NAIROBI, KENYA – Libby’s* life was upended when an older relative sexually assaulted her in their impoverished Kenyan community. Though he tried to cover up the attack, Libby bravely testified against him and kept the baby born from the abuse.
This week, Libby’s attacker was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Now, this young mother can build a new, safer life with help from IJM Kenya and her family’s faithful support.
Scared into Silence after Multiple Attacks
Libby was running an errand for her mother one day in 2011 when she ran into a distant older relative. This man started harassing the 17-year-old and touching her inappropriately, until she screamed and a crowd of people came to defend her. The man was taken to local leaders, who made him write an apology letter and vow to leave Libby alone.
But this version of justice didn’t last long. Several months later, this same man approached Libby and invited her to a neighbor’s house. Libby’s culture places a very high value on not offending one’s elders, especially relatives; compelled by this pressure, she went with him.
But as soon as they were alone, he locked her inside and sexually assaulted her, then threatened to hurt her if she dared to tell anyone.
Terrified, Libby suffered in silence for more than two months. Her mother suspected something was wrong, and Libby bravely shared the truth. They went to the doctor together, and Libby learned that she had become pregnant as a result of the abuse.
When the man learned about the pregnancy, he admitted the abuse to Libby’s mother, and then tried to persuade Libby to have an abortion. But Libby and her mother resisted his bribes and chose to pursue justice. They reported the abuse to police, and Libby’s attacker was soon arrested.
Family Support Helps Libby Stay Strong
Libby’s neighbor heard about the situation and offered to help; her own daughter had been sexually assaulted but found justice with the help of IJM Kenya.
Once Libby and her mother reported their story, IJM staff started working to get Libby the justice she deserved. IJM attorneys supported the public prosecutor who was handling the case, while IJM social workers helped Libby get to and from the frequent court hearings. They also helped her prepare to share the truth in court, and she testified bravely against her attacker.
Esther Njuguna, the IJM social worker who supported Libby’s family in the two-year trial, was impressed by their resilience in such a scary situation. She says, “Libby’s mum really took care of her daughter, determined that this man would not spoil her child’s future.”
The accused man made a feeble attempt to claim that he was home with his wife on the day of the attack, but didn’t even call his wife to the witness stand to corroborate the story. The judge saw through his lies and, on March 13, 2014, found him guilty for the abuse, saying, “You know the offense of defilement is a grave one.”
Justice Paves the Road for Healing
As the man who attacked her begins 20 years in prison, Libby is building a new life with her mother and her baby. She’s completed IJM’s trauma-focused therapy program and has gone back to school to finish her education with IJM’s help.
At the same time, Libby has a child to care for as a result of the abuse—but she’s showing great strength in all of her new responsibilities.
“Though Libby is still a shy and timid girl, there is a joy that is evident when around her baby boy,” says Esther.
“The way she has taken on motherhood in such beautiful ways, at such a tender age, and in such circumstances is an incredible thing to behold.”
IJM Kenya will continue to support Libby and her family as she completes her schooling and continues down her road of healing, confident now that she’s safe from her abuser.