Recently, I was talking to a group of women, and although I have been asked this question severally, I never grasped its weight until I realized that as a woman and as a parent it is crucial that you know what it takes to know that your child has been abused. In this hustle and bustle era, some parents do not make time for their children to know who their kids are hanging out with or what they are doing the whole day. However, some kids have been threatened by people who have abused them not to tell anyone or some harsh consequence will follow. Therefore, it is vital as parents or caregivers to know at least some basic clues to look for to identify if your child has been abused in a certain way so that you take appropriate measures before it is too late. I will share few stories of parents who were able to know that their child has been abused and I will also share how they came to know.
12-year-old Cherotich was rescued by her Headteacher and was brought to the hospital after her class teacher observed the behavior change in her. First, it was her change in attitude. She was no longer the jovial and talkative girl she once was, told her class teacher. Furthermore, she always secluded herself from the rest of her classmates. Not only were her grades dropping, but also, Cherotich would appear fatigued during class lessons. One day, her teacher called her to probe what was happening, but it was not successful. Granted that she was 12 years old, Cherotich felt ashamed of telling her teachers what was happening at home. It was only after her teachers noticed pus that was coming from her body that they immediately took her to hospitals. Once her test was done, sadly, Cherotich was pregnant, and it was then that she opened up about her father and the late night visits to her bedroom. Her father had been sexually abusing Cherotich and would beat her if she refused to have sex with him.
Seven-year-old Kariuki loved going to Bible Studies every Saturdays. Besides, he had every reason to look forward to Bible Studies. This was the only time Kariuki met with his friends and engaged in fun playful activities. Again, his Bible Studies teacher ensured that the kids would watch a captivating film related to the lesson of the day. Kariuki’s parents knew that every Saturdays were reserved for Kariuki to attend his Bible studies until one day, he suddenly stopped going. When his parents told him to go, he would burst into tears and run to hide in the bedroom yelling that he did not want to go. At first, his parents thought it was a typical behavior and thus did not spend so much time questioning why he didn’t want to attend Bible Studies. Kariuki’s family learned through the grapevine that other kids in the estate did not want to participate in Bible studies as well. It was without doubt that something was not right. Kariuki’s mum decided to talk with Kariuki before he went to sleep and luckily, he opened up as to what was happening during the Bible Studies session. Apparently, the Bible studies teacher was showing the children pornographic videos on Gays and later forcing the kids to engage in that behavior. He would also touch their private parts and told the kids that they should not tell anyone because they would go to hell. Kariuki being seven years old was afraid of going to hell and thus thought he would rather stay quiet and not attend the Bible Studies.
Nurse Teophila Murage at Provincial General Hospital Nakuru is well versed in the Field of Gender-Based Violence. Moreover, she has handled many cases regarding children who have been abused. According to her, there are many tell-tale that can show that a child has been abused. And even though a child has to be medically examined to prove that he/she is being abused, it is important not to ignore some signs. For instance, some Bruises and some red marks on the body are likely to indicate that there was a struggle. Sometimes, kids may struggle with the perpetrator leaving the marks on the body. In addition to that, Children develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when they are abused. As a result, they may start having nightmares and other hallucinations, they avoid specific people and places, and they develop a Change in behavior where they become withdrawn or too hyperactive, sometimes they are jumpy and easily startled. In other cases, the children may start vomiting and diarrhea or become sick out of the blues.
All things considered, as a parent, it is essential to know and monitor your child’s behavior. This is because children are too vulnerable and are easily manipulated such that they are afraid to speak out when they have been abused. Inasmuch as you have to take them to a hospital to prove they have been abused, it is vital that you do not ignore any little detail that suggests something is different with your child. Furthermore, as a parent, you do not want to be in a situation where it might be too late to help your child, e.g., when they are already pregnant or have contracted an STI or in other instances where a child decides to commit suicide. Nevertheless, it is upon us to Break the silence Against Gender-Based Violence and report any cases of violence.