reporter.

Sarah, now a student of Vocational Training Centre for the Blind, Oshodi, Lagos, had a daughter, now three years old, from the incident.

Sarah’s story is not isolated. Many women living with disability face similar situations.

Thousands of Nigerians, mostly women and girls, are raped annually with some of the victims being people living with disabilities.

At least 11,200 rape cases were reported across Nigeria in 2020, Amnesty International stated in a 2021 report.

“Betrayal from a trusted friend”

Like Sarah, Adeola was also raped by her ‘trusted’ friend.

Adeola (who asked that her surname not be mentioned) had an accident when she was a kid and has since been using a walking stick. Despite the challenges, Adeola did not allow her situation to hold her down. She studied hard and gained admission into Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in 2013.

Adeola was in her second year at the polytechnic when she met Seun. He was her classmate and a group assignment brought them together.

They soon became inseparable, Seun was always available to assist Adeola, she recalled.

While preparing for their final exam in 2015, Seun asked Adeola to live with him in his house so that they could study together.

One night, he raped her.

She left the house the next day and has since avoided Seun.

Over six years after the incident, Adeola, now 30, still remembers it vividly.

“I was disappointed and felt betrayed that someone I trusted so much could do such to me. It was really devastating,” the accountant told this reporter in February 2022.

“I tried not to allow that affect me then, but I still feel bad and unhappy anytime I remember what happened. It would have been a different case if I had given him that opportunity. But no, he took advantage of the situation which was really painful.”

“Silence, unreported cases of rape by vulnerable people”

Neither Sarah nor Adeola reported their experiences to the police.

Persons living with disabilities who are victims of rape hardly report to relevant authorities, this reporter found.

Findings by this reporter showed that while a minimum of three rape cases were reported monthly in Ogun State last year, people with disabilities seldom reported their experiences to the police.

The spokesperson of the police in Ogun, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said though the state gets an average of the rape cases a month, “we only get rape cases against people with disability once in a while.”

Yinka Folarin, the head of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Ogun, also said his group hardly receives reports of rape cases against PLWDs.

He, however, said the CDHR was carrying out awareness to encourage such rape victims to report their cases and his organization would investigate such reports to ensure that culprits are brought to book.

Support for this story was provided by the Media and Gender Project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development #CREATESAFESPACES.

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