The worst hit is Kitui South constituency where residents and child rights activists have combined forces to lead an aggressive campaign to deal head on with the vice.
Victims and their parents who have been traumatized as they sought medical and legal assistance are blaming the authorities for turning a blind eye and not doing enough to address the problem.
“I think very little is being done to prevent abuse of children in my district,” says Ann Ngei, a single mother of three from Ikutha district whose 15- year-old daughter is a victim of sexual abuse.
Apart from World Vision International, a child based charitable organisation in the region; very few others are doing much to fight child abuse cases in the region.
The NGO is playing a pivotal role in rescuing abused children, providing legal aid and paying their medical fee for specialised treatment in addition to facilitating both victims and their parents during their quest for justice after abuse. Apparently, the girl-child has suffered most being an easy target for sexual molestation by strangers, teachers, family friends and even close relatives.
World Vision’s area programme manager, Gershon Mwakazi, says they have a working partnership with the children’s office and area advisory council on child affairs to offer community sensitisation and training programs on child rights and child abuse issues.
“We are a child based organisation with a duty to complement government efforts to assist the children have a bright future,'' the official says.
Last year, 43 defilement cases were reported at the Kitui magistrate’s court in the constituency heard and determined 43 defilement cases last year alone.
“Despite severe penalties conferred on offenders, defilement is still high and children still live in fear of possible attacks from pedophiles and other sexual perverts,” Samuel Mutai, the resident magistrate at the Mutomo law courts in the constituency says.
Janet Muema, a children’s officer in the constituency, says most of the cases reported to her were committed by close relatives. She revealed that her job was not easy as it was difficult to pursue justice for the victims due to lack of both material and emotional support from the rest of their family members.
“We have very many incest cases here that go unreported because family members were unwilling to wash their dirty linen in public,” Muema says.
On her part, Joyce Mutua, a child rights advocate, says justice for incest victims is always compromised at family courts as members completely avoid leaking such information to the outside world in order to save the reputation of the older offender.
A class seven pupil from the region who was severely defiled by her father shares her sad story. “He did it for a long period and I did not report him to my mother or the authorities because he would threaten to kill me if I ever reported,” she says amid sobs.
The 14 year old later informed her mother and aunt when she realized her abusive father was never going to stop. But even that did not help the situation as her father decided to go wild and beat her and her mother.
He even threatened to throw both of them out of the house, says her mother.
The brave girl did not give up, and took the matter further by walking to the local police station where she reported the sexual abuse cases to the officers who did not disappoint and swung into action immediately.
The suspect was then arrested and later charged and in court. He was later tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Looking back, the young girl says justice was done but she is yet to heal mentally because of lack of any counseling to help her overcome the trauma.
Her family has since suffered rejection from close relatives and family friends who accuse her and her mother of betraying them for seeking justice from the courts instead of solving matters internally.
“They have made it clear we should not seek any help from them claiming we gave their son and brother away for imprisonment,” her mother says.
They are, however, not alone in such a predicament. Teresia shares her sad story of rejection by the rest of her extended family when she decided to seek justice for her daughter, a victim of sexual molestation by a close relative.
She tells how her 74 year old father-in-law defiled her daughter of six for long before reporting the matter to the police: “My husband even talked to him about it severally but he could not stop so we chose to seek help from the courts.”
Unfortunately, the old man later died in prison where he was serving a life sentence.
Her family members insisted Teresiah and her husband must arrange for his burial alone without support from the rest.
“The full burden of transporting the body home and preparing the burial was left on us,” she says.
On her part, Jane Mwanzia, whose abusive husband was sentenced to life imprisonment for defiling their 13-year-old daughter says her mother-in-law has already ordered her to vacate the land she gave to her son.
The 40-year-old mother explains how her husband had defiled his daughters for years threatening to kill whoever attempted to report him to the authorities before she finally managed to get the courage to report the sexual crime to the police.
“I finally said enough was enough and decided to save my daughters from continued mistreatment” a bitter mother says.
Meanwhile, a 10-year-old schoolgirl opens up about her two years of trauma and suffering as her father abused her and her elder sister whom he eventually impregnate and fled.
The class four pupils is, however, yet to receive any help from the children’s services department although she has since reported her concern to officials.
As cases of child abuse increase in Kitui County, Phillip Nzenge, the county children services coordinator, complains that their work is affected by lack of adequate funding by the authorities to help them effectively support victims of abuse.
This article was originally published in the Reject issue 97.