The sun would be down in another two hours on this sun-lit Monday evening. But nothing beat the playground mood that was beaming with life and exuberance as the children played. Twelve-year old Natasha had joined five other friends to play ‘kati’ their favourite game. The boys were in another corner, enjoying a game of marbles. The ball rolled away and Natasha had to run a block away to fetch it.
The sounds of children at play faded in the background as Natasha followed the ball down a drainage that passed outside their house. She decided to grab a quick glass of juice before was back to the game. As she placed the ball on the table and ran to the kitchen, she noticed that her dad, Rogers, was home early.
She said a quick hello, but he was too busy watching a game on TV. On her way out, Rogers asked her to grab a sweater for herself and her younger brother. It would be another hour of playtime before their mother was home. Mummy was strict about being outside after 6 pm. She ran to the bedroom, climbed to the closet and picked her sweater. As she searched for her brother’s, the squeaky bedroom door closed behind her. Daddy was in her bedroom. He secured the latch on the door and signaled to her to be quiet.
“Come here my little girl. I love you because you are very beautiful and smart.” He said. Natasha knew something wasn’t right. She was afraid. Rogers picked her and placed her on his lap. She folded her hands in uneasiness. He put his fingers between her legs and it hurt. And he hurt her some more. She bled. He made her promise to keep quiet. That would be their ‘little secret,’ Then he gave her a lollypop and also handed her, the little one’s sweater. Natasha was scared. She had never seen her daddy so aggressive. She walked out of her bedroom and as she rejoined the game, she knew something wrong had happened to her. Her friend’s calls brought her out of the stupor.
Tasha, umesimamisha game!
Leta ball ama tukutoe kwa game yetu!!
The calls became louder! She threw the ball at them. She gave her brother the sweater and sat at one of the playground’s corner and decided to watch the game. She was scared. Her legs hurt.
Sylvia, her mum, came home an hour later and noticed Natasha’s unusual aloofness and silence. Natasha’s dad had left to visit friends in the neighborhood. She knew that she could trust her mummy with the ‘little secret’. “Daddy touched me here and did bad manners,” Natasha told her mum amidst tears. Sylvia was distraught but she needed to act very fast. She reported the matter to the police station and later took her daughter to hospital that night. Natasha was also enrolled for counseling to deal with the trauma. But their family was never the same again.
Daddy was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Natasha knew she did the right thing to tell her mother the events of that evening. As word went round in the family about Roger’s arrest, one of Natasha’s cousins said that while visiting over the holidays, Rogers had attempted to touch her between her legs but she bit him, screamed and managed to escape. Dr Kizzie Shako is part of a wind of change that is creating awareness every day to save children like Tasha and her cousins and their peers. According to Dr Shako, the perpetrators of any form of violence on children are in our households and in our communities.
Dr. Shako is a forensic physician with a special interest on child protection. She believes that children are being abused and mistreated, because they are so delicate and vulnerable. She makes a rallying call for more concerted efforts to save children. “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,” Dr Shako said.
No two days are similar at the police surgeon where Dr Shako spends most of her day when she is not creating awareness online through her personal blog; Vunja Kimya. She shares some insights on a typical day at work where she reviews about 60 patients, every day. She begins her day by examining the victims of violence and documenting the findings on a P3 form. However, she added, some cases need that she documents through photographs to record the extent and type of injuries so the images can be used during a trial.
The duties of a police surgeon include;
- Examine cases of child sexual assault
- Examine cases of adult sexual assault
- Examine rape suspects
- Conduct mental status and physical examinations of murder suspects
- Give expert evidence in court
- Examine cases of child abuse
- Examine cases of domestic violence/intimate partner violence.
- Collect specimens and give recommendations for proper rehabilitation of victims
- Examine cases of Road Traffic Accidents, occupational attacks, animal attacks
- Training of health care workers, lawyers, police officers
- Training of relevant agencies involved in Mass disaster dead body management and DVI(disaster victim identification)
- Participate in policy, manuals and guideline drafting in forensic science principles
“When dealing with sensitive cases of sexual violence, I give very meticulous instructions, custom-made to each case individually. I give guidance where specimen handling and chain of custody is involved. I advise the investigating officers as well as the victims and their parents or guardians” she said. On some days, she also attends court sessions to give expert evidence on her findings documented on a P3 form. Her job with challenges like having to see and deal with the evil side of human beings and the things they are capable of especially when dealing with children’s cases.
How can you and I pick signs of a child who has been sexually abused? Dr Shako cites some of the prominent signs of an abused child below;
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Separation anxiety
- Reported nightmares or bedwetting
- Low grades in school
- Signs of eating disorders
- Substance abuse
- Avoiding certain people
- Exhibits promiscuity
- Vocalizing mistrust of people
When you come across a child who has been abused, Dr Shako advices that it’s critical to ensure that the safety of the child is guaranteed, and that of the person who rescued the child. The report can be made at the nearest Children’s’ Office, the hospital if the child is injured or reported by dialing the emergency numbers 999, 112 and 116.
“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,” Dr Shako added. She also offered more tips if you suspect that the child has been defiled.
- Do not wash the child
- No change of clothes is advised
- Be sensitive and gentle with the child
- Refrain from gossiping about the event to avoid stigmatizing
- Avoid communication with the suspected perpetrator
Dr Shako also gone a step ahead and created an online platform that seeks to increase awareness about basic risk factors that contribute to these acts of violence, the dynamics and driving forces behind Intimate Partner violence, sexual violence and child abuse.
She also shares some of the places that you can get help for an abused child;
- GBV Hotline – 1195
- Police Hotline – 999 ; 112
- Police Hotline during elections (toll free) 0800734956
- GVRC Office 0719638006
- The CRADLE 0734798199, 0722201875
- MSF Office +254 700460432
- MSF TUMAINI +254 73350010
- Vunja Kimya +254 792 288140 or email@example.com
On the next edition, Dr Shako will take us through the P3 form and its role.