Welcome to the WARIF Survivor Stories Series, a monthly feature where stories of survivors of rape and sexual violence are shared to motivate and encourage survivors to speak their truth without the fear of judgment or stigmatization and to educate the public on the sheer magnitude of this problem in our society. The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) is a non-profit organization set up in response to the extremely high incidence of rape, sexual violence, and human trafficking of young girls and women in our society. WARIF is tackling this issue through a holistic approach that covers health, education, and community service initiatives.
WARIF aids survivors of rape and sexual violence through the WARIF Centre – a haven where trained professionals are present full time, 6 days a week, including public holidays, to offer immediate medical care, forensic medical examinations, psycho-social counseling, and welfare services, which include shelter, legal aid, and vocational skills training. These services are provided FREE of charge to any survivor who walks into the Centre.
My name is Rahila*, a 24-year-old lady, and this is my story.
I am the firstborn in a family of seven, five siblings and my parents. I hail from the northern part of Nigeria, but I was born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria. My first encounter with sexual abuse began at age 11 when my parents employed a religious cleric to teach me and my younger sister Arabic studies at home. The cleric’s name is “Alfa Kundus”, and this happened when he came home to teach us while our parents were at work. The first time he abused me, “Alfa” brought out his phone and played a pornography video. He started touching my breasts and caressing my body, after which he put his hand in my vagina excitedly until he released a slippery, whitish substance that I later discovered was called sperm. He did this repeatedly whenever he came to teach us. Alfa Kundus warned me that he would kill me if I ever told anyone, and if my parents got to know, they would die mysteriously, so I kept it to myself, but I was scared for my younger sister.
Two years later, this cleric started placing me on his lap as he slipped my underwear off and inserted his penis into my vagina. He did this repeatedly whenever he came to tutor us. I lost count of the number of times he sexually abused me. I was enduring the rape because I did not want him to touch my younger sister. I presumed that if I continued allowing him, he would not touch my baby sister.
As I grew older, I summoned courage and told my mother, who also told my father, but they are religious fanatics, and they did not believe me. They warned me against defaming “the character of a religious leader, a family man and a well-respected figure in society”. Those were my parents’ exact words, and that broke my heart. I became irritated by anything called religion and religious leaders. I vowed to stay away from anything called religion once I was old enough to leave the house. I continued to endure the painful sexual intercourse. I was suffering anxiety, insomnia, and living in fear of the perpetrator whom I must deal with. I kept wondering if the evil would ever stop. I do not know how I did not commit suicide because I nursed the thoughts several times along the line. The silver lining came in the final year of my secondary education.
I wrote and passed my WAEC and JAMB with flying colours, which to me was a miracle considering that I had been struggling in my education over the years. Even though I know I was brilliant, the abuse I was subjected to was affecting me academically. You can imagine my joy when I gained admission to study pharmacy at age 19 at one of the most prestigious universities in Nigeria. I left the house proudly and told my parents I would no longer participate in any lessons organised by the so-called cleric. They agreed, probably because of my earlier revelations about the perpetrator. I realised quickly that the continuous molestation affected my relationship with the opposite sex. I am unable to build positive friendships with any male figure. In my mind, they are all predators hunting the female gender to molest. I am currently in my final year, and I’m still struggling with insecurities caused by early exposure to sex.
During the last Ileya (Moslem Festive), my parents hosted our extended family members from within and outside the nation, and there was lots of delicious food to eat, comprising continental, local, and international cuisine. We were all enjoying the celebration and did not know it was already dark. Eventually, some relatives who lived around the metropolis began taking their leave and thanking us for being wonderful hosts. Some who came in from outside town were given rooms to sleep over till the next day.
I was exhausted, so I went in to have my shower and to retire to bed. I do not know how long I had slept before I felt a heavy weight on me. I opened my eyes and saw that it was the so-called Alfa, the same perpetrator, naked on top of me. I pushed him away and shouted for help, and my parents and siblings rushed in the direction of my room and were shocked at what they saw. They had allowed a sleepover because he had told them that he wanted to say a special prayer for my family. My mother broke down because their assumption of religion, family, and highly respected figures in society was shattered right in front of them. My parents promptly reported the case to the police, and the perpetrator was arrested. After the incident, my parents asked for my forgiveness for not believing me when I initially mentioned it to them. In addition, my younger sister revealed that the same perpetrator, this so-called cleric, began molesting her when I left for the university, and he had taken her to a slum where she aborted two pregnancies.
I and my younger sister were referred to the WARIF Centre at the police station, and that began our healing journey. We were given free medical examinations, psycho-social counselling, and follow-up services. The counselling sessions were very helpful and an eye-opener indeed. The counsellor encouraged me and assured me that it was not my fault. She also taught me to believe in myself more, appreciate myself, and be grateful I survived those dreadful and horrendous years. Yes, eight years of continuous molestation.
My goal is to practice self-care, celebrate myself more, and take my healing journey one step at a time, as taught by the counsellor. I’m excited about the next phase of my life, and I must mention that I attended the WARIF Group therapy session, where I met other survivors, and we bonded nicely and learned new coping mechanisms. I now have a community of people who went through sexual abuse as my support system, and this is all thanks to WARIF staff.
Meanwhile, the cleric was found guilty; it was not surprising that other survivors he had abused over the years came out to testify against him, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes committed against me and other survivors. I’m back to school in my final year, and my grades have improved tremendously compared to the past. I’m hoping to finish with a first class, and my sister is preparing for her WAEC examinations. Thank you to the management and staff of WARIF for giving my life a new meaning.
*Real name of the survivor changed for confidentiality
Dear survivor, please know that you are not alone, and it is not your fault. Help is available. If you have been raped or know someone who has, please visit us at:
The WARIF Centre
6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba.
or call our 24-hour confidential helpline on