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When defilement victims have to share the same home with their abusers

NATIONAL
By Anne Atieno | September 9th 2021

Some of the rescued girls who escaped FGM at Komotobo Center in Kuria East sub-county on December 11. Police are protecting centres for fear of attacks by locals. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Valence Awuor, 13, recalls the day she left home after her step-father defiled her.

Two days after the incident, her mother told her to carry a bucket of the bathing water to the bathroom for her step-father. Instead of simply thanking her for performing the chore, as a father would, he threatened her.  

“He told me to refute everything I had told my mother a day before otherwise, I was going to have problems with him,” Awuor narrates.

Her step-father was later arrested and it emerged he was also defiling her elder sister, a secondary school student.

Now at the rescue centre where she has been camping for the last month, she appears apprehensive, with the February 15 incident still fresh on her mind. 

Liza Aketch is another victim of incestuous defilement by a man she considered a father.

The 16-year-old Form Two student at a secondary school in Machakos County says her step-father took advantage of her in an ordeal that totally changed her perception of male relatives.

Awuor and Aketch’s cases, experts say, are examples of instances where survivors of sexual abuse encounter the biggest hindrance to justice -- the lack of protection for victims and witnesses, especially minors, who find themselves in fragile and complex situations.

According to stakeholders, seeking justice for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) has been affected by fear of the judicial process and stigma from society.

Victims stigmatised

Migori County SGBV activities coordinator Angeline Atieno says society has always stigmatised victims of the vice.

She notes that intimidation and stigma have seen most cases go unreported with victims and witnesses dropping off midway through court hearings.

“The stigma gets worse when they try to seek justice through hospitals, police and courts,” Ms Atieno says.

She says most victims are forced to live in the same society and family setup as their perpetrators which adds more pressure on them.

Lenah Kanyagi who is a Project Manager for Amref Health Africa says training of the community helps to demystify the process of seeking justice for SGBV victims and ensure the process gives justice to both the victims and the aggressors.

“Most victims are from a poor background which makes them susceptible to corruption and lack of means of seeking justice as hospitals, police, and courts are far away,” Kanyangi said.

The I Can Fly rescue centre in Nyamasare village, North Kanyamkago in Uriri Sub County houses 76 girls who have fled from sexual attacks by randy relatives.

Founder and director Mrs Gladwel Wanjiru says they have partnered with law enforcers to prosecute the perpetrators and ensure justice is served to the victims. 

Ms Wanjiru, who is also an SGBV survivor, says she is still bitter with her uncle who defiled and impregnated her at a tender age. The stakeholders say they sought to have synergy from the point a case is reported at either police or hospitals to ensure evidence and statements are collected to aid in giving justice.

Kanyagi notes that there are cases where justice is never served because of bungled evidence and statements.

“We have cases where justice is never done due to poor statement recording.”

They called on the government to put up safe houses for victims of SGBV to help offer psychological support and care to victims.

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