The news is out. Industrial product designer and ambassador of the Global Talent Visa platform (TechNation), Funfere Koroye, has a history of violence and abuse against women. This raises an important question: “How can victims of abuse and sexual violence obtain justice?”
When Ozzy Etomi, a gender and culture writer, asked her Twitter followers on July 1, 2023, about organisations that could help victims of stalking, harassment, and battering, not many people had an idea of what was going on. And the responses she got were filled with curiosity about who the stalker was, without many positive responses about which organisations the victim could go to.
A week later, Etomi revealed the alleged actions of stalking, sexual harassment, and violence by Koroye against his Ex.
The news so far has sparked public outrage. It has also gotten the attention of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (Lagos DSVA), which has promised to work with the Ex to receive support, protection, and justice.
Sexual harassment, stalking, and physical assault by men are problems that women face. But to understand what to do in these contexts, let’s explain what the Law says.
Is this a crime, and is it punishable by law?
For Stalking and Sexual Harassment
Under Section 46 of the Violence Against Persons Act, stalking is listed as a type of ‘harrassment.’
Under Section 17 of the same act, a person who stalks another commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years, a fine not exceeding N500,000, or both.
Sexual harassment is listed as a form of sexual violence under Section 264 of the 2004 Criminal Code Act. It says that “anyone who sexually harasses another commits a felony that is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three years.”
According to Section 359 of the Criminal Code Act of Nigeria, any attempt to commit rape is liable to 14 years imprisonment.
Under Section 1 (2) of the 2015 Violence Against Persons Act, the offender will get a life imprisonment sentence if convicted and 14 years imprisonment if the offender is under 14.
It is worth noting that the 2015 Violence Against Persons Act is yet to be signed into law in Lagos, Ekiti, Kano, Katsina, Taraba, and Zamfara. However, Lagos State has The 2007 Protection Against Domestic Violence Law. Ekiti also has the 2019 Gender Based Violence (Prohibition) Amendment Law in place of the Act.
You are a victim or know someone who needs help; what can you do?
The Executive Secretary of the Lagos DSVA, Tiwalola Rhodes-Adeniyi, told Citizen that victims of these crimes should first be able to “build their case by having evidence.”
If you wonder what building your case with evidence looks like, it involves getting hold of and presenting text messages, voice recordings, pictures, or videos. It can also include physical evidence like bruises, wounds, or damaged clothing.
This all helps your case and helps you achieve justice. According to Rhodes-Adeniyi, “If a victim has these, one can successfully get an emergency restraining order.”
Usually, police officers give an emergency restraining order in domestic and sexual violence cases where there is immediate danger or an inability to go to court immediately. These usually last for 5-7 days.
In cases where the issue of violence wasn’t recent, one can get a temporary restraining order of 7-14 days. You can also get a domestic violence or no-contact restraining order, which is usually issued after court hearings and lasts for a longer period of time depending on the case.
What if you can’t reach the police?
Olivia Ovuodo-Peters, a sexual and gender-based violence expert, shares that one can always follow up with police personnel if they don’t respond quickly.
According to Ovuodo-Peters, “If you report to the police on duty at the Sexual Base Desk and don’t hear from them, you can write a letter explaining your case to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO),” and if that doesn’t work, you can write to the State’s Commissioner of Police and copy the appropriate DPO.
However, not everyone sees going to the police as their first line of action. The Communications Officer at Stand to End Rape (STER), Elfrida Adeleye, recommends that victims should always contact a non-governmental organisation (NGO) when filing these cases.
According to Ayodele, these NGOs already have contacts in important governmental ministries such as the Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Women Affairs. Thus, they can help “push the right buttons to get these cases heard faster. You don’t need to go in alone.”
How can social media best help you?
Rhodes-Adeniyi passionately advocates for the use of social media as a platform to shed light on sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. In her view, it is a powerful tool to “raise public awareness on cases” and support victims who have experienced such atrocities. She firmly believes that victims should have the freedom to speak the truth to power in their own way without being dictated how to do so.
With genuine concern, Rhodes-Adeniyi asserts, “We shouldn’t tell a victim how to speak truth to power.” She recognises that social media can be instrumental in calling for justice and creating a collective voice against these injustices. However, she cautions that social media alone is “not to make a formal report.”
Rhodes-Adeniyi insightfully reveals the potential risks faced by victims who do not formally report their cases. She highlights the possibility of the offender filing a lawsuit, accusing the victim of defamation through libel or slander.
To reduce this risk, she strongly recommends victims “formally file their case with evidence with the police, an NGO, or a court of law” before resorting to social media. Rhodes-Adeniyi suggests additional steps, such as visiting a hospital to obtain medical documentation if there are visible injuries. She also emphasised that having an “official statement of the case somewhere” is crucial.
Rhodes-Adeniyi advises victims to safeguard themselves legally by formally reporting these cases. This will ensure their claims are supported by substantial evidence and provide a solid foundation in the event of a legal backlash.
By taking these steps, victims can effectively navigate Nigeria’s complex justice system while leveraging social media to shed light on their experiences and rally support for their cause.
Which organisations can you reach out to for help?
STER (Stand to End Rape Initiative)
The Stand to End Rape (STER) initiative is an enterprise advocating against sexual violence, and supporting survivors with psychosocial services. They handle all forms of sexual violence.
You can reach out to them by filling out this form or sending an email to the team here.
The Mirabel Centre
The Mirabel Centre is Nigeria’s first sexual assault referral centre where survivors can get medical and psychological aid.
You can call them at 08187243468, 08155770000, or 0701 349 1769. You can also visit them at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja General Hospital Road, Ikeja, Lagos.
Alternatively, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF)
WARIF is a non-profit organisation. WARIF helps to address high incidence of sexual violence, and rape amongst young women across Nigeria.
You can contact them at 0809 210 0008 or you can send an email to email@example.com
The Lagos Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA)
DSVA is an organisation under the Lagos State government. They help eradicate domestic and sexual violence in the state.
You can contact them at 08000333333 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation comprised of women lawyers, formed in 1964. They take pro-bono cases across Nigeria, usually on domestic, sexual, and other related violence against women.
You can visit their website to find the branch closest to you or call +234 708 849 6115