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Report: Nearly half of females, more than half of males experienced childhood violence in Kenya

By Anyango Atieno | July 17th 2020

The Executive Director LVCT Healthcare Dr Lilian Otiso (left) UNICEF Kenya Representative Maniza Zaman (centre) and Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick Ntutu and Labour CS Simon Chelugui hold a survey report on violence against children after the launch on July 16, 2020, at NSSF Building in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

One in two Kenyans aged between 18 and 24 has experienced some form of physical, emotional or sexual violence, a new report has found.

The Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) Report 2019 has laid bare the brutality children are subjected to by those they trust to protect them at home.

Parents, caregivers and adult relatives were found to be among the biggest perpetrators of physical violence on children, affecting 37.9 per cent of males and 28.9 per cent of females.

“Physical violence is the most common type of violence experienced in childhood in Kenya. Nearly two out of five females (38.8 per cent) and half of the males (51.9 per cent) experienced childhood physical violence,” the report notes.

It defines physical violence as the intentional use of physical force that has the potential to result in injury, death, psychological harm or deprivation.

On sexual violence, the survey found that among the 15.6 per cent of females who experienced childhood sexual violence, two in three of them experienced multiple incidents before age 18.

Further, intimate partners – such as boyfriends and spouses – were found to be the most common perpetrators, comprising 44.4 per cent of first sexual violence incidents.

Tellingly, eight out of 10 first incidences of sexual violence against females occurred in the afternoon or evening.

In the survey, released yesterday by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, a lack of sufficient food was found to be among the biggest drivers of attacks on children. In food-insecure households, 41.3 per cent of males and 39.6 per cent of females aged between 18 and 24 were more likely to have experienced sexual and physical violence in the past 12 months than those in homes with sufficient supplies.

Witnessing violence at home was identified as another risk factor, with seven in 10 girls aged 13 to 17 in hostile home environments more likely to have experienced sexual or physical violence in the past 12 months compared to those who had not witnessed violence in the home (25.6 per cent).

Among boys in this age group, those who witnessed violence in their homes were 69.6 per cent more likely to have experienced sexual or physical violence in the past year than those who had not (25.2 per cent). 

The survey is the second of its kind, following the first VACS in 2010. It measures the prevalence, nature and consequences of physical, emotional and sexual violence against children and youth.

The findings inform a national prevention and response plan that addresses priority areas and interventions.

The report found that the most common perpetrators of the most recent incidents of sexual violence experienced by females in the past 12 months were a current or previous romantic partner (34.9 per cent), a friend (22.2 per cent) or authority figure (12.4 per cent).

In a display of the culture of silence that surrounds violence against children, fewer males (39.2 per cent) than females (41 per cent) opened up about their childhood physical violence. Further, only two in five females who experienced sexual violence told someone about it.

The most common reason given by more than half of the women surveyed who did not seek help for sexual violence was that they did not think it was a problem.

“One-third of youth who experienced sexual violence knew where to go for services (females, 34.8%; males, 34.2%), but very few sought or received services: only 12.5 per cent of females sought services and 10.7 per cent successfully received services for sexual violence. Among males, 3.2 per cent sought services and 3.2 per cent successfully received services for sexual violence,” the report says. 

Other consequences of childhood violence include mental health problems.

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