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‘Stop the Violence’ campaign helps Kenyan teen escape sexual abuse

© UNICEF Kenya/2006/Bonn
Dorcas (not her real name), 14, was sexually abused by her father for five years. She is now living in a safe house supported by Kenya’s ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign.

By Julie Mwabe

NAIVASHA, Kenya, 18 October 2006 – Watching Dorcas (not her real name) play hide-and-seek with the younger children, one sees a picture of a big, happy family. However, life for the 14-year-old girl, the first-born in a family of five children, has not always been picture perfect.

As she talks about growing up in a little village in Kenya’s Naivasha District, her mood turns solemn and her bottom lip quivers.

Dorcas vividly remembers the brutal beatings her father gave her mother. Her mother could only take so much. Having reached her limit when Dorcas was nine, her mother, to protect herself, left the family for good.

A challenging home life

“Mum left many times before, but each time she returned three or four days later,” recalls Dorcas. “That day she packed her bags and hugged us goodbye. That was the last time we saw her.”

Being the oldest and the only girl, Dorcas was forced to drop out of school and take on most of the household responsibilities. She learned how to cook, clean and wash clothing for the family. But her father criticized her work and punished her when things were not done well.

In the small house where they lived, her parents had always slept in the main room while the children slept in the kitchen. After her mother left, Dorcas says, “he made me sleep in the same bed with him since I was taking over my mother’s place.”

Dorcas obeyed her father’s instructions and began having sexual relations with him. She never told anyone because he made her believe that behaviour was expected of good girls.

Campaign raises awareness

Cases like these prompted the Kenyan Government, in partnership with UNICEF Kenya and civil society organizations, to launch the ‘Stop the Violence Against Children’ campaign in July. Through mobilization in more than 20 districts across the country, the campaign aims to empower communities to take action and break the silence surrounding violence against children – including those who are victimized by a parent or other relative.

Since the campaign’s inception, awareness about abuses against children has increased. More cases are now being reported, and ways to appropriately deal with the violence are being addressed.

By raising 100 million Kenyan Shillings ($1.3 million), the campaign hopes to increase the number of core services available to local communities – including safe schools, responsive health care, judicial access, community policing, counselling centres and hotlines.

Counselling and support

Many civil society organizations in Kenya continue working to help children affected by violence. Unfortunately, they are often isolated, with limited resources to properly handle the growing number of cases. Additional funding is expected but more will be required for ongoing success.

Funds are also needed to keep helping children like Dorcas, who, after being kicked out of her house when her father remarried, was referred to a safe house. She currently receives professional counselling and psychosocial support through the Stop the Violence campaign.

“I would like to go back to school and continue my education,” she says. “I will never know why my father did what he did, but I know with an education, I can one day help many girls who have been in the same situation.”



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