Let’s do more to protect our children from sexual abuse:

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Children are priceless gifts from God. They are “bundles of joy” that melts our hearts away. An old English adage opines: “The soul is healed by being with the children.” Indeed, children are the very phenomenon of goodness in our society. They are innocent, honest and giving.  Unfortunately, our children have become endangered species, at least in most parts of our Kenyan society.  They are increasingly becoming vulnerable to sex pests.

Kenyan media reported last week that a primary school teacher in Kilifi County sexually molested 20 primary school boys by anal copulation, also called sodomy. Teacher’s service commission officer was dismayed and ordered that the teacher in question be “interdicted.”

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In my opinion, interdiction isn’t enough. Such unfortunate incident deserve not only investigation but prosecution in accordance with the law.

Unfortunately, this incident isn’t isolated to Kilifi County alone. It is happening across the country. Cases of primarary school girls being impregnated and dropping out of school continue to skyrocket in the Rift-Valley and in other parts of the country. That in itsel is statutory rape-sex activity in which one person is under the age required to engage in consensual sex.

Not too long ago girls used to be the victims of sex abuse. But in recent times, boys are at risk as well. Pedophiles are sexually molesting our children both girls and boys with impunity. Our children’s innocence is being stolen right in front of our own eyes.

Sadly, children aren’t safe in their own homes either. Studies show that most sexual abuse involving children is perpetrated by family members who are well known by the victims. Moreover, sexual abuse is happening at schools as well. Instead of teaching, some teachers have metamorphosed into sex pests feeding on children’s innocence in exchange of gifts and silence.

Yet more often than not, sex abuse against children goes un-reported. A few cases that get reported are solved through kangaroo courts. The secretive nature we treat sex abuse is appalling. In some cases, perpetrators bribe their way out of prosecution. In such cases parents connive with the perpetrator or are silenced by bribes and gifts to suppress justice. In other cases, sexual abuse is disregarded and left to heal on its own.

Lest we forget, parents and guardians have got a God given and legal responsibility to protect their children from any danger, including dangers posed by sex pests. The government must also play its rightful responsibility to protect children against predatory members of the society. Police should complement the judiciary to ensure perpetrators are investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

By and large, it is our responsibility as a society to prevent, heal and over-come sexual abuse. Unless it is well treated, short and long term psychological effects of sexual abuse can be devastating to our children. That’s why multi-pronged approaches should be deployed to help victims to recover.

First approach is counseling. Children should be offered non-judgmental space to express themselves without fear of reprisal or fear of being blamed.  Victims of sexual abuse fear reporting the incident. They think they will be blamed. Let’s offer a listening ear to our children. Let’s also believe them so as they can have faith in us to share their hearts out.

Second approach is spiritual guidance. We, including children, are spiritual beings living in physical bodies. Our wholeness is well healed when we feed our spirit, unleash our inner being and allow the transcendent (God) to inspire our souls and heal our internal wounds. Spiritual/religious guidance gives hope; inspire salvation and reinvigorates forgiveness of self and others. Without self-forgiveness, victims get stuck in the past. Further, victims tend to blame themselves and internalize hurt and hate. But genuine spiritual guidance offers unconditional love and provides great support system of family and friends.

Third and final approach in my opinion should be to prosecute the offenders. Victims have a right to know that predators are no longer walking free in villages and across the cities. Offenders must be taken off the streets so as victims and societies can feel safer. When predators get locked up in prisons, victims acquire some form of closure against pain suffered. It is our responsibility to make our homes, villages, schools, churches and societies safer for our children. That is the least we can do to protect our children from sex abuse.

Author: Jacktone Ambuka, a Kenyan citizen residing at State college Pennsylvania USA.

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