NAIROBI, KENYA – Nelly’s mother chatted anxiously with other parents in the courtroom, waiting patiently for the judge to return. After three full years on their daughters’ case, one more, long day seemed well worth the wait. On this day, Nelly* and five other young girls could receive justice.
In October 2009, these families entered a horrible nightmare. A man living near the local school lured Nelly and five other young girls into his home in groups and sexually abused them. Ranging from six to 12-years-old, the girls were easily intimidated by the man’s might. He threatened to beat each of them if they ever spoke about the abuse.
Amazingly, the girls gathered courage to tell a teacher what happened. Notified by the school, their parents took immediate action. Nelly’s mother and father hurried to the nearest police station, where they were connected to IJM Kenya for help.
But the alleged perpetrator disappeared on the same day the girls came forward. As IJM social workers comforted the girls, IJM investigators worked with local police undercover to find the assailant. After six months, IJM received a tip about his whereabouts and assisted in his arrest, making sure the trial could continue.
IJM aftercare counseled each girl in trauma-focused therapy with IJM—helping them start to heal from the abuse. As the trial continued, all six girls testified courageously in court about what happened to them. Their transformation—from fear to courage—was a miracle.
“Initially, you could tell they were still carrying a lot of trauma from the incident. Now, they’ve come a very long way from what happened.” — A mother of an IJM client reflects on the care her daughter has received since the abuse
“Initially, you could tell they were still carrying a lot of trauma from the incident,” said Nelly’s mother. “Now, they’ve come a very long way from what happened.”
The families’ long wait for justice finally ended on October 16, 2012. The Kenyan judge declared the man guilty. Immediately, the mothers let loose a range of emotions—from shock to relief to joy.
“If it wasn’t for IJM, we would have never gotten to where we are now,” said one father.
At a sentencing hearing a few weeks later, the girls and their families received more good news. Because the girls were so young, IJM presented additional victim impact statements to the judge—hoping to ensure the eventual sentence was strong enough to fit the horrible crime.
“The statements give the court the opportunity to take into account the specific effects of the act on the victims,” said IJM Attorney Wamaitha Kimani. “Giving these statements provides victims the chance to tell their story and speak out on the impact of the abuse.”
While judges are not required to review these statements, the judge in this case did. She was moved by the girls’ powerful statements and the extent of the abuse they endured. The judge ruled in favor of increasing the sentence and declared the man a dangerous offender. He will now serve 20 years in prison for each of the six girls he abused.
Four years after the abuse, these six families have much to celebrate. Their daughters are on a road to healing and, at long last, they have received justice.
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.