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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo says survivors of sexual abuse must speak up for the perpetrators of the heinous crime to be punished.

Dr. Banigo, reiterated this during a sensitization campaign on the theme “Dealing with Mental Health and Sexual Abuse in Unity Schools” organized by the support the Girl Child Initiative Programme of her Office at the Federal Government College in Port Harcourt.

Represented by her Senior Special Assistant, Barr. Inegogo Fubara, the Dr. Banigo said the programme was put together because of the importance she attaches to the   mental and psychological health of the young people, adding that it was part of the commemoration of the World Mental Health Day and the International Day of the Girl Child.

The Deputy Governor, who urged the students to take this program seriously, said they should see the guidance counsellor of the school whenever they are depressed for proper counselling, stressing that they must speak out whenever they face any form of abuse.

“I want you to understand that the fact that you have been sexually abused is not the end of life, there is life after rape, and there is life after sexual abuse. Do not keep quiet about it, even if it was done at home or in school please speak up.”  Dr Banigo quipped.

According to the Deputy Governor, “rape is a criminal offence that is punishable, and the punishment for rape is life imprisonment”.

She said even children could be jailed for rape, adding that for a child the punishment could be 14years in imprisonment.

Dr. Banigo said in 2018, the Protect the Girl Child Initiative, organized its first Mental and Sexual Abuse Seminar at the Federal Government Girls College Abuloma, where links about sexual violence and how to stop it and ensure that the voices of survivors were heard was set up.

According to the her, “at the seminar in Abuloma, a female student who had been violated repeatedly, since she was eight years old, came out, and the Protect the Girl Child Initiative, in the Office of the Deputy Governor was able to take her out of the environment, provided a safe home for her and ensured that the perpetrator was reported to the police, today she is in her 200 levels in the University”.

She added that, a similar programme for about one thousand three hundred students was held at Holy Rosary College in 2018, where for the first time many students understood what it means to be sexually abused, and realized that it was not the end of the world.

In his presentation on the topic “Depression How to Recognize and Deal with it” a Consultant Neuropsychiatrist in the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Dr. Chukwuma    Oke Afor, said depression has to do with un-controlled sadness, lack of interest in the things the person used to love in the past as well as fatigue.

He also said inability to sleep; having a feeling of hopelessness and the desire to end one’s life are signs of depression, while noting that counselling by a trusted person could help to salvage the situation.

The representative from the Doctors without Borders, Onyinye Anaba, who spoke on the topic “Sexual Abuse and Where to find Help”, frowned at the situation whereby victims of sexual abuse are blamed for the crime instead of naming and shaming the perpetrators.

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