Hardly a day passes without a heart-rending media report about a minor having been defiled by her father. So rampant are the cases, it looks like there is an outbreak of the disgraceful act.
In April, a city lawyer was accused of defiling five of his 11 children, aged between six and 14 years. He had lost his wife a few years before. In Baringo County, a 45-year-old man was on the run after defiling his three daughters for a year. Their mother had fled due to fights.
CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE
In March, a 45-year-old man defiled his eight-year-old daughter following a row with his wife over conjugal rights. Another man, also 45, was accused of defiling his 11-year-old daughter as his wife tended to her clothes business.
In Narok, a 50-year-old man was jailed for life for defiling his nine-year-old daughter and infecting her with HIV as her mother was running an errand.
The list is as endless as it’s sickening. But why are fathers defiling their own children? Why are they taking away their children’s innocence when they should be protecting it?
We have to face this reality with a sober mind. However, it is obvious that the sexual predators exploit a weak link in the family chain — and that is the absence of the mother. So, where are the mothers of these children as all this happens? When they flee their homes, why do they leave their children behind to face the wrath of their beastly father?
Women are the symbol of protection and love. It tugs at the heartstrings that, in some of these instances, the women allow themselves to be roped into a conspiracy of silence. Some, even after learning of the abuse, opt to keep quiet instead of seeking justice and medical attention for the victim. This always turns out to be an exercise in futility. One way or the other, these so-called family secrets burst into the open later; so, the earlier they are exposed and dealt with, the better for everyone.
Mothers are the forte of the family. While work and other activities are important in life, they should not take precedence over their responsibility in the home. A mother should be quick to discern when there is an issue in the family and is best-placed to know what cause of action should be taken.
Hence, it’s important for the woman to consider the well-being of her children when she leaves home, even for an errand.
The woman should also be vigilant since she knows her husband best. If he portrays some funny characteristics — like looking at his daughter in a questionable manner — the woman should not second-guess it. She should act immediately.
Mothers should also teach their children lessons on sexual abuse or harassment so that they may also act fast when they sense danger. They should also remember that, as their little girls grow into young women, their contact with their fathers should also change to something less physical.
If living in the same house with a man has become intolerable and unsafe, a woman should pack her bag as well as her children’s and take them with her. They are better off with her, regardless of the circumstances. If they do not do this, the husbands, in protest or revenge, take out their anger on the helpless children.
Coping with trauma of defilement is a big emotional burden for any child. No wonder, many children who find themselves in this situation have turned suicidal. They suffer psychologically and lack trust in adults.
Let women take their rightful place in the home and protect the children. If the home is not safe for the woman, it is not for the child either.
Mrs Mugunda is a graphic designer at the ‘Daily Nation’. [email protected]