As the Mirabel Centre, a sexual assault referral centre clocks two years, the centre said it has provided free services to 737 clients who were sexually assaulted, the youngest being 10 months old and the oldest 70 years old.
At a media conference on the operations of the centre during the two years, Itoro Eze-Anaba, managing partner, Partnership for Justice, disclosed that this number is made up of 720 female clients and 17 male clients.
Briefing the press in Lagos last week, Eze-Anaba also said 16 of the male clients are minors while one is an adult.
On the location of the sexual violence of the 727 clients, she said, “all of them are living in Lagos and neighbouring Ogun States, though it is not all the cases that happened in Lagos and neighbouring Ogun State. For some of them, the cases happened when they were abroad. One of the clients was living in Benin, Edo State when she was sexually assaulted.
The managing partner of Partnership for Justice said one of the biggest challenges in seeking justice for the survivors of rape and sexual violence is the absence of reliable and verifiable data and lack of support services. “This disturbing situation has led to many survivors not seeking help nor reporting to the police,” she added.
According to her, the increase in reported cases of sexual violence, especially child sexual abuse has become a topic for national discourse. “This malaise is generally acknowledged by government officials and human rights advocates to be endemic. Perpetrators of sexual violence act with impunity due to corruption and/or incompetency in investigation and prosecution of such cases.”
In a bid to fill this gap and provide a safe and comfortable place for survivors of rape and sexual assault to receive needed professional care, Partnership for Justice (PJ), with funding from Justice for All Programme of the Department of International Development (DFID) of the British Council, established the first sexual assault referral centre in Nigeria. Known as the Mirabel Centre, it opened its doors to the public in July 2013.
She lamented that the major challenge facing the Mirabel Centre is that of funding. “Without financial support the Mirabel Centre will not be able to continue providing services to these vulnerable ones in the community.
“We have opened discussions with the Lagos State government on the need to support the Centre. This does not preclude corporate organisations and individuals from supporting the Centre and joining the campaign to protect children, women, boys and girls from rape and sexual assault.
“Many of these clients are referred to the Centre by the police (Family Support Unit FSU and non FSU), the hospital, CSOs, government agencies and some just walk into the Centre for treatment.”
She said the Mirabel Centre has also visited over 40 schools in Lagos state with a view to equipping teachers and students with the skills to become change agents in the community. “This has created more awareness about rape and sexual assault and has encouraged more victims to speak out and seek help,” she added.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 9, 2015.