“It couldn’t have been rape”: How Social Perception and Rape Scripts Influence Unacknowledged Sexual Assault in Nigeria

Richard A. Aborisade


Empirical studies have established that the problem of rape aggravates if it is unacknowledged as a result of the influence of social perception and victim’s rape script. Such victims will be susceptible to psychological distress and lowered self-esteem among other negative effects. In Nigeria, the social perception of rape has been described as serving to perpetuate the sexual victimisation against women. This study therefore, examined how the social perception of rape impact on personal attitudinal beliefs of rape among female university students in the country and the extent to which rape scripts of young women lead to the growing rate of unacknowledged rape. Using a mixed-method victimisation survey that covered four universities in Lagos and Ogun states, Nigeria; the study recruited 206 female students who have experienced rape or attempted rape, while 12 of them were further engaged in in-depth interviews. The results of the study suggest that not acknowledging a rape is primarily a response to suffering an assault that is not consistent with societal definitions of rape and supporting script theory. The study also found that some of the strongly held rape myth among young female university students include; non-recognition of rape incidence between dating partners, non-recognition of domestic rape between husband and wife, rape is always for the sake of sex, rape is only perpetrated by stranger or mere acquaintances, women are mostly responsible for their rape victimisation and if the location of rape or sexual assault is the rapist’s house, then the woman is at fault. The key factors influencing rape script on sexual violence include; the use or unused of weapon, the venue of the rape event, the emotional attachment of the victim to the offender and the post-assault relationship between the victim and offender. The study concludes that the unacknowledged status of date rape by victims in the Nigerian society is mainly a factor of the acceptance of societal rape myth which impacted on the understanding of the women about what sex and rape is actually about. Consequently, appropriate measures needs to be taken by the government, women rights organisations and other stakeholders to enlighten the women to understand not only the real meaning of rape and sexual assault, but also the health implications of sexual violence irrespective of the personality of the offender.

Keywords: Rape, Victimisation, Rape scripts, Sexual assault, Unacknowledged rape

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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