Sexual violence survivors push for safe centres

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 00:00 |
Survivors of sexual abuse in Kisumu. There are no safe houses funded by the government. The only ones in operation are run by NGOs, which makes it difficult for survivors to get justice. Photo/PD/VIOLA KOSome

When Janice Olga (not her real name) got a job as a house help for a family in Lolwe estate in Kisumu, she thought that her problems had finally come to an end.

She had endured several years of suffering after her parents died and left her under the care of her grandmother, who could barely feed her and her younger brother.

 For her, the job offered her hope and a new lease of life. Little did she know that the job would turn out to be a nightmare and add her name to the statistic of women who have been subjected to sexual abuse. 

When the People Daily caught up with her yesterday, she was still struggling to come to terms with her experience.

She sheds tears at the request to share her story and wipes her face in agony as she painstakingly recounts how the husband of her employer and a brother sexually assault her.

She is among several women in the region who are victims of Gender Based Violence and are suffering in silence.

This comes as statistics at a rescue centre at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital indicates that at least 10-12 cases of GBV are reported at the facility almost on a daily basis

And for Olga, the scars of GBV are still fresh and haunts her even as she continues to struggle to make ends meet.

Few months into the employment, the Olga said the husband of her employer started sexually assaulting her and threatened her with dire consequences if she raised an alarm.

“They took advantage of my desperate situation and sexually assaulted me several times. It was horrific,” she says.

All that time, she claims, she was not paid even a penny by her employer who would also harass her and kept reminding her that she had saved her from the streets.

She was suffering in silence yet had no one to turn to.

“I could not take it anymore and  I decided to sneak out of the house and went to look for a way to make ends meet,” said Olga.

That was when she decided to go back to the village to her elderly grandmother and pleaded with her aunt who was staying in Taita Taveta to take her back to school and she agreed.

Things, however, did not work well for her as she was abused and she decided to go back to Kisumu where she resorted to staying in the streets.

But she is not alone, at Got Nyabondo, Kajulu in Kisumu East, a mother of a seven-year-old is seeking for justice after her daughter was reportedly defiled by a relative.She said she had tried her best to seek for justice but all in vain as her husband was bought off by the perpetrators parents to  withdraw the case and she has been left alone to struggle with the case despite her daughter being defiled twice on different days by the 15-year-old.

Another 13-year-old orphan was also defiled by his cousin in Manyatta area and the suspects roams freely in the area.

The incidents indicate a worrying trend of young girls whose future is being ruined as a result of defilement and rape.  Court records, interviews with a number of stakeholders as well as records from the Gender Based Violence (GBV) centre indicate that there has been an increase in the number of sexual abuse on underage girls especially during the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to outgoing Kisumu County police boss Peter Kattam, the increasing number of GBV cases are spread across all the seven sub-counties in the county but however, some sub-counties have more.

He said Kisumu Central, Kisumu East and Seme sub-counties are the worst hit by GBV.  As National Police Service, Kattam said they have put in place gender desks in every police station where they have also trained officers to deal with such cases.

Domestic conflicts

The police boss told People Daily that most GBV victims are taken advantage of because they are either young, unable to defend themselves as some of the perpetrators threaten victims .

He attributed the rising numbers of GBV cases to domestic conflicts, poverty, irresponsible parenting, family structures among others.

“Some parents leave their children unattended which has led to poor moral standards and up bringing among the children,”he said.

He admitted that they have made numerous arrests which end up in courts but however, the major challenge they at times face was lack of reporting or late reporting.

“We have arrested many people, prosecuted them before the courts with some suspects ending up in remands,”he said.

The worst affected ages he said they have been receiving are as old as a two weeks old baby up to 45 years olds.

“It is sad sometimes we even receive toddlers being victims of GBV. Some people are inhuman and do not think they might kill such children when they violate their rights, “he said.

According to Tuli Tulitu, a human rights activist, failure by the county government to establish a rescue centre has hampered efforts to address the problem of GBV. She says they have been pushing for the establishment of  a safe house in vain.

“This is something we have been pushing for for so long but I think the government is not convinced.

It is about time the government walk the talk because when we keep on leaving those people in such environments, some of them end up losing their lives,” she said. 

 Tulitu told People Daily that the community, continuously advocating for the needs of children and tightening laws around GBV and victims affected can reduce the increasing numbers. In Kisumu, the worst affected people she said were those living in slum areas and a bit of the middle class group who opted not to speak. 

“We cannot rule out even the middle class because they too were affected. There were a lot of people who were affected but did not want to speak up including the Asian community too. With Covid-19, everyone was exposed in a bad way,” she said.

 She added a lot of people were affected by GBV and it was unfortunate that those who live in slum areas were the one’s who learned to seek help.

With the middle class, she disclosed that most of the affected people ended up in depression and committing suicide instead of speaking up to get assistance.

Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (Kefeado) Executive Director and Programmes Coordinator Esther Achieng said at the peak of Covid-19, rescue centres were closed which was a great challenge since there were no places for women to go for help. 

 She said Covid -19 exposed more women to GBV as men became more violent as they stayed in the house for longer hours.

She urged the government to set up GBV centres in all the 7 sub-counties in Kisumu to enable victims’ access services easily.

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