NAIROBI, KENYA – One little girl's brave decision to speak up about her abuse has helped a Kenyan court put a rapist in jail for life. Safe from the neighbor who attacked her, Muthoni* is now healing and becoming herself once again.
Terrifying Abuse from a Neighbor
Eight-year-old Muthoni was playing with a friend near her home when an older neighbor lured her over to his house with the promise of treats. As the little girl entered his house, he quickly locked the door behind her, raped her, and then threatened her with violence if she told anyone what happened.
Muthoni bravely told a friend about the awful abuse, and word soon spread through their neighborhood. Police arrested the man, but he was released on bond a month later and moved back to his house—just steps away from Muthoni's home.
Living next door to her abuser was terrifying, and Muthoni felt ashamed among her other friends. She became withdrawn and anxious, and would lock herself in her home out of fear. Her family felt ostracized by the community, so they were forced to move houses to feel safer.
Muthoni's parents wanted justice for their daughter, but they had no idea where to turn and no money for an expensive lawyer. When they took Muthoni to a large city hospital for treatment, hospital staff saw the family's devastation and referred them to IJM Kenya for the help they needed.
Bravery Despite Obstacles
Over the next year, IJM worked with police and a state prosecutor to bring a legal case against Muthoni's attacker. Her case met hurdles when key witnesses moved away or refused to testify, and when Muthoni's own uncle testified in support of the attacker.
IJM social workers supported Muthoni's family through the difficult two-year trial. They reassured her that the abuse was not her fault, and helped her to share the truth of the attack in court.
"I cannot express enough my overwhelming relief and joy that Muthoni and her family can now move on with their lives."
-IJM Attorney Lea Owuor
Lea Owuor, the IJM attorney who supported Muthoni's family, says "Her testimony was so brave and honest, the court had no reason to doubt, along with all the unquestionable evidence provided."
Convinced by Muthoni's courage, the Kenyan judge found Muthoni's attacker guilty for the rape on February 4, 2014, and sentenced him to life in prison. The sentence proves to the community that sexual violence against children is a serious crime with serious consequences.
Long Road to Healing
The court's decision helps to confirm for Muthoni that she is worthy of justice. Owuor says, "I cannot express enough my overwhelming relief and joy that Muthoni and her family can now move on with their lives."
Muthoni has completed IJM's trauma-focused counseling program, and she has started to return to the outgoing little girl she once was. She is back at school and playing with her new friends, confident that she is finally safe in her neighborhood.