THE need to create safe spaces for sexually abused children and provide psychosocial support to people who have experienced gender-based violence was the focus at the official opening of SOAR Child and Teen Support Center in Durumi, Abuja.
At the launch of the child-friendly centre, speakers at the event reiterated their support for the centre, saying it would provide healing for child survivors of sexual abuse and help their families access justice and traditional support systems.
The centre which boasts of several therapy playrooms where sexually abused children can feel safe was set up by the Sexual Offences Awareness and Response Initiative, SOAR, a non-governmental organisation based in Abuja alongside its partners, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Program, ROLAC, and the British Council.
Speaking at the ceremony, SOAR Executive Director, Chinyere Eyoh said the programme was borne out of her personal experience as a survivor of child sexual abuse to provide psychosocial support to abused children.
“I understand the hurt, pain and trauma that every sexually abused child goes through… as it is to go after the perpetrator and ensure justice is served, this is not sufficient to ensure that the affected child is able to heal and move on trauma-free.
“However, this is overlooked by most families and even when desired it is not readily available in the setting we find ourselves. Our services at SOAR Child and Teen support Center is to fill that gap by offering help, hope and healing to child survivors of sexual abuse,” she said.
She stated that the centre had carried out trial services during the COVID-19 lockdown, using hotlines alongside organising weekly radio programmes.
The centre is the first of its kind in Abuja that offers ‘head-to-toe’ psychosocial services to children survivors of sexual violence without charge.
Also speaking at the event, Oluwatoyosi Giwa, ROLAC’s manager eulogised the consistent efforts made by SOAR in responding to child sexual abuse in Abuja.
“We are happy to be partnering with the SOAR initiative because since we heard of them in 2015, we have seen that they have been consistently doing good work in the area of responding to child sexual abuse in Abuja.
“In the course of the work, SOAR has taken the initiative to other states who can replicate the work it has done not in terms of the actual victims alone but in terms of the vital gap their work is filling,” she said.
During the event, some participants provided insights on the scourge of child sexual abuse and strategies by SOAR to confront the challenges.
Speaking on behalf of Bala Chiroma, Commissioner of Police, FCT command, Funmi Kolawole, the head of Gender Desk Unit of FCT Police Command, recounting gory details of child sexual abuse cases she urged Nigerian citizens to discourage the culture of silence with regards rape.
“It is our responsibility as the Police to prevent all these especially to ensure that these perpetrators are prosecuted,” she said.
She gave out the Police Gender Unit major hotlines in Abuja, encouraging the public to report incidents of rape to the following numbers 08132874774 and 08036448865.
Other participants at the event include Kolawole Olatosimi, National Coordinator, Child and Youth Protection Foundation, Ike Jacinta, Desk Officer, Federal Capital Territory Authority, FCTA, Gabriel Onyeali, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Aliyu Abdullahi, Abuja Municipal Council, AMAC and International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, representative Chioma Okoye.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.