On September 25, 2014, at about 5.30 pm, a little girl walked down a dusty road in a small village outside of Nairobi.
Rennie* was heading home from the market where her mother had sent her to buy a cabbage.
As the little girl approached their gate, a man stopped her. He was a headteacher at a school adjacent to her home where she attended his classes.
The headteacher asked Rennie to go to the staffroom where he would give her a book to review. In order to mislead her mother and cover up his heinous scheme, the teacher told Rennie to lie to her mother that she wanted to go to the toilet.
The little girl did as the teacher asked since she had no reason not to trust him. However, when she found him in the staffroom, the man grabbed her by the mouth. Rennie screamed and tried to pull herself out of the man's embrace, but he closed the door and assaulted her.
The man then pushed little Rennie out of the staffroom after he was done.
“If you dare tell your mother, I will kill you,” the perpetrator told Rennie after the assault.
Hurt, broken, confused and covered in blood, Rennie, dressed up hurriedly in her torn dress and ran home.
Initially, Rennie was reluctant to talk about what had happened because she was afraid of the threats to her life. But when her mother saw her blood-stained clothes, she demanded to know the truth and Rennie opened up. The mother immediately reported the assault and later took her to the hospital.
Doctors at the hospitals contacted International Justice Mission for help.
Pamella Masakhwi, IJM Kenya Survivor Services Senior Manager, remembers how she and other IJM staff were attacked by neighbors when they first visited Rennie and her mother in 2014. The neighbors were unhappy that the mother had reported the abuse to the police. They claimed Rennie’s mother was practicing witchcraft and the local chief had to intervene to allow IJM to relocate the two to a safe place.
As the trial was about to begin, the man's wife, his brother and a teacher hatched a scheme to scuttle the case by offering Rennie’s mother 200,000 shillings to drop the charges. But the mother declined the offer; instead, for eight years, she relentlessly pursued justice for her daughter.
Bravely, Rennie courageously testified against the perpetrator after undergoing counseling sessions offered by IJM counselors.
On Tuesday, March 8, 2022, eight years after the horrific crime occurred, the court sentenced the perpetrator to life in prison.
“The prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Rennie was 10 years old and was abused by none other than the man before this court. I, therefore, reject his claims, that he is being framed,” the magistrate ruled.
The magistrate further noted that Rennie’s testimony was supported by the medical evidence presented before the court, and it was clear the victim was able to identify the perpetrator as the crime happened while there was still daylight and he was well known to the victim.
On receiving the news of the conviction, Pamella was excited by the judgment.
"Finally Rennie is liberated from the anxiety of waiting for justice. The criminal justice system should dispense child matters expeditiously to avoid these painful delays. We are indeed grateful. It is however truly an injustice to have to wait for justice for eight years."
Rennie's mother's courage and that of her child helped the prosecutors who worked closely with IJM advocates to gather enough evidence against him.
Today, though Rennie still painfully remembers that dark day, she is hopeful for a bright future. Rennie is in Form three (Grade 9) and wants to pursue a degree in psychology once she joins university.
Her mother is happy that the perpetrator will never hurt her or any other child again.
"Were it not for God and the help I got, I would not have managed to seek justice for my daughter. I will forever be grateful," she said.
*a pseudonym. Stock image.