Sexual Abuse in School; The Silent Suffering of Nkirote

March 19, 2024

The rise in incidents of reported crimes of a sexual nature and the periodic mass sexual violence directed at girls and boys within learning institutions attest to threatened sexual safety in Kenyan schools today.

Sexual abuse refers to any unwanted sexual activity or behavior that is forced upon someone without their consent. It can involve physical contact, such as touching or penetration, as well as non-physical acts like exposure or exploitation. It’s a serious issue that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s physical and emotional well-being especially when experienced by a student. 

In the hallways of a lot of schools, a shadowy truth lurks behind the facade of safety and learning. It’s a truth that many students, both girls and boys, are forced to confront in silence on the torment of sexual abuse at the hands of those who are meant to protect us. Yes, you heard it right. The very guardians of education, the respected teachers, coaches, or even administrators, sometimes turn into predators preying on the vulnerability of their students.

In this horrible narrative, the culprits often hide in plain sight. While the spotlight may occasionally shine on predatory teachers, the true horror lies in the realization that sometimes, it’s not the educators but the fellow students who wield power as abusers. Seniority, instead of encouraging mentorship and support, becomes a twisted weapon used to inflict harm upon the vulnerable.

Nkirote, a pseudonym to protect her identity, courageously shares her harrowing experience of sexual abuse during her high school days while she was in form 2.

“It was Wednesday night preps, 16th June 2021, and the lights went out,” she recounts. “An instruction was sent to all classes that we should go to our dorms. This was around 7:15 p.m. Coincidentally, I was tired that day and I really needed that rest. I didn’t even bother to start celebrating like most of the students. I just took my bag (which had my clan uniform from the hanging lines earlier that day) and hurriedly left class.”

“Our school was centered, so the dorms, classes, labs, and administration were in one place,” she continues. “Standing on the class balcony, you can see the dormitory blocks just across, meaning all the blocks were connected. I got to my dorm and decided to take a shower that night so that I would get a lot of time to sleep since most students were outside in the dark, playing games and celebrating. Well, I suppose this is common to most teenagers when there is a blackout in school.”

Reaching into my bag to retrieve the keys to my box, I was met with disappointment – they weren’t there. They were left back in the classroom. A fleeting thought crossed my mind: should I go back for them? I hesitated, but then the need for my pajamas compelled me to venture out. Despite a gnawing instinct urging me otherwise, I pressed on.

Before reaching my classroom, I had to pass by the form four blocks. Little did I know, that seemingly usual detour would lead to a nightmare. Retrieving my keys, I turned to head back to my dorm, unaware of the danger that was about to happen.

Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by a group of six to seven girls near the form four block. The sexual assault was swift and merciless, their laughter ringing in my ears as they inflicted pain upon me. Shocked and overwhelmed, my mind struggled to understand the horror that was happening to me.

Their words cut deeper than any physical blow, their taunts a cruel reminder of their predatory intentions. With every moment feeling like an eternity, I fled to the safety of my dorm, the pain piercing through my body matched only by the despair in my heart.

Curling up in bed, tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t shake the unbearable sense of regret. Why did I ignore my instincts? Why did I  go out into the darkness, knowing the risks? The night stretched on, each moment a torment as I battled with the trauma of what had happened.

In the aftermath, I retreated into myself, withdrawing from the world around me. The once-familiar faces of friends and classmates became strangers, their words falling on deaf ears as I struggled to make sense of the senseless. My silence spoke volumes, a testament to the pain and betrayal I carried within

And despite my pleas, my parents refused to transfer me to another school, leaving me feeling abandoned and alone. The thought of reporting the abuse to the school administration filled me with dread, fearing the shame of exposing my trauma and the lack of evidence to support my claims. With no CCTV footage to support my story, I felt trapped in a cycle of fear and silence.

Throughout the rest of my high school life, I struggled with anonymous threats presumably from the same group that had abused me. I experienced a significant decline in grades, losing friends, and becoming a loner, all while attempting to broach the subject with my parents without directly revealing the truth, which I ultimately never did.”
As we reflect on Nkirote’s courageous testimony, we’re confronted with the reality of the silent suffering endured by countless students within the supposed walls of our educational institutions. 

Her story sheds light on the urgent need for comprehensive reform to protect the most vulnerable among us. It’s a call to action for schools to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students above all else, and for society as a whole to break the silence surrounding abuse and exploitation.

It’s time to break the cycle of silence and ensure that no student suffers alone in the shadows. By amplifying voices like Nkirote and demanding accountability from those in positions of authority, we can strive to create a future where every student feels safe, valued, and heard.

If you’re a child feeling like no one will listen to you, or if you don’t have anyone you trust, reaching out to Childline Kenya can be incredibly helpful. Simply dial 116, and you’ll be connected with someone who will listen to you and provide the support you need.

Written by: Benedetta Muema

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