The 29th of April, 2020, marked the beginning of the end for Iniubong Umoren. The recent graduate of University of Uyo, had pinned a tweet talking about her desperate need for a job, “something to keep mind and soul together.”
In the grand scheme of things she may be perceived as a statistic, another mere point in a country’s labor force that is devastatingly neglected. But to so many, to herself even, she was a girl just trying to get by, living one day at a time. All Iniubong wanted was a job.
Two days after she pinned her job search tweet, she was invited for an interview. On that same day of the ‘interview’, Iniubong went missing.
Women’s entire lives is a continuous rehearsal on how to prevent that one defining moment that will allow us bond with thousands of other women across the globe: Trauma.
Tell me really, where can women be safe?
Cynthia Osokogu thought she made some friends in Lagos, travelled there for business purposes, linked up with these people and what did she get in return? Senseless torture and death. And do you want to know the worst part? After her death, some people still made statements like this: ”But why did she go to a hotel to see men?”
Perhaps, 22 year old Vera Omozuwa was the ideal victim, brutally raped and murdered by some men while she was studying in church. But alas, questions still arose, circulating within the terrible state of things, “What was she doing in church by that time of the night?”
In this endless litany of safety tips women should adopt in order to stay alive: don’t wear this, don’t go out by this time, take a picture of the Uber’s license plate number, don’t act this way towards him, take a friend along, share your location, carry a knife, invest in a can of pepper spray, take drinks from people you only trust, do not sleep with these category of men, don’t go to these kind of places…where is the space to acknowledge that we too, are human beings, deserving of a full life? Or are we at war? To always be on the defensive, can you fathom how exhausting it must be? There exists a plethora of instructions carefully designed for every step we take. Because to exist as a woman, is to live in a perpetual state of visceral fear of an enemy who eerily looks like the ally. And the minute we let our guard down? People begin to ask us the role we might have played in our violation.
Is it possible that Iniubong had a premonition on the fate that would befall her? So she made all attempts to tell the world “See, I have done all you have asked me to do to stay alive.” By doing this, she dared society to taint (even more) the circumstances of her death by blaming her for not taking enough precautions against this unforeseen incident. Or was it just her normal everyday routine, a routine countless women have adopted, for when she steps out of her house: Leave the house at a suitable time of the day, keep a close friend updated on my whereabouts, send my location to my sister and the phone number of the person I’m to meet. Whatever it was, she did take all the necessary steps. So, what more could she have done? What tip can you offer, what step did she miss, that may her prevented her from being raped then murdered?
this is why telling women to be cautious is not the answer. she was careful, she did everything she was supposed to and it still wasn’t enough. it is never our fault that we get raped or killed. stop telling us all the ways to be careful.
tell men to stop harming us.
— Piña Colada (@Rume__) May 2, 2021
On going is a case of rape against a Yoruba Actor, Baba Ijesha accused of raping a 7 year old minor. I believe it happened in her home, somewhere that should have been a safe space for her. What should that child have done to stay safe? Any advise for 15 year old Mona Elthaway, who was covered head to toe in the outfit for Muslim female pilgrims but was still assaulted in a space full of praying Muslims during Hajj at Islam’s holiest site? I would love to hear some special safety tips for the 90 year old woman raped at her residence in Yobe state? Perhaps she should have covered up more? Be less promiscuous? Should have stayed indoors? Oh wait, she was in her own house when it happened.
Next time when you’re about to give your unsolicited and often condescending advice to a woman from your privilege bubble on how not to get violated (because I promise you we’ve heard it all, there’s literally nothing new you want to say) and next time when you try to compartmentalize the kind of victim you will lend your support to, remember that the problem has never been with the woman or what she did or what she said or what she wore or where she was. The problem lies in the numerous sick individuals who believe they have a right to the bodies of women.
Rest In Peace, Ini Umoren.
Please stop telling women how to be safe, we’ve been doing this all our lives and yet, here we are.
— 10X Tech Bro (@OdunEweniyi) May 2, 2021
The most terrifying part of this, is how casual gender based violence is. A woman is violently beaten by her husband and it is chalked down to ‘marital issues’ and a whole State Governor facilitates the reconciliation process between spouses. From an early stage, little girls are socialized into believing that when boys harass you, it means they like you. An actor sexually assaults a child and ‘normal’ human beings come on the internet trying to rationalize his actions. A girl is raped by her pastor and the congregation is hush hush about it because ‘touch not my anointed’. A video of a dead naked girl surfaces on the internet and rather than undertaking investigations as to what could have happened, people go on rants on the importance of being content and not following rich men to avoid being used for rituals. Countless times, systems put in place to protect women have left us vulnerable, naked to abuse with no consequence in sight.
There is no amount of instructions, guidelines or tips you can give us to insulate us from being preyed upon, when our crime is inherent to our very being: existing as a woman. There are so many Iniobongs whose stories have and sadly will never be heard. The horrors of the things they went through, sealed in their lifeless bodies. They might have been careless, they might have taken all the possible precautions.. who knows?
However, know that whatever effort you put into advising women to be safe is null and void if you’re not teaching men basic decency. You cannot ‘out careful’ the wickedness of men. The blame is not and will never be on victims. The simple truth is that we are not safe anywhere.
So rather than shoving precautionary tales and measures down women’s throats, try instead “Men, can you stop harassing, raping and killing women?”