- The WKF and Network also record information about survivors’ experiences as they negotiate the case referral pathway.
- 45% of women and girls between the ages of 14 and 49 have been subjected to some form of violence
Many countries including Kenya are yet to integrate data collection on sexual violence incidents into the healthcare system, making it difficult to establish the nature of sexual offences.
According to the latest report by the Wangu Kanja Foundation, University of Birmingham and the Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University, this contributes to widespread societal denial about the realities of sexual violence cases and the collective oppression of survivors and their families.
The study shows that capturing detailed information about incidents, for instance: characteristics of perpetrators, where it happened, victims, and the offence can dispel myths about sexual violence and aid in crime prevention and intervention.
The study examined incidents—in particular, offences committed against children in Kenya using two different sets of data gathered by the Violence Against Children (VACS) and data collected by the Wangu Kanja Foundation (WKF), a survivor-led Kenyan NGO that assists sexual violence survivors in attaining vital services and justice.
While the VACS provide important data on the national prevalence of different forms of violence experienced by children, there are limitations.
The analysis indicates that, while the VACS gives details about the prevalence of sexual violence, it provides less detailed information about the nature of violence for instance, characteristics of perpetrators, victims, and the offence compared with the WKF dataset.
The VACS collects information on current and lifetime experiences of sexual, physical, and emotional violence for children, who are divided into two age groups: 13- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 24-year-olds.
The 13- to 17-year-olds are asked about their experiences with violence during the 12-month period prior to their taking the survey, whereas the 18- to 24-year-olds are asked about their life experiences with violence For instance, neither the VACS nor the DHS survey children under the age of 13, or their parents, about life experiences with violence.
Furthermore, the VACS does not gather in-depth information about incidents, such as the number of perpetrators involved, whether a weapon was used, whether and how the victim was injured, or whether the victim was alcohol-intoxicated, for example.
"This type of information can provide details about the perpetrator’s behaviour that can aid in crime detection and prevention, such as by uncovering the perpetrator modus operandi for purposes of linking crimes committed by serial offenders", the survey says.
Furthermore, the VACS does not provide information about the reporting of incidents to the police, or adjudication, which would allow for studying case attrition, such as identifying regions in which few reported cases are prosecuted.
Finally, some of the information being reported by survivors in the VACS concerns incidents of violence that occurred long ago.
When testimony about an event is taken relatively recently after the incident, it will be a more complete account on the other hand, WKF collects data about case progression across the case referral pathway, gathering information about the offence, the victim, and the perpetrator(s), as well as about medical services the client can access, criminal investigation, and case adjudication.
The WKF and network members who gather data from survivors are also survivors of sexual violence and are trusted members of the survivor’s local community.
According to the study, different methods of data collection can affect people’s willingness to disclose incidents and the accuracy and type of information they divulge.
As such, this approach increases the willingness of survivors to disclose incidents and provide in-depth information about these assaults that can help increase knowledge about the violations that are occurring to better prevent and respond to crimes in the future.
Additionally, the WKF collects critical case-related information about the injuries suffered by survivors, as well as data on whether survivors received legal aid, retained forensic evidence, and if so, what it was, and whether the survivor accessed medical and police services.
As previously mentioned, the lack of legal aid and timely access to medical and police assistance reduces the likelihood that medico-forensic evidence is recovered.
To heal this, the WKF and Network data provides valuable information about what evidence is most frequently gathered, and what evidence is most often lacking, which can provide leads about what services are needed to strengthen evidence and prosecutions.
The WKF and Network also record information about survivors’ experiences as they negotiate the case referral pathway.
Detailed information is obtained about the survivors’ ability to access security, medical attention, and police services, as well as information about whether the police documented the case and whether it was ultimately accepted for prosecution.
Furthermore, information about the survivors’ medical status in relation to the violation, such as HIV test results, is recorded, unlike the VACS, which can provide information about whether survivors are able to access vital services in the aftermath of sexual violence.
According to the study, the survivor-centred approach to gathering data can also increase the willingness of survivors to report incidents that do not conform to the above-mentioned stereotyped views about what constitutes rape.
For instance, survivors who were alcohol-intoxicated during the offence or who are acquainted with the offender may be more inclined to report information about their ordeal to the WKF and the network than they are to VACS or DHS interviewers.
This survey is coming at a time when cases of sexual violence in Kenya is on the rise, with fewer incidents reported as victims fear for their lives.
A decade ago, the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) indicated that approximately 45 per cent of women and girls between the ages of 14 and 49 have been subjected to some form of violence, with 14 per cent subjected to sexual violence.
This has since risen close to 50 per cent, with much sexual violence frequently not reported to the police, and offenders are seldom arrested, let alone prosecuted.
Sadly, victims are often held accountable for the offence, even by the organisations responsible for serving and protecting survivors.