In recent times, hardly a week goes by without the media reporting about defilement.
It looks like defilement is becoming a way of life for some people. The very worrisome aspect of these stories is that the victims, who are mostly very young, are left in a state that puts their health in jeopardy. In even more serious cases, their very lives hang in the balance.
The common thread that runs through the stories are that the child victims are lured somewhere to be defiled while on their way home from school or are taken advantage of after they have run errands.
In other cases, both mother and father are not around, leaving the defiled child in the care of other siblings who are also children. But too often, the case is that the perpetrators are known to the family or live in their neighbourhood.
A taxi driver narrated his ordeal to me. He said he and his wife were unable to escort their five-year-old from school because of work. His daughter was returning home from school alone when a boy dragged her into a nearby bush and defiled her. The little girl did not tell her parents because the perpetrator had warned her that if she did, she would die.
It was when the mother noticed the next day she couldn’t walk properly that she told her what had happened the previous day.
Well, the matter was reported to the police. The suspect, who was 16 years old, was arrested; but after six months when the case had not gone full cycle, the case was discontinued. The parents could pay for the initial treatment when they were issued with the medical form by the police to a hospital but subsequently, they could not even afford transportation to and from the hospital, not to talk of pursuing the matter in court
The girl was, therefore, kept at home and given some herbs. She was not able to go to school again because somehow, everyone around got to know about the case and kept pointing fingers at her. Her schoolmates did same, making life so uncomfortable for her at school. She has since not been her bubbly self because she is always scared that the boy, who lives in the neighbourhood, will harm her again. And worse of all, she believes that like the boy warned, she will die anytime.
It is very difficult to understand why defilement seems to be common these days. Could it be related to drugs? The ridiculous perception that it is indecent dressing that causes sexual abuse cannot also hold because one wonders how indecently a toddler could be dressed to get defiled.
Something just seems to be going wrong and we have not been able to nail it in order to protect the innocence of our children. Or is it that the media is giving it more coverage?
The very unfortunate thing the parents of a defiled child face is not only the torture of what has happened to the child, but also the financial burden of seeking treatment and justice.
Since it seems that this state of affairs is continuous, even in the face of some victims getting justice in court, I think we should look at ways of preventing it. I often see children, sometimes as young as four years, left to walk on their own to school and back. This is very risky as far as the safety of the child is concerned.
Apart from the risk of defilement, accidents and kidnapping are also possibilities.
The core responsibility for the safety and welfare of children rests with parents. Parents should, therefore, not leave their children to walk about alone. And if they are leaving their children in the care of adults, they should do some background checks. They should also make time to monitor their children and create an atmosphere that will make the children trust them and talk to them rather than friends and strangers.
The decline in the support parents received from the extended family system could also be a factor; and it is true that parents can’t sometimes help it but be out there to earn money to take care of their children. But it is even more critical to know that the child is in safe hands in your absence. What shall it profit a parent to arrive home with cash only to meet his or her child so defiled?