This is a big question that parents grapple with due to its embarrassing nature. What exactly should you do in this case? It’s better to talk to your child about sexual abuse earlier rather than later. You don’t want a scenario where they are silently being abused and didn’t know what to do. It’s your right and obligation to make sure that as soon as they can handle such a sensitive discussion, you have it..
But that leads to the question, “Exactly how do I have this conversation with them?”
Be Candid With Your Children
Most children already know from television that sexual violence is a part of our society. Parents can take the following steps to reduce their child’s risk of being assaulted.
- Initiate a conversation about child sexual abuse and let your child know that they should tell you if they are having a problem with inappropriate touching or any other unwanted sexual activity (it is important to create an atmosphere of safety and openness so that your child feels they could come to you with a problem)
- Use real names for private parts and stay calm and unembarrassed when talking about the sexual parts of the body.
- Let the child know that their body belongs to them and that they get to decide how people touch them.
- Support your child when they don’t want to touch someone and advocate with family and friends when your child says they’re not interested in a hug or kiss (in order to develop a healthy sense of boundaries, it is important that that children learn from a young age that their body is their own and that they have a right to decide when and how they are touched)
- Listen to your child and take their complaints seriously (e.g. there might be a good reason why they don’t like a certain family member!)
The Sad Case Of Kendi
This is why you should have that conversation with your children sooner rather than later…
(for confidentiality purposes, we have omitted the real names of the girl, school and town)
Kendi is a fourteen year old girl in class six at Cherere Primary School.
She hails from Nkubu, a bustling town in South Meru. She is the first born daughter to 36 year old Charity Kanana. She has three brothers and one sister. Her mother was married to Njoroge who is 51 years old. Njoroge was once married before, but that marriage ended in a divorce.
Five years after his divorce, Njoroge met Kanana while on a Church mission to Nkubu and they fell in love. After a brief courtship, Njoroge proposed to Kanana and she agreed to marry him. Njoroge had no problem with Kanana having a child from a previous relationship and agreed to support and take care of her. They moved to Karatina after a colorful wedding attended by friends and family. Kanana was delighted about being married to this mature, smart man. Life couldn’t be happier.
As a new family, they attended Church together, attended many functions, interacted with Njoroge’s family and friends. Occasionally, they would go on joint Church missions to different parts of the country. As time went on, Njoroge and Kanana were blessed with two children, bubbling bundles of joy and a source of happiness to both parents.
Kanana at this time was lucky to get a well paying job in Karatina town. The new job kept her busy, working till late at night in one of the fastest growing Insurance companies.
By an unusual twist of fate, Njoroge wasn’t so lucky. The mission trips became few and distant, and his sources of income dried up. He began spending more time at home. When indoors, he was sullen and moody. That was when Kanana noticed her daugther’s change in temperament.
From a happy sanguine character, she retreated into a fearful girl. She particularly got scared when asked to be in the same room with Kanana’s husband. Kanana found it hard to figure out why. She would rather spend hours outside in the dark rather than in the warm inerioir of the house.
Eventually, her daughter came to her in the office and Kanana was alarmed. When a girl that young, makes her way to the town center in the middle of the day when she should be in school, something is wrong. At first she thought a teacher had brought her, but she found out soon enough that the young girl had simply walked by herself to town.
What she heard Kendi tell her over the next 45 minutes was chilling – a nightmare to any mother. Njoroge, her step dad, was repeatedly defiling her when Kanana was at work. He had also threatened to kill her if she reported the matter to her mother. Njoroge monitored her closely to ensure that the information did not leak out. That’s why she would rather stay outside when they were together in the house in the evenings.
Kanana didn’t know what to do about it. Considering the threats against her daughter, she couldn’t bring the matter up. She decided to be leaving work early and spending more time at home.
Nothing happened over the next two weeks.
Then again, Kendi informed her mother what happened to her earlier in the day when Njoroge called Kendi to his room. At that point, Kanana promptly packed a suitcase for Kendi and told her husband that she was taking her to her grandmother.
Sensing his cover was blown by the sudden change in his wife’s behavior, the man got violent and chased Kanana away. Both mum and daughter returned to Nkubu where Kendi then got a chance to open up to her grandmother. The case was reported to the police. The perpetrator was arrested and put in police custody.
Unfortunately, Kendi was pregnant.
Her case got to be known by the Society of Women with Aids in Kenya (SWAK) and they referred it to the Meru District Children’s Office who in turn referred the case to Ripples International- Brenda Boone Hope Center (Tumaini Center) for shelter, protection, medical care, nutrition and counseling.
Kendi has received a lot of support while at Tumaini Center. She’s received medical care, counseling, nutrition, shelter and legal support. She is doing well and happy at the center.
She has had counseling sessions and her progress has been very encouraging… She dreams to be a doctor in future. The judgment of her case was six months later and the perpetrator was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Kendi has benefitted from the Ripples International Special Sponsorship Program and has been enrolled in a local boarding school. She is doing well and her dream is be a doctor in future.
The nightmare of abuse doesn’t have to leave a permanent MARK. Healing is possible!
To make a referral or schedule an intake for free and confidential support please call the Ripples International HOTLINE on +254 (0)734 949 493 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org