Taking a United Stand Against Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault is not only a woman’s problem but an issue for everyone

Isioma Ononye
5 min readApr 4


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the theme of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” This April’s campaign calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build racial equity and respect.

I believe that in order for us to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build racial equity, we have to be able to have difficult conversations about sexual assault.

In the year 2019 under the organization of “We Rise for Change Initiative”, IG: @weriseforchange, I hosted a discussion about a form of sexual assault which is sexual harassment in the workplace.

For the discussion, I invited a Legal Expert, a Mental Health Practitioner, and also a Human Resource Professional.

During the discussion, it was stated that some ways to handle harassment are to document and record the harassment. Also, it was mentioned that it is important to speak out.

The Lawyer enlightened us that we all have a right to make our government, and our senate accountable to instill procedures into law that protect us from harassment.

What inspired me to have this conversation was my perception of how sexual harassment is handled in the Nigerian workforce.

There are several instances when women can go through harassment in the workforce. This could be through inappropriate statements being made or unwanted gestures.

Some women have told me of instances when they were in the workplace and a man had been inappropriate with where they touched. Others have said of going for job interviews and it was implied that in order to get the job, they would have sexual relations with the person recruiting.

Personally, I have experienced inappropriate situations in the workplace. I remember that at one particular workplace, a male colleague had stuck his tongue out at me. In another instance when sitting at my desk, a male colleague touched my leg in a way as though they were caressing it. I pulled away in anger.

Instances of sexual harassment such as the above can be common in the Nigerian context.

How to Stop Sexual Assault in Nigeria

One of the best ways that I believe sexual harassment can be handled is simply by speaking out.

It’s not easy to speak out when you live in a patriarchal society such as Nigeria’s but it is needed to speak out and report instances when someone says or does something that is inappropriate and offensive.

In the instance where a male colleague had stuck his tongue out at me, I confronted him. I told him that it was inappropriate.

Also, I believe that it matters that we ensure to have a society where there are consequences. Where someone does not feel that they can do or say anything and they go unpunished.

There should be consequences that are enforced for sexual assault and sexual violence in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, we have the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP Act) which has been passed in over 30 states in Nigeria.

Yet, the main question is that when there are cases that have to deal with sexual assault and violence, do the victims and survivors take it up? Are we creating a society where the survivors are encouraged to speak up and report those who handle matters pertaining to the law and do something about it?

I’ve told of the story of where a lady had gone to the police to tell of her rape but the police officer told her to be quiet, that it would ruin her chances of getting married.

These negative experiences with the police would prevent survivors from seeking justice. We must consider whether the sort of environment that we live in is one that is allowing sexual assault to continue.

Another way that I feel that sexual assault can be stopped starts with the family. It starts with the way children are raised. Both the development of boys and girls matters in our society.

Boys need to be trained to know that they are not entitled to a woman’s body. That they can not have access to a woman without her consent.

This sort of training should happen in the home and also in the school through Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

As for CSE, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that Comprehensive Sexuality Education enables young people to protect and advocate for their health, well-being, and dignity by providing them with a necessary toolkit of knowledge, attitudes, and skills.

It is a precondition for exercising full bodily autonomy, which requires not only the right to make choices about one’s body but also the information to make these choices in a meaningful way. And because these programs are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.

When boys and girls are better educated about their bodies and rights, they are more likely to make better decisions about their bodies, their sexual health, and the manner in which they approach others through their speech and actions.

Going back to the theme of this month, prevention demands equity means that we recognize how negative factors in our society can play a role in enabling sexual assault to prevail.

We must all take a stand against social and cultural norms that encourage male privilege and patriarchy. We should also always listen to victims and survivors. To not dismiss their stories but recognize that their voices matter, and there must be a call to change now.

Resources for You to Check Out

National Sexual Violence Resource Centre


Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Course

Directory of Sexual Assault Referral Centres



Isioma Ononye

I write about finding yourself, self-esteem, christianity, mental health and communications. Join my newsletter here: https://substack.com/@isiomaononye