There has been an influx of saddening stories in the news about sexual violence. In its wake, we have witnessed how victims as young as 8 months old have been betrayed by their mothers, society and institutions entrusted to protect them. One of these tragic stories is of a local Malawian girl of 13 years old was who was sexually abused by her step-father. When she reported the case to her mother, she was chased away from her home and the mother chose to shield her husband from the law. Unfortunately, this is merely one straw in the haystack and when such cases are reported and the news breaks, everyone is outraged and pushes for justice on behalf of the victim. Everyone wants the the perpetrator locked up until the “perpetrator” is their father, their brother, their priest, someone they personally know or someone with a high social standing. It’s hypocritical.
Numerous scenarios have occurred where, individuals and institutions have deliberately chosen to stay silent in cases of sexual abuse if the perpetrator happens to be their source of income or influence. Most times, these institutions or individuals bury these reports, delay the investigations or whitewash the abuse. Recently, we have heard of the case of a former Director General of Malawi Broadcasting Station, Mr Aubrey Sumbuleta who preyed on women for more than 4 years. According to the report by Malawi Human Rights Commission, the victims had been reporting him to the authorities, however nothing was done to address the problem.
Like that was not enough, Nyasa Times, a reliable and well-known news source, which until today failed to report the news about its former Chief Editor, Thom Chiumia. The man is a rape convict and has been sentenced 10 years imprisonment in the United Kingdom. The news source has failed to condemn the act or disassociate themselves from Mr. Chiumia by doing what they know best, staying silent. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Institutions consistently communicate what their priorities are to the entire public.
When such incidences occur, one wonders and questions the credibility of the institution and what morals they stand on. One would wonder if such an institution chose to not report such a colossal story which happened “outside the institution”, what would happen if the incident occurred within institution, where the victim is within the institution? What lengths would they go to conceal the act and protect their brand’s reputation as well as those in power? What happens to a society if individuals and institutions fail to uphold their standards and moral duties in such circumstances? Should we say that we are safe in such kind of a society where the “Rain-Makers”, the “big fish” are protected when they commit such gruesome acts?
As we continue to fight for sexual harassment and all forms of sexual abuse, let it be known that the enablers, rape apologists and the bystanders are as guilty as the perpetrators. They contribute to the reasons why there are spiraling numbers of sexual predators walking free in our societies.