I spent the better part this day helping my mother at her new clinic at Kilimani. As we were going about our business in the administration room, my long lost uncle walked in to ‘touch base’. This was a pleasant surprise that was followed by a quick 30 minute catch-up session which was interrupted by work-related issues. Hesitantly, my mother exited the room to ‘handle it’ and left us to chat some more.
As usual, several questions were directed at me concerning the nature of my work, mostly focused on the trauma I must be experiencing listening to very tragic stories on a daily basis. I assured my uncle that I was just fine, coping well, and that I intended to create an awareness programme, focused on ending sexual and domestic violence against children and women. I explained that by educating the community on the commonest predisposing factors, there would be less ignorance and hence hopefully, less incidents of abuse and assault.
He seemed intrigued by this and remained silent, obviously deep in thought. I sensed a burning issue was soon to be voiced, though it was clear he was struggling to decide on his opening statement, or on whether or not to give the information at all. After about 2 long minutes, he spoke saying,
“This programme you speak of is a very good idea. However, in our set up, it most likely won’t work.” He continued.” You see, I am a very active church member, and I see a lot of things that happen within families, some very shocking things. One of our church members has a pregnant teenage daughter…” Now he had my full 150% undivided attention. Then he dropped the bombshell, when he proceeded to tell me that “the man responsible for this young lady’s pregnancy, is her own father.”!!!
It gets worse…
This girl’s family, her mother included, deliberated on a way forward, and came to the conclusion that an abortion was in order. The father, who had been defiling this 16 year old for about 2 years, personally escorted her to a clinic, and paid to have the abortion done. This poor girl was almost 7 months pregnant. As I listened, my heart wept. I said a small prayer for this girl, and the many other girls who have had to go through this, some even forced to deliver at term and kill their own babies.
Induction of labor was initiated, and much to the horror of the girl, who had no idea of what to expect from all this, she delivered a live preterm baby(fetus). This young girl had gone through the unbearable pains of induced labor, and delivered a baby that she could see moving, a baby that she could hear crying. A cry that slowly diminished into silence…and then, there was no more movement. This preterm baby died as she watched. She was then taken back home, where life was expected to continue as if nothing had happened.
She had not received any counseling after the defilement, none before the abortion, and none after the abortion. This young girl had no clue about what was happening to her and the pain that labor comes with. She did not expect to deliver a live baby, and worse still, to add insult to injury, watch the baby die. The worst part about all this is that she was sent back to the very place where all this evil began, and through this entire experience, the only person she had around her, was the perpetrator! Not her mother, sister, friend, or aunt, but her criminal biological father! She is likely going to suffer symptoms of PTSD *, possibly for a lifetime if these issues are not addressed. After I had partially digested this tearful story, I asked my uncle the most obvious question.
“What did you do about it knowing all this? Did you report to the authorities?”
I was sure he would say that he did just that. To my utter shock, he said.
” No, of course not! How can I report such a matter? Then I will be responsible for destroying a family unit? For pulling the home apart? Never! they remained together as a family and that is what’s best.”
My jaw dropped, and my heart skipped a beat. I was in total and complete disbelief by this unexpected response.
In my uncle’s view, and many others in our community, in the event that a child is defiled, impregnated and forced to abort thereafter, all this by her father, the best way forward is to remain silent, not report, and retain the ‘family’ unit, rather than report and have this father convicted.
Now, I know a number of you reading this may be in agreement with this opinion, that it is better for the matter to rest in silence than to report and undergo shame, humiliation, and ridicule. Many worry about the future should the bread winner be convicted.
But what about the child who has been abused? What about HER wellbeing? What about HER future? What impact will this kind of trauma have on her emotional, physical, mental and psychological wellbeing? How will these terrible experiences affect her decision making processes which affect all areas of her life? How will she move on positively and as ‘normally’ if her own needs are considered irrelevant? How will she focus when in school? What is she to do with the nightmares she has every night where she sees and hears her baby crying, and dying? Who is supposed to protect her?
What about her? WHAT ABOUT HER?
Writing this story brought tears to my eyes several times. Remaining composed where vulnerable children are hurt and disregarded is difficult for me to deal with, which makes me wonder how her very own parents can cause her this anguish…the father as the perpetrator, and worse, the mother ,taking on the role of an accomplice by covering up for him instead of fighting for her daughter.
What can we do?
Break the silence. Do what is right. Report this to the nearest Police station, or call emergency numbers that can assist in such situations. We must endeavor to protect our children from predators. Sadly, most predators are the very people around us … commonly seen in our society are fathers, brothers, cousins, sons, neighbors, teachers, male and female workers, friends and the list goes on.
Whatever you do, please do not remain silent.
NB: This story represents one of many that I encounter daily. It demonstrates several serious gaps in our society, from the community, to the personnel at abortion clinics, and the lack of knowledge on certain laws governing these issues of sexual violence. These will be addressed on another page.