Sexual offenses on the rise in Kenya as more people work from home over COVID-19
Sexual offenses are on the rise in Kenya as more people work from home after the Government imposed stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 disease.
Chief Justice David Maraga on Thursday revealed that the offenses constitute 35% of criminal matters reported during the past two weeks.
“There has been a significant spike in sexual offenses in many parts of the country in the last two weeks. In some cases, the perpetrators unfortunately are close relatives, guardians or persons living with the victims,” he said.
According to the CJ, people who are supposed to take care of young girls are the ones taking advantage of them.
Home is the safest place to be while a pandemic rages outside. Health officials have said as much for weeks now.
But for some, home is not a haven from violence and abuse.
Stress heightens the likelihood for violence
Self-isolation forces victims of domestic violence and their children into uncomfortable and dangerous circumstances: Riding out the Covid-19 crisis, shut in with their abusers.
The pandemic has shattered exit plans that some victims have spent months developing.
And the deluge of stress and fear — of unemployment, of sickness, of death — is only intensifying the abuse they face.
Abuse survivors are familiar with the rules of social isolation already. Now, the pandemic is doing the work for abusers.
Domestic violence cases spike in times of prolonged stress and disruption, like financial crises and natural disasters.
But most people have never lived through anything quite like the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a really stressful time,” said Margaret Bassett, director of an Expert Witness Program. “And the more stress that a family experiences, there’s a greater risk for escalation on the part of a person who’s abusive.”
Sexual assault victims may be hesitant to go to a hospital to receive a rape kit, with hospitals operating at full capacity and physicians pleading with the public to avoid burdening the health care system.
Many courts are closed, too, so requests for restraining orders are indefinitely delayed.
Some victims plan their exit strategies for months. They secretly save money and make arrangements to move with their counselors’ help. But the pandemic will almost certainly interrupt those plans by draining those funds.
Child abuse is more prevalent
The children of abuse victims know where to go to get away from the violence: School, an after-school activity, a friend’s house. Anywhere but home.
Now that they’ve got nowhere to go, children’s risk of abuse is heightened, said Jeffrey Edleson, professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare.
“Many of the options that battered women and their children use as safety valves to get away from violence are no longer available,” he told CNN.
The social ties they rely on for relief are severed. Teachers, coaches and allies outside the home who may have reported the abuse aren’t with them every day.
Parents may go so far as to cut off their access to electronics, which most American students now use to complete schoolwork, he said.
“A lot of young adults I’ve spoken with who’ve been exposed to violence at home often find close friends, friends’ parents, relatives and teachers who are supportive of them,” he said. “It helps buffer the impact of what’s going on at home. But all of that is missing.”
Coronavirus-related child abuse has already been reported. In Fort Worth, Texas, a children’s hospital said last week they treated six severe child abuse cases in the span of a week.
Hospital staff said they typically see as many patients over a month, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.
Sometimes it’s the silence that’s concerning. The Oregonian reported that calls to Oregon’s state child abuse hotline have dropped by more than half, from 700 daily to 300 since the day the state’s schools closed.
Child welfare advocates worry it’s because they’re not in classrooms, where teachers can report abuse on their behalf.
Even in families where conflict has never escalated to violence, children are now at a higher risk of physical abuse because of additional stressors like unemployment, Edleson said.
“That conflict can be pushed to a physical level,” he said. “And especially closed in small quarters.”
Additional report from CNN