Jane Amani* sits patiently in a room at the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre at Coast General Hospital, ready to retell an ordeal that has weighed on her mind for sometime.
For the past 10 months, Jane, a Nyali resident and mother of three, has been coming to this facility for counselling not just for her three-year-old daughter, but for her as well.
Talking, she says, gives her a sense of sanity as she continues to follow up on her daughter’s defilement case, which has been going on for almost a year.
Her nightmare began on Friday - January 18, 2019 - when her daughter, only a week old at a playgroup class, was picked up from their home by the caretaker of the school.
“I had earlier received a call from the caretaker subcontracted by the school to transport pupils to and from school. She told me that the school bus they normally used was grounded, therefore she would take my daughter to school using public transport,” she recounts.
Usually, her daughter returned home by 11am, but on this day, she was still not home several hours later. Jane began to worry.
“I got even more scared when I received a call from my sister, whose children also go to the same school, saying that she was in the school but had been informed that my daughter hadn’t reported that day,” she explains.
She made a series of phone calls to the caretaker trying to find out where her child was.
“After a sequence of fishy responses from her, my daughter was eventually brought home at around 1pm. She seemed traumatised and scared but was not talking, so I reported the matter at Nyali Police Station. Thereafter, I took her to hospital for a medical check-up,” she says.
The next day, she was advised by the police to take her daughter to the counselling centre at Coast General Hospital, where medical reports confirmed that indeed, she had been defiled.
It is here that she and her daughter have been getting psychological care, hoping that the perpetrators are charged and convicted.
Jane’s plight is not just the thought of her child being defiled, but that the case has dragged on for 10 months with justice no in sight.
“There has been no progress. In my frustration, I have written to the Child Protection Unit at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations office in Mombasa — the case is expected to start on November 25 this year at Shanzu Law Courts,” she says.
Though this is somewhat a relief for this mother, her constant worry is how the ordeal her daughter went through will affect her life, and also what relieving the incident during her testimony in court will do to her.
Jane is just one of many women with a heart-wrenching story to tell.
Zainabu*, 24, was raped six months ago.
The incident occurred on May 17 this year in Changamwe. She was in the company of a colleague and friend.
“The three of us sell beauty products, which we hawk from place to place.
On this day, a smartly-dressed man approached us and told us that his boss would be interested in buying what we were selling, and told us that he could introduce us to him,” she says.
This man ended up leading them to a deserted bushy area, where they were gang-raped at knife point for hours and then robbed.
“We reported the matter at Changamwe Police Station, from where we were brought here — we got medical treatment and counselling services, but the perpetrators have never been found,” she says.
Dinah*, a student and resident of Bamburi, was raped in the house she shares with her sisters and their children.
That night in September, just two months ago, she was woken up by a loud bang on her bedroom door.
“Someone had broken into our house. My sisters managed to run outside to seek help. The assailant managed to get into my room and I wrestled with him for a few minutes until he squeezed a knife point on my neck and threatened to stab me — he raped me.”
She too reported the incident to the police but no one has been arrested yet.
Though she got treatment and counselling, she is still a long way from recovery.
Research released in May last year by the Kenya Police revealed that sexual offences were on the rise, with two in three offences reported being serious crimes, including sexual offences.
The nurse in charge of the counselling centre at Coast General Hospital, Sabia Mwinyi, says that cases of rape and defilement in the Coast region are worrying.
Mwinyi, who has been working at the unit for the past seven years since its establishment in May 2007, says that in this period, the unit has provided care to nearly 8,000 sexual violence victims.
“From May 2007 to September this year, we have handled 7,761 cases. From January to October, this year, we treated 484 of them. In October alone, there were 40 cases. Another gender-based violence desk was opened at Likoni Sub-County Hospital. Before that, we could treat up to 50 women and children on a monthly basis,” says Ms Mwinyi.
A 2012 report by the International Centre for Reproductive Health- Kenya indicated that on average, up to 80 per cent of the survivors of gender-based violence are female, a majority of whom are under the age of 18, with cases ranging from defilement, rape, sodomy, physical assault, sexual assault, multiple assault and indecent acts.
“The perpetrators are usually between the age of 20 and 40. However, in some rare cases, there have been reports against perpetrators between the ages of 70 and 80, not forgetting cases of minors against minors,” recounts Mwinyi, pointing out that majority of the perpetrators are mostly neighbours and relatives.
“For this reason, it becomes difficult to follow up such cases since families opt to settle matters outside court. This especially occurs in cases involving fathers and daughters,” she adds.
FEAR OF REPRISALS
So why does it take so long for sexual violence survivors to get justice? Topister Juma, a human rights activist at the Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri), says many cases are pending in court as most survivors do not want to record statements.
“Some perpetrators end up getting acquitted due to lack of evidence as most victims and their families fear to give evidence against the offenders,” she adds.
Also, survivors are not ready to speak up. Those who gain the courage to report sexual abuse face another hurdle by being victimised by the community.
“We’ve had cases of women being accused of breaking up their families by reporting husbands who have defiled their children,” she says.
She too has had to pay the price for the role she plays in bringing these cases to light.
“In the process of following up on sexual violence cases and ensuring that the perpetrators are charged and imprisoned, I have been called a homewrecker, and some cases, threatened, a fact that has forced me to move houses several times,” she adds.