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Safe Spaces for Sexual Violence Survivors and the Burden on Mental Health

Many years ago, sexual violence was pushed aside as something that happened in lonely corners, bushes and by strangers lurking to have their way. Today, statistics speak otherwise.

Just like it was for me, the perpetrator is someone you know. Trust is what is violated in many sexual violence incidences. Most times, this is someone who was considered safe enough to be invited home, to be known to the family, or even is family or your caretaker. It is this trust that allows for such abuse of power to take place.

Like many victims, I too was raped in my bed by someone familiar, not a stranger. I too, could not summon weighty words to tell the world what had happened to me. The weight of social, cultural and religious expectations continue to prevent victims from speaking up. Victim blaming, shaming and accusations were enough to silence me for years.

Have you ever thought about how hard it is for a victim of sexual violence to come out and tell their story? And how even harder it is for them to be believed? In the past, society has not been very accepting of victims of sexual violence, and many have been silenced because of it.

Imagine the pain and fear a victim of sexual violence goes through. They are grappling with the trauma of what happened to them while also dealing with the aftermath, which can include physical injuries, emotional distress, and mental health issues.

Thankfully, this is slowly changing as more and more people are becoming aware of the reality of sexual violence and its prevalence in our society.


Recent research in Nigeria has shown that sexual violence can lead to a wide range of negative mental health outcomes. It is important to address sexual violence prevention and intervention initiatives to reduce the burden on mental health caused by this appalling crime.

In 2018, 9% of Nigerians were sexually abused. The largest occurrence was in Gombe. A poll found that 44% of residents had suffered sexual assault.

In 2019, 59 incidences of sexual assault were recorded in Nigeria. More than half of the victims (56 incidents) were female, according to the data. Since 2017, there has been a rise in the number of incidents reported to the police.

At my organisation, She Writes Woman Mental Health Initiative, 7 in 10 wo