IJM Kenya: Life Sentence for Stepfather Who Abused Fridah

IJM Kenya works with local law enforcement to defend and protect children who have experienced sexual abuse.
IJM Kenya works with local law enforcement to defend and protect children who have experienced sexual abuse.

NAIROBI, KENYA – Fridah* and her family can feel safer, now that her stepfather has been convicted for sexually abusing her. IJM Kenya advocated for 13-year-old Fridah in court and has been supporting her impoverished family since the awful truth about the betrayal and abuse emerged.

When Fridah’s stepfather was convicted Tuesday, her mother told IJM: “My heart has now been made clean. I can begin to heal because I will never see him again.”

Shocking Abuse in Her Own Home

Fridah was only 11 years old when her stepfather sexually assaulted her in their home. Her mother came home to find the young girl crying alone and too frightened to speak. Fridah could see her stepfather watching from the window, so she blamed her tears on a headache and stayed silent for the night.

But the next day at school, Fridah bravely confessed the abuse to a teacher, who immediately called Fridah’s mother. Together, they took Fridah to the hospital and to report the abuse at the police station. The stepfather was quickly arrested.

Finally relieved of the burden, Fridah then shared that this was in fact the fifth time her stepfather had abused her in the past three months. Her family was heartbroken, but all the more determined to seek justice.

IJM Defends Fridah in Court

Fridah’s family came to IJM Kenya for the legal help they needed to protect the girl from her abuser. IJM investigators worked with police to record key witness statements, and IJM attorneys defended the little girl for more than a year in the courtroom. IJM social workers also counseled Fridah as she decided to share the truth about the abuse before the judge.

With strong evidence in court—including medical reports and Fridah’s articulate testimony—the judge officially convicted Fridah’s stepfather on December 17, 2013. He will spend a life sentence in prison.

Such a strong conviction was a huge relief for Fridah’s family. Mark Kones, on the IJM Kenya legal team, said Fridah’s mother “began to shed tears of joy once the sentence was pronounced.”

Fridah’s mother “began to shed tears of joy once the sentence was pronounced.”

A Long Road to Healing

Life since the abuse has been hard for Fridah and her family. Her stepfather had been the main breadwinner, so Fridah’s mother has struggled to support her children alone since the abuse. The family has had to move homes twice to feel safe and protected.

Furthermore, IJM Kenya Aftercare Specialist Rose Muthee says the trauma Fridah experienced led to many changes in her behavior, such as running away from home. But Rose and other IJM staff have helped Fridah emotionally process the abuse in trauma-focused therapy. Rose says she has since shown positive responses to the counseling and seems to be making good progress.

IJM has supported the family to help make ends meet, at times providing food and currently helping Fridah’s mother pay rent. Social workers will help Fridah’s mother find a good job to support Fridah and her sister, so they can move forward with confidence.

*A pseudonym.

Africa, Conviction, Sexual Violence