SEXUAL ABUSE

Girls can no longer trust friends, family or teachers

Defilement cases becoming rampant, as children as young as five are targeted

In Summary

•Approximately 90 to 150 defilement cases are recorded from all the 47 counties in a month.

Schoolgirls
VULNERABLE: Schoolgirls

As it happens with restless teenagers sometimes, Jenny (not her real name), 13, from Rwa Nyambo in Kinangop, escaped from school in mid-2017 when the pressure became too much. 

Jenny left school in August and went to the bus station to get a ride home. She met a family friend called John, 34, a casual labourer in Kinangop. John was well-known to many people so she did not suspect any mischief when he told her he was travelling home to Kawangware to see his parents and requested her to accompany him. 

She agreed, hoping they would return to Rwa Nyambo the same day. Little did she know that the man she regarded as a family friend would not only abuse her trust but also her innocence.

“When we got to Kawangware I realised what he called parents’ home was his rented house. Immediately we got there he locked the door and went ahead to defile me," Jenny says.

The man kept Jenny prisoner and defiled her for a week. “Every time John left the house he would leave me locked in and defile me repeatedly when he came back from his work as he would say,” she says.

A teenager being interviewed after getting pregnant while in school.
A teenager being interviewed after getting pregnant while in school.

Holding back tears, Jenny says one day after John left she started looking for a way to escape. “I was lucky I heard a woman hanging clothes outside and I called out for help. I screamed to get her sympathy,” she says. John used to leave his house key hidden somewhere within the building, which the woman was aware of.

After the woman opened the door, Jenny told her everything and the woman gave her some money to return home. “I left almost immediately after she gave me Sh500 for bus fare. I did not think twice about what I was wearing at that time,” she says.

Back home she could not gather the courage to tell her mother, who suffers from ill health, what had happened to her. Her mother knew that her daughter was in school.

In late November, Jenny realised she was pregnant. She had no choice but to tell her mother what had happened.

Jenny’s tribulations would continue after she delivered a baby boy mid last year through caesarean section. The baby refused to suckle her right breast and she developed mastitis.

A voluntary children's officer at Kinangop, Elizabeth Wanjira, then sought the intervention of Nyandarua Finance executive Mary Mugwanja, who took her to hospital and also enrolled the family with NHIF.

“I have been going to a local dispensary for months, but now I am well and my nine-month-old baby is healthy. I also told them [Elizabeth and the CEC] that when the baby gets bigger I would want to go back to school," Jenny says.

Jenny, who is now 15, was enrolled in Form One at a local secondary school this year, where Mugwanja pays her fees.

Wanjira says cases of defilement are rampant at Kinangop, committed mostly by people well known to the victims. She is dealing with a number of cases and most victims are in children’s homes for protection. Their ages range from four to 13.

Jenny's is just one of the many cases of child defilement that occur every month and are either reported or not reported at all by parents or victims.

According to National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo, about 376 defilement cases are reported every month to the group. He did not, however, give evidence to support his claim.

In an interview with the Star, Maiyo said the association records approximately two cases per week from students per county.

“This is alarming. Most of the students that are defiled are day scholars who leave their houses every morning to go to school," he said. Most of the incidents involve primary school students.

Maiyo said they have a data centre where parents report abuse cases or the culprits' friends.

According to Mtoto News (based in Kibra) data in 2018, approximately 90 to 150 defilement cases are recorded from all the 47 counties in a month. The children are aged between 13 and 18.

Three minors aged seven,eight and five years who were allegedly defiled by a teacher in Kamirithu,Limuru
Three minors aged seven,eight and five years who were allegedly defiled by a teacher in Kamirithu,Limuru

This means that in a year, if we are to take the highest number, which is 150, then 1,800 cases are recorded. This is only the reported cases. The numbers could be higher.

According to Child Sexual Abuse report released in 2016, 636 defilement cases from all the 47 counties were reported in 2014. In 2015, the number decreased significantly to 393 while in 2016, 385 cases were reported.

The cases involved children aged five to 17 years. The report notes that the perpetrators of the abuse are neighbours (41 per cent), immediate family (19 per cent), romantic friend (14 per cent), extended family (nine per cent) and the teachers (seven per cent)

In Kenya, women and girls experience sexual violence more than men and boys.

The Economic Survey 2018 indicated that more than 500 cases were reported yearly from 2013 to 2017. It’s estimated that 14 per cent of Kenyan women and six per cent of men aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.

Education ministry data shows there are 8.88 million pupils in primary schools and 2.6 million in secondary schools.

Maiyo said most children who are defiled are primary school day scholars. He accused parents of neglect and blamed external forces such as boda boda operators who take advantage of the pupils.

"You find that a parent is giving a child Sh50 or Sh20 to take a motorcycle to school. The child then looks at the money and says I need to save this and buy something nice later," he said.

"The child then sweet talks the man riding a motorcycle. She tells the man that kindly take me to school and I will pay you later. From there, the man will know that payment can be made through other means."

Wanjira, the voluntary officer in Kinangop, told the Star that she has been helping most learners who have been defiled.

“They are quite a lot but because of the sensitivity of the situation, it’s not easy to divulge information about them. Some are defiled by outsiders while others by teachers and even family members,” she said.

Last year, Moi Girls Nairobi was on the spotlight after a student was defiled and two others assaulted by unknown assailants. Board chairman Paul Maema told the Star that they have moved on but did not want to explain what recommendations the school put in place to deter abuse.

“...anybody who wants to remind us of that incident will not be allowed to do so,” Maema said.

But Maiyo said the recommendations given to school are still being worked on. “The daughters and girls in that school were scared. The innocent ones were also scared. The school is still working on the recommendations even though there is not enough funding for that,” he said.

Maiyo said at the beginning of the year parents were afraid to take their children to the school. “About 20 per cent of parents looked for alternatives when their daughters [received admission letter to the school],” he said.

An official from the Education ministry said they receive reports of defilement cases but he was not in a position to say how many.

“When I start digging into the records they will know the person who spoke to you. But what I can say is that all these cases are police cases,” the official said.

The official said every case reported to the ministry is normally forwarded to the police for investigation.

“Even the cases that are recorded in school, for example when a child is defiled in school, the person has to be arrested with the help of the school principal,” he said.

WAY FORWARD

Survivors of sexual violence need to be believed and not condemned.

Health providers and law enforcement officers must be trained to conduct rigorous investigations for successful prosecutions. Successful prosecutions will encourage more rape victims to come forward to seek justice.

The first order of business in the war against sexual violence would be to elect more women to Parliament and the county assemblies.

Legislation and implementation of comprehensive sex education in schools are imperative to teach children the channels of reporting a rape or what to do when confronted with a rapist.