The consequences of the sexual abuse they have been subjected to are ingrained deeply, each of them affected in a different way.
The depth gets clearer as we get to know some of them on individual basis.
Their abusers range from close relatives and people they have known and trusted, who include biological and stepfathers.
- The effects of these inhuman acts are profound, as we would find out.
The evil of sexual abuse of Kenya’s children, specifically defilement of girls, has become a huge monster in the country, a reality that has to be confronted and fought vigorously.
We interacted with at least 30 minors, for about two weeks, from different backgrounds, living in three shelters in Nairobi and its environs. The girls are between seven and 17 years. All are victims of defilement, but only a few of them harbour the hope of getting justice since their attackers are still as free as birds, as the few wheels of justice continue to grind painfully slowly.
A casual look at these girls is not likely to give much. They look as ordinary as any girl their age. However, the consequences of the sexual abuse they have been subjected to are ingrained deeply, each of them affected in a different way.
The depth gets clearer as we get to know some of them on individual basis. Their abusers range from close relatives and people they have known and trusted, who include biological and stepfathers. Others were literally handed out to paedophiles by their mothers and relatives. The effects of these inhuman acts are profound, as we would find out.
(We will use first names only to protect the identities of the minors) At only seven years, Kate, took up the responsibility of fending for her two siblings after their mother abandoned them, leaving them at the mercy of a perpetual drunkard father, who did not provide for them. He immediately took to sexually abusing the little girl.
Good Samaritans had tried to help her get an education until she dropped out at Class Seven. To escape the trauma she was going through, she decided to run away from home. A good Samaritan ‘rescued’ her from the streets and employed her as a househelp. Besides working as help, the “Good Samaritan” turned out to be a pimp. She would offer her to men for a fee. On the verge of breaking down, the now 13-year-old girl confided in a neighbour, who took her to a children’s officer. She was rescued and taken to a shelter in Nairobi. She is now in school and the management describes her as an A student.
Kate is a soft-spoken teenage who loves children at the home. You are likely to catch her in the evening helping them out with their homework. Recently, she was taken ill and was admitted to hospital. Two days later, the hospital summoned her guardians and asked them to take her.
A doctor and a nurse described her as a “serious risk” and added that she was undisciplined. This shocked them. Apparently, Kate would sneak into the male wards, where she would engage in sex with the male patients.
“She is a great girl and very helpful around others,’’ says Nerea, the institution’s nurse, “But we noticed a few days after her arrival that she would develop a certain aggression whenever there was a man around. This is still the case, she becomes very visible and agitated, we don’t know what this behaviour is and don’t know how to deal with it,” she says.
This aggressive sexual baheviour is reffered to as hypersexuality, addiction to sex, says Dr Joachim Osur, a Sexual and Reproductive Health clinician.
But why would a child who has suffered years of sexual violence become addicted to sex?
“These children have suffered bad trauma psychologically to the extent that they will go for more sex in an attempt to relieve the trauma,’’ says Dr Osur.
He adds: “Victims do not really enjoy the sex; in fact, they feel sad and guilty, but are unable to stop the humiliating behaviour. The more they do it, the more they feel hurt,” the doctor says of what he terms a paradox of an injured mind.
And, he notes, the addiction has really nothing to do with the length or number of times that a child may have been sexually molested. It could even have been once.
Maria’s story is similar to that of Kate. She was 10 when her mother died. She was left under the care of relatives in one of the rural counties in Western Kenya. A year later, two other relatives took her to their home in Nairobi to work as a domestic worker. It’s here that she was subjected to repeated physical violence until neighbours informed the authorities.
“She had scars all over her body,’’ says a counsellor at the rescue centre that Maria calls home. The management later found out that the 12-year-old had also been subjected to sexual abuse for the years she lived in her rural area, and also by the relatives she was rescued from. Three days after Maria was admitted to the home, the counsellor says, other girls became uncomfortable with her.