The sexual harassment allegations published by the New York Times against veteran Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has since sent shockwaves across the world. The deplorable disclosure which rocked Hollywood, made way for the #MeToo online trend, initially started by American actress Alyssa Milano 10 years ago to encourage victims of sexual abuse and get them to come forward and share their own stories of abuse.
It hasn’t take Nollywood too long to react to the same though. Allegations are coming out, implicating notable figures from film and television. Most recent are the allegations made by actress turned realtor Eniola Omoshalewa against movie director Yomi Fabiyi, and by aspiring actress Lawal Dolapo against filmmaker and veteran actor Yemi Solade for demanding sex in exchange for a movie role have been the most publicized.
Unlike some of the accused in Hollywood who have accepted the allegations and apologized, the Nollywood players have denied the claims against them and threatened to take the women to court. More disappointing are supporters of these alleged culprits who have spoken out against the women for making the allegations without substantiating evidence. In the case of Yemi Solade, Yoruba actress Folake Daramola called out the accuser, asking what she intends to achieve and if she has evidence: “You’re very silly for this. What do you want to achieve with this? What evidence do you have? Stupid idiot”.
Reactions like this are part of the reasons why sexual harassment have thrived under covers in Nollywood for so long. Most of the accusers do not have the influence that eases being heard, and in situations where they bravely share their stories with the public -oftentimes dredging up memories they had buried for years, people dismiss them instead of listening to what they have to say. These people who kick against the accusers frequently ask questions like: “Why didn’t you ever go to the police about this?” “Why did it take you so long to speak up?”
The fact that a woman did not report a harassment case does not mean it never happened. There are myriad reasons why a survivor might not want to disclose what happened to them at the initial stance.
Firstly, the person may not have known at the initial point that what happened to them was sexual harassment. There are so many myths about what constitutes sexual harassment and not everyone know the truth that sexual harassment can include: unwelcome sexual advances (both physical and verbal); requests for sexual favors; demands, threats, or any other form of physical or verbal conduct which is sexual in nature and interferes with your ability to perform your job duties or to receive equal job opportunities.
Knowing definitively that you were harassed, on the other hand, does not make reporting it any easier. Many of the victims end up feeling humiliated after being harassed, and not wanting anyone to know what happened. There’s also the stigma. They are afraid of being judged for something that is completely not their fault or accused of fabricating accusations to ruin the accused’s life. Some end up losing their credibility or even their jobs or lives over said accusations.
Going ahead to make a report to law enforcement is not easier either as unlike it is with Hollywood, there’s hardly a reliable legal system in Nigeria. Chances are they will need to talk about it over and over again with the officials, especially if there is no physical evidence available only to be dismissed for their case not being serious enough.
While people of all genders can and do get sexually harassed and assaulted, our society has made it easy for men to get away with sexual misconducts, harassments, and assault. Besides Nollywood, it is sexual harassment is a frequent occurrence in our workplaces, families and even religious centers. None of these, however, is to discourage anyone from reporting their own harassment.
If you witnessed or experienced sexual harassment or discrimination, share your experience with us in the comment section.
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