There is a meme that has made the rounds on the internet which goes, “Why is it that when 50 men call a woman a slut everyone believes them, but when 50 women accuse a man of rape no one believes them?” There is more than one answer to that question.
Nigeria is a country rich in rape culture. It is in our churches and mosques that preach purity culture, which puts women at a disadvantage and exposes them to chances of exploitation.
It is in our streets that look the other way when women are harassed for merely living, and their pain is brushed off even by other women as the consequence of falling out of line. And it is in the more real consequence of the reality that according to a survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access, over 31.4 per cent of girls in Nigeria said that their first sexual encounter had been rape or forced sex of some kind.
Take the case of Nollywood actor, Gbolahan Olatunde popularly known as Bollylomo, who was accused of sexual harassment and assault on Twitter by multiple women back in April, and has now made a come back with a pseudo-poetry video he shared yesterday on his Instagram page. The survivors had taken to the microblogging site to anonymously share their horrible experiences at the actor’s hand by proxy, likely to avoid being maligned by a rape-apologist and unforgiving public.
The accusation on Bollylomo came on the heels of accusation laid on Singer, Brymo. Twitter user @Biliquis_X took to the platform to share a screenshot of the confession sent to her by the alleged survivor of his sexual violence. The survivor disclosed that Brymo had sex with her under duress – raped her, and threatened to do the same to her friend who was in another room.
The tweet garnered traction, and as it made the rounds of Nigeria Twitter, it inspired more women to come forward with their stories. Most of them chose @Bilquis_X as the bearer of their confessions. A very natural reaction in a country where parents will first victim-blame their child who comes forward with their story of assault, even physically assault the said child, before they turn to face the perpetrator, often with a milder reaction.
An ear that will listen without judgement, better still with compassion, is a rare and wonderful find.
The accusations that flooded in, ranged from knowingly chasing a minor, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, to outright forceful penetration. Every single accusation was increasingly worse than the last. All of it put together is enough to put a perpetrator away for years in a saner setting, but Bollylomo rolled out that tested and trusted playbook of the Nigerian man accused of sexual abuse:
- If it persists, deny and threaten ‘legal steps.’
- When your bluff is called, go under the radar and take time off,
- Return like you never left, and be welcomed back into the fold of Nigeria’s rape-culture-steeped society.
- A+ if you can throw in some inspiring quote or two as your comeback words of wisdom, for the up and coming potential man that will be ‘targeted’ by the daughters of Jezebel in an attempt to orchestrate his downfall.
Bollylomo has successfully played out all the rules in the playbook and returned to a hero’s welcome. The influencer community and colleagues trooped under the comment section of his rule number 5 offering – an inspirational video, to comment with hearts and glee that he is back.
The video, which he shared on his Instagram page, is a one-man show of Bollylomo on the beach, Bollylomo lounging on an abandoned wooden boat, Bollylomo sitting morose in lush greenery, while sombre music plays in the background and his voice-over reads a pseudo-poetry exalting the virtue of learning to know better and live better. It is the closest to an acknowledgement of a problem that will come from him.
In a statement he posted on his Twitter page following the accusations in April, he had acknowledged that it wasn’t the first time he would be accused of sexual assault, but it was the first time he would take ‘legal steps.’ He had since deleted the post from his page. His accuser on the other maintains her original post and has gone further to challenge every influencer who gave him a warm welcome and asked if they’re in cahoots with him and are therefore rape apologists.
Time and again when the conversation on sexual abuse comes up, people’s immediate response is to question survivors because “false allegations could ruin.”
The statistics, which we can now put in context thanks to the multiple cases of ‘false allegations’ we have seen play out this year alone, show that to be untrue. Accused perpetrators bounce back like nothing happened. Sometime in 2019, it was popular pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo. Earlier this year, Twitter influencer – Tife Fabunmi, and now Bollylomo’s case can be said to have formed the figurative trinity.
Whether it plays out in the court of law or that of public opinion, in a country like Nigeria where ingrained rape culture persists, our prerogative must be to continue to encourage victims to speak up.
Whether Bollylomo is guilty or not, it is important we don’t openly insult survivors that came forward by granting a hero’s welcome to an accused abuser. Because what we are saying, in essence, is that women must always be extra cautious about coming forward because even if convicted, the backlash will be heaviest on the accuser for “ruining a man’s life.”