NAIROBI, KENYA – Last week, a Kenyan man who sexually abused 7-year-old Joel* was officially sentenced to life in prison. Thanks to the quick action of his neighbors and the hard work of IJM Kenya, Joel and his family can look forward to a safer future.
Confronted by a Stranger
In January 2012, Joel was playing with his friends when a man asked him to help carry a parcel in exchange for a small tip. But when Joel went to help, the man led him into a nearby forest and violently sexually assaulted him.
Four neighbors heard the little boy's screams and ran to help him. They wrestled his attacker to the ground and brought the man to local police. Scared and hurt, Joel was rushed to the hospital for treatment. A hospital social worker heard about the abuse Joel survived and saw his family's difficult situation. The man who attacked Joel was being held by police, but Joel's family could not afford a lawyer to advocate for their case in court. Without one, it could be years before Joel ever saw justice. The social worker connected the family to IJM Kenya for the legal and counseling support they needed, and IJM quickly took on the little boy's case.
Once Afraid, Joel Shares the Truth
Attorneys worked with local police to prepare evidence and witness testimonies. IJM's dedicated aftercare staff met with Joel regularly as he began to recover. Through IJM's trauma-focused therapy program, they helped him and his family emotionally process the awful abuse.
"He was very fearful when he came. He wouldn't talk to me," says IJM social worker Esther Njuguna, who managed Joel's counseling. "Trauma is different for every client. For boys, it is generally very difficult to open up about this abuse because of the stigma."
With time and continued counseling, Joel felt ready to share the truth of what he endured. He and his mother both testified courageously in court, hopeful that they would soon see justice.
But soon after, the man who attacked Joel tried repeatedly to delay or disrupt the case. IJM and court prosecutors affirmed the facts and kept the case moving, but after a year of these delays, there was no certainty how the judge would rule.
"I don't know where I would have been without you," said Joel's mother. "I wanted to give up—I didn't think it was possible. Justice has been served."
"Justice Has Been Served"
On June 13, 2013, the judge delivered the decision Joel's family had been waiting for: The man was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the abuse. With this man out of the community, Joel and other innocent children can stay safer in their neighborhood.
Joel's mother was grateful for IJM's support in ensuring their case did not fall apart. "I don't know where I would have been without you," she said. "I wanted to give up—I didn't think it was possible. Justice has been served. Thank you, thank you so much. May God bless you."
No longer afraid, Joel has successfully completed IJM counseling and was one of 25 children celebrated at a graduation ceremony in May. IJM will continue to walk with and support him—confident that this victory in court will empower Joel on his road to healing.