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Speak out by Grace Ajayi


I have been a silent observer on the raging case of a lady who accused a highly placed clergy of rape which happened years ago. I just read about the outcome of the court proceedings and this got me thinking about our culture of silence as Africans. I am not here to judge whether the story was true or not. The lady in question may not have won the case, but she ‘won’ because she has let out what had been gnawing in her soul for years! And, it has given others who have bottled up like allegations from their past experiences the courage to speak out.

My article today is not on that story at all, but to encourage people to speak out whenever they are going through difficult time and indeed health challenges. The culture of silence must be broken.

I have seen a case of a single woman who found a lump in her breast. She ‘hid’ this from even her own family for only God knows reason. She kept applying anointing oil and wishing it away until it spread all over her vital organs and sadly lost her life. By the time even her parents knew what was happening, it was already too late. 

There is no shame in sickness! It happens by accident of biology! No one wakes up in their house in the morning and announce ‘Yes! I am having a motor accident today.’ And indeed goes out and have a car crash. This just happens, and that is why it is called an accident. No one plans for it. The same is for sicknesses and diseases. 

In speaking out; you get lead to where solution is. Some people most definitely have gone through this before and they can point to where you can go and get treated too. In some cases, they know someone who has and are able to help.

In speaking out, you get a release. And that in itself is part of healing. I am saying this from experience. Help and assistance will come through from people and places you did not think of. Problem shared as they say is half solved. In my case it was.

The same goes to those who are experiencing some sort of domestic spousal abuse. It may not be physical whereby there are scars and other clear or visible abuse show. It may be psychological, emotional, mental, financial or verbal. Anything that messes with your mental and emotional wellbeing in the sanctity of your own home is an abuse. Speak out! Let the close family know. That you are afraid of your spouses’ reaction enough to keep mum about it is an abuse. If the immediate family are not able to resolve it, escalate the report to the relevant bodies in clergy or hospital.

If the silence is kept long enough, the victim can suffer from a complete mental breakdown and become a patient in a psychiatry hospital. When he or she is on admission, what has been kept secret for years will become a full blown case to be recounted and documented in an open ward. Or worse still  the abuse becomes physical and one party ends  up dead, the story being kept under wrap will become the news headlines then.

The culture of silence in those who suffer sexual violence also is not good for the victim. Speaking out ensures they get a good medical attention and counselling to ensure they are not left with a lasting emotional and psychological scar for life. 

Break the silence to get solutions as problem shared in most cases are half solved. A Yoruba adage says ‘if the crowd that congregates at a funeral come together with solutions when the dead was still sick, he or she might live’. I see a lot of sense in this.

Grace Ajayi.

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