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SGBV: Recognizing Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children



Victims of sexual and gender-based violence will often choose to keep silent due to victim shaming or out of fear of stigmatization.

According to the Ministry of Health report on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) 2021, about 9,500 girls were defiled, impregnated, or infected with sexually transmitted diseases. The girls were between the ages of 12-17 years.

The report shows girls as the main victims of sexual and gender-based violence recording 9,162 cases while 350 cases reported were boys. The numbers from Kenya’s Management Information System are obtained from clinic visits, which means the unreported cases could be higher.

In Kenya, the sexual offense act number 3 of 2006 of the constitution states:

  1. A person who commits an act that causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offense termed defilement.
  2. A person who commits an offense of defilement with a child aged eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
  3. A person who commits an offense of defilement with a child between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than twenty years.
  4. A person who commits an offense of defilement with a child between the age of sixteen and eighteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than fifteen years.

Sexual Violence

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual violence as: ‘Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work

What are the tell signs that your child is being sexually violated?

In most cases, acts of sexual violence are often committed by people who are known well to the victims. It can be a neighbor, a family, a teacher, a guardian, or even a religious figure. Perpetrators of sexual violence may intimidate the victims not to talk by threatening to kill them or brainwashing the victim that the act was okay, especially in cases of children who do not understand the act. Some will offer money or gifts in exchange for silence.

These are some of the signs that your child is being abused:

  • Pain or bleeding around the child’s anus or genitals. These may be accompanied by unusual discharge and odors.
  • Change in child’s behavior. When a child starts to withdraw, isolating themselves from friends and family, often quiet, sad, and has mood swings
  • A child is unable to sleep. The child might refuse to sleep alone in a room or start experiencing nightmares or even wetting their beds.
  • Portraying sexual behaviors that are above his /her age. When a child starts engaging in sexual acts that seem beyond their age.
  • Change in eating habits. Loss of appetite or overeating. Gaining too much weight.
  • Suicidal behavior. The child may try to commit suicide
  • Sexually transmitted diseases or urinary tract infections.

What to do if your child is sexually abused

Seek medical assistant.

Parents should seek medical attention for their children within 24 hours of abuse. The child should not take shower or change clothes. Seeing a doctor will ensure urgent treatment. The child will be able to receive medication for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention drugs and obtain DNA that will be presented as evidence when the perpetrator is caught.

Take the child to a counselor.

Children who have experienced sexual assault end up depressed and emotionally unstable. Seeking a counselor’s help will enable the child and family to heal and get ways to deal with the trauma.

 File a report

If your child has been defiled call these hotline numbers to get help:

  • 1195 -National GBV hotline
  • 1190 – Counselling hotline
  • 0800-720600 -Tele counseling AMANI Counseling Center
  • 0790781359 – CVT
  • 0770451236 / 0777784009- HIAS
  • 0704-873342 -NCCK Health coordinator
  • 1196 – Childline
  • 0711400506 – MSF hotline
  • 0800720121 – LVCT toll-free number
  • 999 / 112 – Kenya police emergency hotline


To end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) the government should strengthen the existing sexual laws to ensure they are implemented. Provide legal support for the victims such as a government lawyer. Provide safe houses for victims, and medical and psychological support. Create awareness in the community on what to do to curb sexual violence and where to turn when it happens.

Veronica Kaveza
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Freelance writer and podcaster

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