A few days ago I posted a question on social media platforms to understand the level of knowledge in different groups of people about reporting Child Abuse. I wanted to hear from the doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, nurses, males and females, young and old. I posted the following:
This came about after a long series of events coming together in my mind. First, I had seen LOTS of child abuse cases in the past 8 weeks, and the question that kept coming to mind was : “Why doesn’t anyone report earlier? Could it be that people do not know what to do?”
I asked these questions around the workplace from members of different authorities and most said that people didn’t want to be involved with police, legal issues, and court matters. Well, that’s easy to take care of. Make an anonymous call! Simple! This was then followed by “call who?” and “does it really work? This is Kenya” .
A few were honest and said they really didn’t know what to do or how to think. Some even blatantly shared that they wouldn’t do a single thing as it was none of their business. This baffled me. How is it none of your business when a child is beat to a pulp, when a child wails from pain every day, when a girl is impregnated by her father? How some are able to turn a blind eye is completely peculiar to me.
Only a handful had the right idea and only 1 said something positive, in favor of the system.
“ I have called 999 a few times and once they even called me back. They came and sorted out the issue”.
Many said they would report but asked “how, where, to whom??” Others were even bold enough to suggest approaching the perpetrator if it’s the parent, warn them that if they didn’t change their ways, they would be reported to the authorities. For this last group of people, I wondered how they would know if the violence continued or not. Don’t they run a risk of making the situation worse, with the parent perpetrator blaming the child for attracting attention from outsiders? Wont’ the perpetrator take it out on the child more than before? If it’s a case of sexual abuse, how do you know if it stops, and is warning the parent really the correct thing to do?
Here is what I advise:
Assess the safety of the child.
- Safety ALWAYS comes first. Your safety followed by others. Once you establish that neither you nor the child are in any immediate danger, proceed to the nearest Children’s Office and express your concern for the well being of the child or children in question. Personally, I wouldn’t leave until we, as a team, have laid out an action plan or until I know the way forward.
- If the child is in immediate danger, report to the nearest police station or call the emergency numbers 999,112,116.
- If the child is seriously injured (bleeding, unconscious, not breathing, abdominal injury), call emergency services/ambulance for guidance on the next step. Immediately then, as you drive/transport the child to the nearest hospital, call the POLICE HELPLINES.
NB: It is beneficial for all to learn basic life saving skills. If interested in a short training course, please contact me.
- If the child has obvious injuries even though not life threatening, appears unhealthy or undernourished, report to the nearest Children’s Office or Police Station.
- Some signs:
- Undernourished: Underweight, small for age, swollen legs, face and body, widespread fungal infection of the skin (eg. mashilingi)
- Injuries: Multiple injuries like black eyes, whip marks, scratch marks on the face and body, bite marks on the face and body, limping, urine and stool incontinence, frequent fractures, apathy
- General signs of neglect: dirty and unkempt, often unsupervised, may miss school, hurt by others frequently without intervention by caregivers.
- If you suspect the child has been sexually violated:
- DO NOT WASH THE CHILD
- DO NOT CHANGE THEIR CLOTHES
- BE SENSITIVE AND GENTLE WITH THE CHILD
- REFRAIN FROM GOSSIPING ABOUT THIS EVENT AT ALL COSTS TO AVOID STIGMATISATION
- AVOID COMMUNICATION WITH THE SUSPECTED PERPETRATOR!
After initial treatment and the victim has been stabilized and the incident reported to the police, a medical summary, and in the case of sexual violence, a Post Rape Care form (PRC) will be issued. A P3 form will be sought and issued thereafter, and filled at the relevant designated office; the Police Officer assigned to the case will facilitate the issuance and filling of the P3 form. This from is required for court proceedings.
Children’s Officers have the power to facilitate rescue, accommodation, and arrest of alleged perpetrators.
HOW WOULD I REPORT?
- Childline: Dial 116
- Police: Dial 112, 999
- Physically visit:
- Nearest Police Station
- Children’s Office
- Child Welfare Society Kenya (CWSK)
- Administrative leaders: Chief’s Office.
NOTE: When reporting at a Police station, please ensure you receive an OB Number (Occurrence Book Number) that will be required later on.
I hope this has helped shed some light. The worst thing we can do is observe quietly and safely from a distance and pretend we have not seen or heard anything. We must break the silence on these issues and protect our children.
Section 120 of the Children’s Act states that “any person who has reasonable cause to believe a child is in need of protection may report the matter to the nearest authorized officer “ .
For anyone struggling with reporting child abuse, take a moment and think to yourself, if that child who is hurting could have been you, or your own child, what would you have wanted had you been in this child’s shoes?