When the nanny entrusted with your child becomes a monster

With his parents busy at work, he had to remain under the daily care of a house help, a woman who later caused him psychological torture.

Charles Karanja, who was abused at a tender age, is one of the victims who has gained courage to seek professional counseling in a bid to regain his confidence.

Speaking during the opening of a recovery centre at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on Tuesday, Mr Karanja narrated his story of abuse and how it affected him later in life. “I was sexually abused by a house help at a very tender age. I cannot even remember how old I was but the effects of that abuse manifested later in life,” he said.

He revealed that he has engaged in drugs, ‘prostitution’ and has even tried to commit suicide several times as a result of psychological torture. “Most people think men and boys are not victims of sexual violence. I had given up on life but with counselling, I was able to get my life back,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys globally have experienced sexual abuse before reaching 15 years of age.

When victims do not access the necessary medical and psychological help there can be devastating results.

Nelly Opiyo, a psychologist at KNH, pointed out that the effects of sexual abuse are varied and can range from physical to psychological effects.

She explained that physical effects will include infections if untreated, some could even lead to death.

As far as psychological effects of sexual abuse go, Ms Opiyo said changes in the victims’ behaviour can be tell-tale signs of abuse. “For example, if he or she was outgoing and suddenly seems withdrawn and does not want to go out to play with friends or avoids being around a specific person they did not mind being around before, that’s a sign of abuse,” said the psychologist.

She added that psychologically, the victim’s self-esteem is dented and one might even find it hard to sleep and may have nightmares.

She pointed out that for children who have been abused, some of the tell-tale signs may include thumb-sucking that may not have been there before or even bed wetting that was non-existent or had stopped.

“If parents are able to pick up on some of these signs and seek help for the child early, the better,” she added.

Opiyo said to some degree, perpetrators of this form of violence could have been victims of violence too.