NAIROBI, KENYA: Though just a small girl, Jess* stood bravely in front of the courtroom. She was ready to tell the court about the man who had sexually assaulted her. Her courageous testimony helped the Kenyan court convict Jess’ attacker and sentence him to life in prison—the strongest punishment possible for his crime.
Last year, eight-year-old Jess was walking home from school when a motorcycle taxi driver offered her a ride, which she eagerly accepted. Instead, the man took Jess to an isolated area where he sexually assaulted her. He threatened Jess and told her that he would find out if she told anyone what had happened. Terrified, Jess tried to keep the awful abuse to herself.
Days later, a teacher told Jess’ father that he had noticed her crying. Finally, Jess didn’t have to stay silent. She confessed what had happened, and her father quickly reported the case to local police and took his daughter to the hospital.
The police notified IJM Kenya, and suddenly Jess and her family had a team of help on her side.
IJM staff took quick action: Investigators worked with police to arrest the driver, attorneys built the legal case, and social workers counseled Jess and her family. When Jess decided to testify, IJM helped the small girl prepare to share the truth in court. At the hearing, Jess testified confidently in front of the judge and her attacker.
Despite the solid case, court delays pushed back judgment four times. But Jess’ family and IJM continued to persevere, confident that justice would be served in due time.
On August 31, 2012, the court finally convened on Jess’ case. Thanks to the girl’s courageous testimony, the judge declared the motorcycle driver guilty and made sure he would stay behind bars.
“With the assailant still in the community, it would have been dangerous for Jess to stay there,” said IJM Kenya Director of Casework Benson Shamala. “Now she is free to attend school and play without worrying.”
Having completed counseling with IJM, Jess can continue to heal at home with her father and two brothers. With small and careful steps, this little girl will return to the joyful childhood she deserves.