Unsafe at home: Girls falling prey to sexual abusers
Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
Fifteen-year-old Grace (not her real name) recalls a rough hand grabbing her thighs in the dead of the night while she was asleep.
Her attempt at screaming was quickly muffled by a gag that chocked her, and a brusque voice whispered into her left ear warning her to cooperate.
This would be followed by a painful five minutes of defilement as she gasped for breath.
She is said to have sounded the alarm at around 11pm and family members and villagers responded.
In an incident reported mid-March shortly after closure of schools as reported by Sauti ya Wanawake, Ganze Sub-county chairperson, Judith Uchi, that night, the pupil at Masemo Primary School was impregnated by the assaulter, later revealed to be her uncle.
It later emerged her own father has been defiling her for close to 10 years, since she was in kindergarten.
“She was immediately rushed to a nearby medical facility and it was established, as indicated on the post defilement care form, she teenager had repeatedly engaged in the act,” says Uchi.
“On interrogation, she revealed in the counselling session that her father has been defiling her on daily basis since she was six years. She also disclosed he has been intimidating her,” she adds.
Uchi, who has been keenly monitoring the matter, says the minor had also said in most cases her father had been chasing away the mother from their home.
“After she revealed the series of events, we immediately coordinated for arrests of the two who are now in police custody,” the child rights lobbyist says.
In yet another incident, a teenage girl also 15, was forced to flee her parents’ home in Tezo, Kilifi North as she could not endure a series of daily sexual harassments reportedly visited upon her by both her father and elder brother.
As Uchi explains the minor disclosed that her father and brother have been defiling her secretly on sporadic occasions, but after the schools were closed in March, the acts grew more intense and frequent that she was unable to withstand any longer.
“ After the schools were closed in March, the trend of defilements intensified until she could not hold it any longer and escaped to her grandfather’s home in Kachororoni, Ganze.
This is one of the most recent incidents. In fact we are in the process of filling the Police P3 form,” Uchi explains.
The lobbyist says in the process, the girl got pregnant and could not establish who was responsible. However, her father quickly organised for her to procure an abortion.
“The father has a friend who is a herbalist, to whom he took the girl. She was given some traditional medicine and aborted the pregnancy secretly,” says the Sauti ya Wanawake chair.
In another incident at Tsangalaweni, a teenager was reportedly impregnated by her father but when the matter was forwarded to the village elders, she was allegedly advised not to mention her father, but instead accuse their farm hand.
At Bamba within Ganze constituency a 14-year-old girl is also six month pregnant for her father who is on the run and is being sought.
While the rest of the world is battling covid-19 crisis, it is a double tragedy for Kilifi County which now has to contend with yet another wave of teenage pregnancies as projected by latest statistics.
And in a more disturbing twist, it has emerged that male parents and siblings are increasingly being adversely mentioned as masterminds behind the cases.
Martha Sunda, executive director of Childline Kenya, which manages a help line 116, a toll free number for reporting child abuse through voice and text messages, says since the schools were closed on March Kilifi report zero cases on that line- something she says could because children are unable to report “while with perpetrators.”
“The fact that there are zero cases reported does not mean that there are no cases.
It could also mean that the abuses are going on, but they are not able to report the cases because they are at home with the paedophiles. During school days we normally receive some cases,” says Sunda.
A Kilifi-based community based organisation (CBO), Wima Women Empowerment, established that the county was already grappling with active cases of teenage pregnancies even before the government declared closure of schools after the first case of covid-19 was announced in the country on March 13.
Latest figures compiled by the organisation which partners with Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) Kenya reveals a total of 154 cases of teenage pregnancies were recorded in Ganze sub county alone between March and April.
The organisation terms the above statistics as disturbing, considering the cases are emerging at a time when children are at home with their parents.
According to the CBO’s secretary Laura Wawuda, who was involved in data compilation of the new statistics, 77 girls aged between 15 and 19 were impregnated in April projecting an upward trend from 75 cases in March.
Pregnancy cases involving adolescent girls aged between 10 and 14 recorded between January and March this year shot to 96, up from 41 cases recorded last year within the same period.
Missing parental guidance
“If children can get impregnated while at the care of their parents at home, it is evident that parental guidance at family level is lacking, because organisations have been doing their best to sensitise young girls and boys.
Another thing that has been coming out evidently is that children tend to be copying from their parents who have a habit of practising infidelity openly by bringing their lovers at home as children watch,” says Wawuda.
She adds that there is a growing tendency of men marrying single mothers with daughters born out of wedlock, targeting step daughters in sexual offences.
However, she explains, these cases could just be a tip of the iceberg as most families choose to resolve such matters quietly without involving authorities, thereby accounting for unreported cases.
“Most women tend to shield their philandering husbands for fear that if they report such matters they are bound to endure suffering once their men go behind bars or end up losing their marriage in case the matter backfires,” the officer says.
Some cases reported in within the same period of March to April were in Masemo, Vilwakwe, Kachororoni and Bamba, all within Ganze sub county.
However, Kilifi County Commissioner Magu Mutindika says he is not aware of the cases.
Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire says the cases are familiar and “exceptionally uncalled for.”
“We understand the dangers our children are exposed to. But while we are asking parents to take care of their children especially during this time when they are at home following Covid-19 pandemic, here are cases parents defiling their own children at home.
While it is important that parents look after their children to avoid cases of early pregnancies, I can tell you here we are in a very big dilemma in that there is no known safe haven for children both at home and at school,” says the Ganze legislator.
Uchi says, due to the current situation where most people are broke following closure of most jobs including local quarries, most teenage girls are exposed and can easily fall prey to pedophiles on the prowl.
“You will find most parents work in local quarries and since they have been closed, nobody is working and parents can hardly provide for their children.
It is even difficult for them to afford sanitary pad for their kids. As a result, girls become easy prey for pedophiles who come with large promises,” the activist says.
Uchi adds that in the remote areas of places such as Ganze, curfew restrictions are openly ignored, a situation that paves way for sex pests to operate freely at night, by sneaking into villages and drinking dens on boda bodas.
Once they perform their evils the suspects escape and go as far as up to Mombasa bypassing all the roadblocks through shortcuts.