There is nothing as devastating as being summoned by the police only to learn that your loved one has been arrested for rape, defilement or even bestiality. Worse still, you may see a crowd chanting "set him ablaze!" and on closer look you realise it is your relative who is on the verge of getting lynched for defiling a minor. Some people go into denial while others are engulfed in shame and feelings of betrayal. In many cases, the society is enraged and those victims who are unlucky end up being lynched or badly wounded.
Ermias Musoti recalls the day villagers found him having carnal knowledge with a goat and set on him with crude weapons and kicks until he lost consciousness. Though the whole episode left his family in absolute embarrassment, and considering he is a university graduate, his sister took him to hospital because of the rough beating he had got from the irate villagers.
While at the hospital, Musoti went through counselling and was later referred to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist put him on medication but warned him that the condition is not treatable but can be managed. He narrates how he realised in shock that he was mentality ill because he would have never associated his habits with any disorder. He says that he engaged in sex with animals and minors. "I enjoyed the vulnerability of my victims so I couldn't have sex with adult women who would have matched my masculine prowess," he said.
That followed a series of visits to the psychiatrist and the lustful desires reduced. Mosoti however says that while he believed in the medication and the therapy, he also played a personal role by acquiring a positive attitude towards mental illness. "Many families don't want to accept that their loved one has a mental illness especially where sexual assault is involved because of the stigma attached to it," he notes and adds that it would be very helpful if the government invested on civic education on mental health to the society.
He further observes that there are many people who engage in unusual sexual behaviour but they are unaware that it could be a result of a mental disorder. The society on the other hand is very fast to condemn and inflict punishment hence no one can disclose that they have the disorder for fear of stigma and subsequent punishment. This was the case for the congregants of the church led by Edwin Murithi and his family. Murithi, a respectable-looking, elderly bishop was arrested after being accused of sexually abusing a man.
While residents of Chogoria town, in Tharaka-Nithi County went up in arms baying for his blood, his congregation wrestled with denial because this is a man, as they said, who had led the church and defended the Christian doctrine for over 30 years. "Had it been a case with another woman, that would win a benefit of doubt; but with another man, I am sure Bishop can never do such a thing," said a distraught member of his congregation.
Media reports would later unveil that upon arraignment in court, the bishop was found to have a mental illness and was released on a bond. Musoti's and Murithi's cases are not isolated since barely does a month elapse without media reports on defilement, rape or bestiality cases. Little is known about mental sexual disorders hence, a topic like bestiality is taboo in different African communities. Psychiatry professionals explain that among reasons why a person would engage in extraordinarily and extreme sex is a condition called paraphilia.
Paraphilia is a condition in which a person gets arousal or sexual satisfaction by engaging in atypical, dangerous or extreme sexual activities - that's why a person with paraphilia can get sexual gratification from animals or minors.
Psychology Today describes the term paraphilia as "intense sexual attraction to any objects or people outside of genital stimulation with consenting adult partners."
A paraphilia, according to the website, is considered a disorder when the paraphilia is causing distress or threatens to harm someone else. In other words, when a paraphiliac can only gain sexual gratification when they or their partners are in pain and as a result they can harm themselves or their sexual partners, it is considered a disorder.
Experts explain that paraphilia is far more common in men than in women. According to a Counselling Psychologist Silas Kiriinya who is the CEO at Amazon Counselling Centre at South B, paraphilia disorder can be best understood under the categories given in Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose disorders.
The category includes recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviours generally involving non-human objects, children or other non-consenting persons that occur over a period of at least six months.
Dr Kevin Wamula, a psychiatrist at Mathare Mental Hospital says that in current psychiatric context, the important feature that defines abnormal sexual preference is harm; abnormal sexual preference is considered harmful when it is physically or emotionally harmful to other people.
He further explains that abnormalities of sexual preferences have a social aspect and can be illustrated by masturbation and homosexuality especially in the Western cultures.
"Masturbation and homosexuality were for a long time offences against the laws of religion and later described as mental diseases. This is no longer the case because they are now considered normal in most industrialised countries," he asserts and adds that because of the private nature of sexual preferences, there is no physical feature one can usually point to and spot a sexual deviant.
"Psychiatrists are usually approached by the individual who only thinks that they have a problem. Apart from a few sexual abnormalities where the individual is caught in the act of bestiality or exhibitionism, sexual deviants can go for years with their abnormalities and never get treatment," Dr Wamula warns.
Experts say that there are different types of paraphilias with each focusing on the patient's sexual arousal. Voyeurism, for instance is a type of sexual abnormality where a person gets sexual satisfaction by watching nude people or other people engaging in sex.
Sexual sadism on the other hand is when a person gets satisfaction by inflicting pain on their partners during sex while sexual masochism involves using the experience of suffering or humiliation as a preferred or exclusive practice for achieving sexual excitement.
There are also other fairly rare sexually abnormalities like auto-erotic ashyxia: this is when an individual gets heightened sexual arousal when they suffocate themselves using paper-bags, cords or other things as they masturbate. Silas Kiriinya points out that he encounters many of such cases in his counselling career and has seen the clients changing through the therapy and counselling.
"The reason we have so many untreated cases of paraphilia is because the society is ignorant of such disorders and the level of victimisation is very rampant," Silas says and adds that some of the paraphiliacs are labelled as demon-possessed hence majority are prayed for instead of being taken for medical diagnosis.
"Sometimes this leaves the paraphiliac with no strategy to control the behaviour, or with no knowledge on how to deal with the unfortunate eventualities if relapse, " he observes. Such clients need constant professional, social, and spiritual support," he advises.
Charlie* has had first-hand encounter with a paraphiliac in an episode that has almost destroyed his masculine ego. When his parents separated, Charlie's mother left him under his father's care. Little did she know that the father would turn into a beast and would sexually molest the 13-year-old boy amidst threats of death should he ever reveal it to anybody.
Charlie suffered for almost two years until one night when his rectum was almost pulling out when he called neighbours who came to his rescue. Charlie, now 16 years old, regrets the fact that he did not disclose his ordeal to his mother who would often pass by secretly to find out how her son was doing and if the father had found himself another wife. When the boy was taken to the hospital, his rectum had been withdrawn and the medical experts suspected that the assailant may have been using an object to sexually molest the boy.
Dr Wamula points out that it is unclear what the causes of paraphilia are but behaviourists suggest that the disorder often begins with a process of conditioning. For example, a child who peeps at people in the bathroom may end up with voyeurism where they can only get satisfaction by watching nudity. This, behaviourists warn, may mature into porn watching and subsequent masturbation. The psychiatrist states that paraphilia can affect people of all ages but parents can control their children's behaviour so that they don't indulge in habits that can turn to paraphilia in adulthood. The psychiatrist advises that there are different forms of psychotherapy that are used to manage paraphilia disorders.
He further says that drugs are limited to those who have other psychiatric conditions which drive them to have abnormal sexual preferences such as anxiety or schizophrenia – a long term mental disorder involving a breakdown between thought, emotion and behaviour. But with medication together with psychotherapy, the disorders can be well managed. Silas concurs with Dr Wamula that paraphiliacs have no medication unless they have other mental conditions that develop as a result of being a paraphiliac.
"The best psychotherapy for treating paraphilia is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps the paraphiliac to reconstruct their cognitive (act or process of knowing or perceiving) systems. It is also essential for the therapist to assess any presence of traumatic experiences in the life of the client," he says and explicates that trauma has a way of changing the survivor's perception such that it is easier for them to resort to such behaviours without realising that it is a disorder. "Such clients require constant empowerment and insight-building to enable them own the process of change as well as venting out any negative emotion which may have arisen as a result of dissatisfaction in their behaviour," he says.
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