Vivianne, 12, stretches her hand to greet me, her face fixed on the ground. Attempts to strike a conversation fail as she steals a quick glance at me and faces away.
Before her 13th birthday, Vivianne will probably be a mother.
Instead of celebrating the special day with her peers, she will be struggling to learn how to get a good latch for her baby due for delivery this month.
The 12-year-old who is a victim of sexual abuse fled home when she was three months pregnant to seek refuge at Glory Christian Rescue Centre in Kiamumbi, Kiambu County.
The rescue centre’s founder, Beatrice Malika claims Vivianne was defiled under the mother’s watch.
Ms Malika says teachers realised all was not well when she became withdrawn and started missing classes. At times she could disappear for three days in a week.
“Every time a teacher tried to ask her if she was fine, she muttered something and the situation got worse by the day. Whenever I asked her if she was okay all she told me is the mother had threatened to kill her but never disclosed why,” she says.
After living with Malika for a while, Vivianne finally opened up and narrated how her mother allegedly brought a man to their home in Ngomongo one night and told her she had gotten her a husband.
When she tried to run away from the man, the mother allegedly beat her up and ordered her to undress. She claims the man defiled her and handed a Sh500 note to the mother before he left.
Started threatening her
Two months after the incident, Malika says Vivianne told her mother she had missed her period and this did not go down well with her.
“The mother started threatening her and warned her against confiding in anyone what had happened to her that night. Vivianne is naïve and quiet, that’s why she never told me all these when I took her in,” Malika says.
The rescue centre founder reported the matter to Njathaini Police Post but no arrests have been made so far.
It has been an elusive search for justice for Vivianne but Malika isn’t about to give up.
Out of the 24 children at the rescue centre, nine are victims of sexual abuse.
In one case, an uncle who had allegedly defiled two sisters aged below 10 was arrested and is behind bars.
“I am worried this case might grind to a halt as their parents were here recently begging me to drop it. They offered me Sh50,000 but I chased them away and have never seen them again. They also relocated and I don’t know where they moved to,” she claims.
Malika says most children were abused by people close to them.
Three siblings aged 6, 8 and 10 who had repeatedly been abused by their step father – a jail bird - are still undergoing counselling.
A recent study by the government showed that fathers and mothers were common perpetrators of abuse against children.
“The youngest, a boy draws pictures of what used to happen to him and his sisters. It has been hard to get those images out of his little head but we hope counselling will help,” she adds.
According to Malika who started the rescue centre in July last year after receiving complaints from children in her school, in Ngomongo, an informal settlement on the Northern Bypass, the abuse is often ignored or, when noticed, attracts a lethargic response at best, with cases ranging from physical and sexual assault, emotional abuse, torment, neglect, abandonment and child labour.
“Most of the children here have gone through almost all of those forms of abuse, I will do my best to help the ones I can but it is a painful journey getting justice for the children. The judicial process is painfully slow.
“In one of the cases, I went as far as helping the police know where the person to be arrested was but they did nothing,” she adds.
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