Like thousands of mothers in Kenya, I read those figures about the sex abuse of children, particularly young girls, with a mixture of incredulity and shock. I felt sick.
Yes, I know defilement of youngsters has been going on here for a long time. You only have to read the regular court reports in the papers to understand that.
But the news that it is happening at such a rate really made me feel angry.
The facts are these: According to the Violence Against Children in Kenya Survey, nearly one in three Kenyan girls under the age of 18 has been the victim of sexual violence. That is one third of the youthful female population. If you think about it in real terms, every third girl you meet today is likely to have been assaulted sexually. Many of these cases are outright rape.
I suppose that I have to go into the legal terms here. Child survivors of rape are said to have been 'defiled'. The Sexual Offences Act provides that a person who commits an act that causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offence called defilement.
- 1 Kirinyaga pastor sentenced to 140 years in jail for defiling daughters
- 2 Why I quit my job to go rescue abused children
- 3 Cry for justice as priest defile, impregnate school girl
- 4 Caretaker arrested in Migori for defiling four-year-old minor
A defiler, where he or she is found guilty, will be subject to much harsher sentencing than a rapist (an adult who sexually assaults another adult).
Without taking anything away from the horror of rape, adults who visit sexual violence on the innocence of childhood have no business calling themselves human beings. An adult who sexually assaults a child defiles the very essence of their personhood.
What makes their conduct so dangerous is that sexual predators, as consumed as they are with the sowing of their oats – no matter what their excuse – are literally planting the seeds of sexual dysfunction. Indeed, research has shown that girls exposed to sexual violence may be more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour later in life.
So what can the authorities do about it? And more importantly, how can we as parents protect our children in an ever-increasing hyper-sexualised environment, one which Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has described as a "burgeoning defilement crisis".
"Courts will mete out the severest sanctions to offenders, but families and communities must do more to prevent the insecurity being visited on children and women," he said.
But isn't that far too late?
To eradicate this plague, we must first try to understand why it is happening and why it has increased so rapidly.
While I admit I am no expert, I can tell you that I believe the problem begins and ends in the home.
While personal example is all important, so too is our collective consciousness as a society. We are a society that condones corruption on every level and it is no wonder then that we are racing steadily towards moral bankruptcy.
For every defilement case that ends up in front of a judge, an unknown number of others are 'settled out of court' or abandoned altogether for lack of proper investigation. Parents deny their children justice by agreeing terms with sex pests. Police demand payment as a precondition for services they are mandated by law to provide freely.
It is your responsibility as an adult – whether you are a parent or not – to protect children from harm. We all need to take that responsibility more seriously.