My name is Hauwa Ojeifo and I am not your average rape survivor. Caught in a familiar space with a familiar face, your average rape survivor will likely swear an oath of silence; a story never to be told. Why? Because those who went before were ridiculed by culture, shamed by religion and failed by a broken justice system.
"What's the point?", "It's your word against their's". Sadly, getting raped is not the worst thing that could happen to a rape survivor. The Trauma of injustice is what we have to battle every single day of our lives.
The system says: Where is your evidence?
We say: Make testing and preserving rape kits mandatory in every health centre in every country.
The system says: Will you really say that's rape?
We say: Let us decide what is and isn't acceptable to our body
The system says: Prove it
We say: But first, believe us.
The system says: There are no laws to collect and preserve your rights before the court.
We say: Fix it, already!
For far too long, sexual assault survivors have had their rights stripped away from them because the world... because you sat and watched.
But why should you even care? After all, I am not your average rape survivor. Your average rape survivor may never get to speak before you and you may never get the privilege of listening to her story. I know that for sure because I was her. He told me, "I heard I raped you." and let out a laughter I will never forget. And there I was shamed into silence... because in the world we live in, the victim always bears the cost of crime...and don't tell me the system is broken, on the contrary, it is designed to work against us.
I stand before you as ONE, but I am not alone. Don't feel sorry for me because I am someone's sister, daughter, friend...No. Do what's right because I am human. I am not here to plead for my rights but to uphold the rights we already have by creating a system that actually works.
Today, here and now, you have a choice. You get to decide what side of history you will be on. Ignorance will no longer be an excuse.
As you take a stand, remember WE the Survivors who speak on behalf of those the system has silenced. What happens to young girls in Edo state in Nigeria who drink insecticides to end their lives because shame and injustice do not make for a life worth living? What happens to millions of us who live with mental health conditions because of severe trauma and because our bodies keep the score?
If you take no action today, it will not be because we didn't scream loud enough. It would be because you heard us loud and clear and chose to look the other way.
So to you out there, hearing the echoes of my voice, RISE. Know that though the system has failed you, we will not. Justice will not be an exception, it will henceforth be the norm. Today, we are taking back our narrative and rewriting our history. Together!