Six-time Nigerian Olympic table tennis player Funke Oshonaike has disclosed that she was once physically and sexually abused by a man ten years her senior.
The incident occurred while she was a student at the University of Lagos.
“I started representing Nigeria at the age of 14. I give God almighty the glory for this talent and all that I’ve achieved today. These are some of the downs in my life that made me a strong woman,” she said.
“I was physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally abused by a man that was 10 years older than me. This man beat me for more than three years and I remember always going to UNILAG with a battered face, but I still never gave up on table tennis, men or living. That was my decision.”
According to the BBC, Oshonaike was inspired to tell her story after the rape and murder of Uwa Omozua, a 22-year-old Nigerian woman, in a church in Benin City.
Omozua was found dead, lying half-naked in a pool of blood at a local parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Edo State, where she had been a member of the choir for many years.
The Nigerian police department has faced criticism over the refusal to call the attack a “rape,” instead, labeling it as an “inhumane sexual assault.”
Oshonaike says that even after her attack, she was not aware of how to characterize the assault.
“He was a friend – I was naive,” Oshonaike recalled via the news outlet. “When he got angry, he beat me. He used his two thumbs to press my eyes. And he sexually abused me. I felt helpless, with blood all over me. I never knew it was called rape. All I knew was I felt dirty.”
She adds, “I didn’t understand what he was doing to me. I have only recently realised it was rape.”
The athlete says that her attacker took everything, including all of her money, which made it difficult to escape. When she finally broke free, Oshonaike says she rebuilt her life — but admits that the trauma stayed with her for many years.
She hopes her speaking out will empower other victims of rape and sexual abuse.
“Everything I’ve gone through has made me a mentor to others. I am able to share my stories with women who have been victims and encourage them to not give up on themselves. I hope more women will be bold enough to come out and speak up. I am a survivor.”