When Kehinde Osakede’s university closed due to Covid-19 last year, the visual arts student returned home to Lagos. A visit to a family friend nearby turned into a horrific ordeal. The friend began touching her, she said, and became violent when she asked him to stop. He then raped her, she said.
“The guy was hitting me, beating me,” said Osakede, now 21, “The last notion I had was to commit suicide.”
Reuters was not able to confirm her account independently. Osakede did not share the name of her alleged assailant and said she did not want to get involved in the legal case.
Osakede is one of hundreds of women across Nigeria who have reported being raped or sexually assaulted in a surge since the pandemic began, according to police and officials. Some experts say this represents only a fraction of cases.
The president’s office referred Reuters’ questions to the Ministry of Women Affairs. The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what action they had taken to combat rape and gender-based violence.
Around the world, police and prosecutors, victim support teams and women’s movements, as well as the United Nations, have reported rising domestic violence during coronavirus-related lockdowns. In northern Kano state, tech entrepreneur Sa’adat Aliyu in August launched an app, Helpio, for women to report assaults. She said it matched users with organizations who help them approach the police.
“These victims don’t know there are actually organizations that fight for their rights and give them legal support, also medical or financial support,” she said.
Osakede says she has stopped blaming herself with the help of counselling at WARIF, and wants others to take courage from her story. I came to this place, and I started feeling okay,” she said.
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