By Innocent Chia
It was a few days after Valentine’s Day several years ago. My colleague walked into the office a little late. That was not unusual. It was the look on her face that got me concerned and curious. So I asked her what the matter was. “Was your Valentine weekend that bad?” I asked. She told me the husband had actually given her a treat. “It is what I saw when we got back home that has depressed me Innocent”. “And what is that?” I asked, approaching for her to confide. “You remember my nephews?” she asked? I did remember the two boys, one 7 and the other 5 years old. She had brought them along to the office on a couple of occasions. “When we got back home my daughters were watching Television in the living room” she continued. “The boys were not there with them. I rushed to their bedroom. The door was ajar. But they were not there. I heard water running in the bathroom. It was the shower and the door was closed, a red flag for them because I had asked that they always leave it cracked open at all moments. I pushed it open and what I saw…”
She took a deep breath, turned around and dumped herself on her seat, curling forward so her head was almost touching her knees. I heard her sob. There was a box of tissue paper on her desk. I reached out and grabbed some and said “here with some tissue”. She wiped her eyes and cleared her nostrils. “Take your time”, I said to her. When she was all done and a little calmer she continued from where she left off.
“Innocent, the older boy was having sex with his younger brother” she sputtered in-between another flurry of tears. “What?” I jumped in, clearly bamboozled myself. “Yes”, she said, now sitting up against her chair, her face buried in her own hair. She reached for her purse, pulled out a band, and gathered the hair from both sides to form a ponytail unto which she slid the band to hold together. “What did you do?" I asked, at a loss for words myself.
“After the initial shock and screaming, I asked them where this had come from” she said. “They looked confused. The kid-brother shrug his shoulders for the most part”. Did the 7 year old say anything?” I pressed on. “Yes”, she said. I waited for her to continue. She reached for some more tissue paper and wiped her eyes.
“He told me that Uncle did it to them all the time whenever he was out of jail and living with them…He would bring candy and other goodies and tell them that this is how real men show love to kids…”
My colleague took custody of these two boys because her brother and the wife were constantly in and out of jail. But the person (Uncle) that was perpetrating the abuse was not their father. It was the brother of their mother, himself a jailbird.
In the eyes of these two kids, their reality was that sexual intercourse between a man and another man is the norm. Let us not even begin the conversation about age appropriate sex education. The reality for these kids was that boys their age have sex with adult loving men and among themselves.
Call a dog a bad name and hang it
Many ex-students of the renowned St Joseph’s College, Sasse in Buea- Cameroon (SOBANS) have gone to great lengths excoriating this writer for daring to publish the tale of sexual abuse suffered by a fellow SOBAN at the school. Many are calling their fellow SOBAN a liar and one who went to Sasse only in his “dreams”. Many more are not only denying that abuse ever existed and continues to this day at their almighty Alma Mater, they believe that homosexuality is a Western concept and lifestyle that some are now exporting to the developing World. Here are some truths to know:
Sexual Abuse is prevalent in same-sex schools
If it did not happen during your stay in Sasse, I am reliably informed at the time of writing this piece that some senior officials at Sasse are currently at a loss as to what to do with the new lifestyle in school – boys sleeping with boys. It is said to be rife. But acclaimed comments, on the heels of the last piece, can only leave this skeptic wondering whether many more SOBANS never ventured into such “biological menace of libido…” creating “all kinds of upheaval and havoc in their minds and in their pants” as stated by Terry Ngwafor. The issue to my mind is whether the writer acquiesced to it. Was it consensual? Apparently it was NOT. Not to mention that even if it were consensual, he did not know better at that age and was at the mercy of the older student who knew or should have known better.
It was commonly known in my CPC Bali of the early to mid 80’s that some “bigs” were fooling around with their “smalls”. But we all shoved it off and laughed it away. No one thought anything of it, except that it may not have happened if we had been on a truly mixed campus. While there may be some truth to that, it would be foolhardy not to wonder what ever happened to some of these boys at a later age.
Remember the nephews of my colleague and what their reality is/was. Is there a possibility that even after intervention one of them, or both, will still have urges from the behavior that their Uncle imparted? Would you say it is easy to shake off?
The Case of Saker Baptist College
It may be public knowledge by now that Saker Baptist College in Limbe fired the School Chaplain for sexual misconduct. He had a history of having sex with scores of school girls, most of them minors. It took one courageous kid to leak the secret and all hell broke loose. The school did what it had to do and immediately fired him. Whether there are pending criminal charges is another matter. But the handling of the matter by the school is just about right. It is not about preserving the name of the school. It is about protecting and defending the integrity of the kids that parents entrust in the care of the school.
Meantime, parents, former students and the Baptist Mission must make sure that this Chaplain never sees another day at another school or Church. If all the Church does is transfer him to another school, then they have only transferred the problem, and it does not matter whether it is an all-boys school that he is transferred to. The answer, short of criminal charges that parents may elect to bring, is for him to be summarily discharged from the Mission.
Homosexuality is not a Western Construct
I bet many Cameroonians will deny the identity of Bebe Zahara Benet. Truth be told, I did not know the name until a SOBAN mentioned it to me and…thank God for Google. Born Nea Marshal Kudi in 1981, she is an accomplished artist and drag queen who is living her life and happy in her own skin. She is a Cameroonian by birth. She may have “come out of the closet” in US, but the US only allowed her to be who she is.
Bebe Zahara could not have been the only one living a lie. Many continue concealing because the cultural context would condemn them to death. But you may recall hearing some in society deploy such derogatory terms as “hermaphrodite”. It was in reference to men and or women who were acting in ways, deviant as it was perceived, that society barely accepted.
Unlike Bebe Zahara, many others never left Cameroon for US shores. They are beginning to tell their stories in Cameroon today even as the international community shines a light on Human Rights abuses in Cameroon, including the rights of gays and lesbians. Cameroonians may deny it all they want.
Helping victims of abuse
The question here is not whether victims exist in that society or not. They do. The question is whether there are innocent and helpless kids that older boys and girls are taking advantage of? This is the question that some clear-headed SOBANS have been working on since the publication of our first piece on this matter. In my book, they are commendable gentlemen.
As enlightened and knowledgeable actors, it is imperative for former students – SOBA, LESA, BOBA, SOBA, SHESA, EXSSA, SABESA etc – to look closely into the matter of abuse in their beloved Alma Maters. We all know what we did while we were there, or we know what others did. Do we let it continue? How can we help? The administration cannot help if no one reports. But lack of knowledge does not absolve the administration of its responsibility over the kids while they are on campus.
It is regrettable how much more time is spent further victimizing the person who cries foul, as opposed to investing in resources to stop abusers and help the abused. It is even better if time is spent working on ideas to prevent potential abusers from sinking into those dark places. This is the time to turn for help and look for tools within our societies, especially for those living in the Diaspora; tools that can help solve one problem.
Constructing toilets, building water dams, tarring roads, granting scholarships …etc, etc are all lofty initiatives. It is not too much if Fighting Sexual Abuse and Molestation in any form is added to the list.