- April 1, 2022
Did you know that 1 in every 3 women has experienced sexual or physical violence? Yes, it is that bad. Women experience harassment at workplaces, in their homes, on the road, in church, schools…basically anywhere people are!
There has been a lot of uproar in the past about the causes of this and blame has been placed where it does not necessarily belong. There have been nauseating claims that sexual assault is as a result of parents not being vigilant, females wearing revealing clothes, or going out at night. None of this makes sense, because we have had cases of toddlers being raped! Victim blaming should stop and perpetrators held responsible.
Whenever someone is assaulted and it gets the attention of the media, we have seen people condemning the act and ending sentences with, “because she is someone’s mother, daughter or sister.” With this reasoning, does it mean those who don’t have women in close relations should just go ahead and assault women? You don’t have to imagine they are someone’s something to realize they are human. We have had cases of men raping their daughters, nieces, and even mothers. What then do we blame such atrocities on?
It is bad enough to assault women without a reason. It is much worse to use assault as a punishment for something they have allegedly done. Take the recent case of a woman who was assaulted for allegedly knocking down a motorcyclist. It is not easy to verify the facts of the occurrences of that day using a single video, but nothing warrants what was done to her. In the video, we saw not one, not two, not three but several men taking turns touching her inappropriately as she screamed with terror.
It does not matter what someone’s mistake is, punishing them by assault is just as bad. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We need to normalize contacting authorities and let the law decide what happens next.
Different types of harassment
For the longest time growing up, I used to think sexual assault only involved unwanted touch or physical contact. I have since learnt that it goes beyond that. Broadly, sexual harassment can be categorized into verbal sexual harassment, non-verbal sexual harassment, and physical sexual contact.
Many people are still not aware of some of the actions against them that categorize as sexual assault. Staring, stalking, following, blocking a hallway, blowing kisses, patting, pinching, grabbing, hugging, etc. are all harassments but most people ignore or look the other way because they are difficult to prove and the victims almost always end up getting blamed.
Forms of sexual harassment according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) include:
- Implicitly or explicitly asking for sexual favors to employ or advance a person
- Sending unwanted sexually explicit text messages, emails, or photos
- Talking about sexual fantasies/stories/relations in inappropriate settings like work or school
- Making unwelcome sexual advances
- Being pressured to engage with someone sexually
- Self-exposure or performing sexual acts on oneself so someone else can see
- Physical acts of sexual assault
- Spoken harassment sexual in nature, including jokes that refer to sexual orientation or act
- Requesting for sexual favors
Taking action against perpetrators
Harassment can be subtle or obvious, on-going or a one-time occurrence, severe or moderate; but whichever form it takes, action must be taken. Nobody walks around with a placard written: “I am a rapist”. So it is the victim’s responsibility to take the first step in ensuring justice is served.
Though the nature of the harassment determines how it will be addressed, there are general steps that can be followed. They include; speaking against the harasser, reporting to relevant authorities, filing charges and taking legal action.
In a recent report by NTV, a man was arraigned in court for touching a woman’s behind without her consent. He denied the charges and was released on a bond of Kshs 300,000 or alternative cash bail of Kshs 150,000. In another report on twitter, a lady got her colleague fired after she reported him to the HR because he made an inappropriate compliment to her. The man had asked her if she really breastfeeds her child because her boobs looked engorged.
These are a few instances where women, as they should in case of harassment, stood their ground and reported the perpetrators. There are others who have gone down the same path with no success. But it is always better to try and fail than fail to try, because, that courage might be someone’s empowerment and a step towards decreasing or completely eradicating sexual harassment cases.
Most women rarely report assault because of stigmatization and the fact that these scenarios are hard to prove. Unless the perpetrator leaves his DNA behind, how will you prove that you were assaulted? My advice? Just try, anyway.
To report assault, you can find relevant contacts here.
Of women who fake assault
There are people who have reported assault to police knowing well they were not assaulted. It cannot get any more disgusting because this not only destroys the reputation of innocent men but it also makes genuine cases go unpunished.
In December 2020, one Julius Wambua was released from Kamiti maximum prison after serving nine years of his life sentence for defiling his daughter. Wambua’s wife coached their daughter to give a wrongful confession after a matrimonial difference. The release came after the two confessed to their lies and asked for forgiveness from him.
This begs the question, how many innocent men are sitting behind bars after wrongful conviction following a false accusation? In as much as it is wrong to assault someone, it is equally wrong to fake assault to settle scores.
We need to do better as a society in general. Parents should nurture their children from a young age to become better humans. Grown-ups regardless of how they were brought up can discern good from bad and should refrain from committing the latter. Lawyers, judges, police officers, and other authorities that handle such cases should be vigilant enough and ensure only the real perpetrators are put behind bars.
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