Just as I was closing on the “save the boys”series of articles thinking I had covered most of it, one more walked in to my office to show me, I hadn’t quite finished! This is a great example of how a good boy can be turned bad.
Sandra, a 14 year old girl is brought in for examination follow-up on suspicion of being defiled by a young man. The story is that she was aimlessly walking around the streets of Dandora during the day with her friend, Sarah. The two of them had been doing this every day for a couple of days.
I was perplexed by this and wondered where their parents were, and who was accountable for them. From Sandra’s appearance, she was obviously not a street girl. She was very well kept, hair in place, clean, good shoes, so what was wrong with this picture? Could she have been a child prostitute?
I listened as she narrated how she was doing a lot of nothing on the streets after her mother had left her in the care of her grandmother to seek greener pastures in Uganda. Sandra and Sarah were stopped by a young man one afternoon. He was in his early 20s, and well behaved according to her. He apparently had told them he had made it his life’s mission to help and empower any street children or children in need of ‘rescue’ after someone had done the same for him. He was concerned when he saw them walking around, for many days, with nowhere to go and decided to approach them to enquire if they needed any help.
After he introduced himself and made his intentions known, the girls opted to follow him to a nearby church,where he said routinely placed children he had ‘rescued’. They were curious about his empowerment plans.
At this point I was thinking “really?? Very well laid out trap if ever there was one!”but I changed my mind soon after this. The young man, Paul, placed the girls at the church in the care of the person-in charge, who was known to take children to school and equip them money making skills. And he went his way.
The girls spent the night there, and come morning, were shocked when police officers burst into the compound demanding to know where the girls were. Apparently, as the young man was leading them to the church, one of the church elders told the guards that Paul had abducted the girls and defiled them. He then sent the guard to report the matter at the police station. As the guard was making his way to the police station, the church elder forced the girls to say that they had been defiled by Paul!
Word of the abduction and defilement spread fast, quickly reaching the location where Paul was. The neighbors, on hearing this, took matters into their own hands and made a citizen’s arrest as they beat Paul severely armed with crude weapons. Had it not been for the police officers, Paul may have been killed in the melee.
I met Paul, confused, wounded and hurt, hurting physically and emotionally. He was visibly perplexed by the way events had unfolded. He sat there quietly for a few minutes as I put my documents together in preparation for the oncoming “interview”. Paul gave me the same story that Sandra had given me. He said he had been helping young children to avoid a situation where they will be hurt. He narrated that he didn’t even know he could ever be in trouble for helping and that he would never help again. He swore that he never touched any of them, that he spent very little time with them and left them at the church. At this point, tears were rolling down his face.
Sandra, when asked again, corroborated the story and said in all certainty that Paul never touched any of them and that she doesn’t understand why no one was listening to her.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
I do not know the outcome of that case. But I know how it could have ended. Paul could have been lynched, seriously injured, and had it not been for the alleged victim’s side of the story, Paul could very well have ended up in prison. It is not clear why the church elder decided to implicate Paul in such an activity, or why the girls guardians were not bothered about their whereabouts, or why Sandra’s mother had left to seek a better life and left her child, or why the people decided to pass judgment in this matter and assault Paul, the list of “ors”is endless.
However, the message I want to send in this article is a very simple onewith the aim of protecting young men from undue trouble. If there is a young man out there, with a kind caring heart such as Paul’s notices a child or young woman in need of rescue or in trouble, please stop and think about your safety first. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the child in trouble?
- Where is her mother/father/guardian? Can you call them?
- What time is it? Is it daytime? If so, can I get someone else to help this child before darkness sets in?
- Can a neighbor assist you, even if it is by making a phone call?
- Can you call a child helpline service?
- Can you access the nearest police station?
- Is the child old enough to be given directions to a safe place where the child can be helped? You can observe to make sure the child gets to the place they need to go.
- To into account your location. Are you at a place where people are quick to arrive at conclusions and happy to have any excuse to assault?
I heard a cousin of mine at a children’s party ask when he saw a girl wandering around looking like she wanted to join the party ‘woiye’, can we take her to the party to have some cake and ice cream? ” I answered, and when her mother or neighbor spots the 6 year old child with a young adult male giving her sweets, what will you say?”
I realize this may seem a bit paranoid, but it is food for thought. Think fast before you act.