If I told you I was sexually harassed vigorously by a man would you believe me? Yes, I was, even as a grown man.
I have witnessed sexual harassment in its most appalling form – at least for a man. I have kept this egregious, revolting and mentally disturbing experience in a coven where I shut away sad episodes of my existence.
In July 2011, shortly after I got married, I met a bloke at a church where I worshipped at the time in Abuja. He sidled up to me at the end of a convivial service, and said: “Hey! I am Chuks, I like you. Did you enjoy the service?”
Me: Oh! Thank you. Yes I did. It was uplifting.
Chuks: Where are you from?
Me: I am from Idemili north in Anambra state?
Chuks: Oh! My brother! I am from Idemili north too – from Obosi.
I interrupted the conversation to introduce my wife.
Me: …Please meet my wife….
Chuks: Madam, it is good to meet you. Your husband is my brother.
Conversation continued with my wife present
Chuks: I just returned from the US, and I don’t have any friends here. I would like us to hang out this evening, and talk more.
Me: Okay. That is fine.
About 7pm Chuks called. He told me he was at a hotel at Wuse Zone 5. I cannot recall the name of the place now, but it is situated within the propinquity of Sky Memorial. Since my wife was the third ear in our conversation, I had no need to take “permission” from her to leave.
I got to the hotel; Chuks was waiting at the lobby. We crossed banters, and I traipsed casually to the bar where we could talk over some bottles of spirit (I used to drink at the time). But Chuks revolted, “Oh! I have bought drinks for us. It is in my hotel room. I thought we could have a private chat. I am not too comfortable in public spaces …having people milling around and all that….”
I never suspected that this man, who claimed he shared tribal affinity with me, had a dark plot until the turpitude unravelled.
Although, I was once sexually “overtured” by a man, a manager at Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) in 2006, I took it with levity and naivety.
I was in my third year at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka at the time. I had gone to the station with a programme proposal, and I was asked to meet with him. While I was discussing my ideas with the manager, he was intently staring at my face. Without a whiff of vacillation, he botched our conversation, and said: “I like you. I would like you to keep me company at Marble Arch this evening; you know as partners …to enjoy each other….”
I was startled. I just said: “Okay, Sir”, and left his office and never came back. That did not extinguish my zeal to be on TV. I later joined the discussion panel of Hephzibah Agwaniru’s TellyTalk at ABS, where I analysed seminal issues.
This is by the way.
I got into Chuks’ hotel room without circumspection. He swiftly locked the door. He offered me a can of beer, I took it and quaffed. He then opened his can of atrocity. He began making sexual gestures. I was bewildered. I stood up to leave; he cordoned off my path with his body and held me in an unholy embrace; intermittently fondling me.
I told him: “I am not gay. I have no problem with you being homosexual, but it is not my thing.”
He was persistent. Then I told him: “I know you are physically stronger, but I have a very loud voice. I will shout.” He conceived I meant my threat; he then backed off. He became penitent.
I left his hotel room immediately. When I got home, my wife was curious, she said: “Did you fight with anyone there. You look ruffled and distraught.” I spent the night recounting my experience in the hands of a sexual predator.
We decided to “bury the story”. But I have lived with the anguish and dirtiness of that experience for years. It has been a mammoth burden. I sometimes ask myself, “Do I look gay?” I have questioned my sexuality a number of times. It is psychologically overwhelming.
I am writing this now because I know there are many men and boys like me, who live with the anger of an abused past, but cannot speak out because “sexual harassment against a man” is “normal” and seldom elicits mass condemnation, action and hysteria.
Rape, sexual molestation, assault and harassment are realities in the life of a man.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer, journalist and communications consultant. He was the Abuja Bureau Chief of The Cable. He tweets from @FredrickNwabufo.
The opinions expressed in this email are solely those of the author.