A hotline has been established to assist men facing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) during the Covid-19 period access psychosocial support.
The men can call toll free line 1196 and share their predicaments with professional counsellors who will in turn counsel them without charge.
“At the moment, we link the men to counsellors who counsel and guide them,” said an official regarding the hotline.
Since its launch last week by DanShieShie Foundation in collaboration with TeleSky, Kenya Healthcare Foundation and Kenya Private Sector Alliance(Kepsa), 120 calls have been made to the line out of which 15 men undergoing emotional abuse have been counselled.
Founder of DanShieShie Foundation, Dan Shieshie said the hotline offers men the confidentiality they desire while seeking help related to domestic violence.
“I realised men are so biased on calling 1195,” noted Mr Shieshie, who came up with the idea of a hotline committed to helping men break the silence.
The 1195 hotline works in partnership with the Ministry of Public Service and gender, to help victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence get rapid assistance to healthcare and referrals. It is predominantly used by women.
“I wanted a hotline men would identify with. A hotline they would calls ‘ours’ and therefore feel free to talk about their experiences,” he said.
According to the Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret Kobia, of the total SGBV cases filed through the 1195 hotline, only 10 per cent are from men.
A 2014 study by National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) on status of GBV in Kenya indicates a 20.9 per cent lifetime prevalence for men against a 38 per cent for women, implying widespread violence affecting both genders.
However, in the period of the study, the prevalence was higher for men than women, which denotes periodical increase of violence against men.
The study found that the prevailing prevalence for men stood at 48.6 per cent against 37.7 per cent for women. Of interest, was low level of reporting by both genders.
“Only 15.2 per cent of female and 16.7 per cent of male respondents who had ever been sexually violated had reported or had someone else report the act of sexual violence,” states the report.
Mr Shieshie, a survivor of domestic violence, said the hotline is purposed to help men overcome the trauma and distress that comes with marital challenges or domestic abuse during this pandemic period. He survived an acid attack from his ex-wife in 2013.
“I have counsellors who offer psychosocial support to the men. Once they call, they are referred to the counsellors who talk to them,” said Mr Shieshie.
“I don’t want any man to go through what I went through. They should not suffer in silence. The tele-counselling is confidential and any man currently undergoing domestic violence should immediately reach out to us. They should not fear,” he added.
The men are primarily becoming victims of domestic violence due to their incapability to provide for their families owing to loss of jobs, he said.
“Their wives are abusing them verbally because they cannot fend for the family notwithstanding the fact that life is hard on them,” he said.
To create a safe space for men and women in the households, he advocates for continuous community sensitisation and mental health support for both genders to enable them cope with stress caused by Covid-19 disruptions.
“We have to be gender sensitive. In this season, everyone is affected. It is not fair to cater for some and leave out the others,” said Kepsa’s Chief Executive Officer, Carole Karuga.
In the past three months, the local media has reported cases of violence against men in which the wives or girlfriend have either killed or injured their intimate partners.
In April, a woman said to be a judicial officer are Karatina Law Courts in Kirinyaga County is alleged to have axed, to death, her husband and daughter.
Similarly in May, a 29-year-old woman was arrested for allegedly killing her boyfriend with a knife following a disagreement over food.
In the same month, a woman in Ikoli village, Kakamega County allegedly stabbed her husband to death after a squabble over a plate of ugali.
The fact that few men are reaching out for help calls for a workable strategy to encourage them to speak up to save their lives and marriages, said Gender advisor in Kakamega County Peninah Mukabane.
“We can use the Nyumba Kumi leaders to flag out the cases and encourage men to open up,” said Ms Mukabane.
“Many times, it is the fear of stigma that put them off from reporting. But they should know that speaking up would save their lives and even their marriages,” she added.