Nollywood actress and advocate for victims of child sexual abuse, Tricia Eseigbe Kerry, was on song penultimate Sunday when she won the award for Best Use of Advocacy on TV at the maiden edition of DALA Awards held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Still basking in the glow of the award, an excited Eseigbe-Kerry opened up The Sun, on how her pet project, Psychologist On The Move, is furthering the ‘war’ on child abuse in Nigeria. Excerpts:
On what inspired her project on child sexual abuse: First and foremost, I am a woman and I was born by a woman. Beyond that, I am going to have kids, so how can I see a little child being abused and do nothing about it with my platform? I am on TV and I know a lot of people, so, why can’t I use my platform to support these children by being a voice for them? That was what inspired me.
On dealing with stigma about rape in the society: It’s been a major challenge for me. Psychologist On The Move is a platform where my team and I move around to educate parents and children on the vital signs to watch out for, and ways to protect children from pedophiles. We also created The Psychologist TV for victims to come and share their stories via dramatisation. We didn’t want to use victims’ faces because of stigmatisation, but most of them refused. Some of them actually want to narrate their stories and expose the uncles that abused them. A lot of people want to speak out now. We are strongly behind Esse Oruru. We went to meet the state government with her parents. She was able to speak out and she was rehabilitated, and what she ever dreamt of becoming in her life is at her fingertips, because she is going to be sponsored by the state government. She has always wanted to be a medical doctor and she did not allow what she went through to deconstruct her mindset.
For most of these kids, their mindset is deconstructed and they go into reclusion, hate men and might even turn into lesbians. I had a case where the victim wanted to stab her stepfather to death, because she hated men with a passion. How do you explain the case of a five-year-old being abused by her biological father? Now she’s 13 and her father wasn’t sleeping with her alone; during weekends, he rented her out to his friends and collected money. We got to know because she was about committing suicide, and the teacher caught her and brought her to the Commissioner for Women Affairs in Edo State. A lot of pedophiles are living around us; even the guys are being sexually abused too. A celebrity called and told me his maid abused him at the age of seven. In 90 per cent of cases, the child trusts and knows the person who sexually abused her. It could be an uncle or domestic help living in the house, and parents are always the last to know. Most victims are threatened with death. I had a case where the pedophile told his victim he was going to chop her into pieces, put her into a cellophane bag and throw her away, and nobody will know what happened to her. She got pregnant respectively at the ages of 12, 13 and 14, and all the pregnancies were aborted. She couldn’t take it anymore, so she had to confess to her aunt, and that was how the guy got exposed.
On the most shocking case she'd handled so far: It was the case of a father who raped his newborn baby of nine months! He said the baby reminded him of his dead mother. As I speak with you, he is serving a 15-year jail term. The baby died actually. The mother was the one that caught her husband in the act. She was traumatised!
On what steps can parents take to cub this menace: Parents and guardians need to pay more attention to their kids. If a child who is lively, all of a sudden becomes a recluse; that is a red flag! Know that something is happening, and so you have to draw the child closer and ask her questions, and make her open up.