news from Anne-Marie in Kenya
Here at Rafiki Mwema we have had some good times but also some very tough times. Our girls have seen many visitors come and go and it is having an impact on them. They are not coping too well at the moment. Particularly Mary, Lillian and Leah and some of the behaviours they are showing are very aggressive. It’s fine when they target me (last night Mary ripped out a handful of my hair and I thought she had dislocated my fingers – she is so strong) but they are also targeting our quiet girls and the animals. This is very normal given their experiences, and no coincidence that these are three of the most damaged by sexual violence, but it is our responsibility to keep all the girls safe. Using our therapeutic parenting approach is working but it is a 24/7 job and very demanding on the staff.
We have continued with our group and in our last one we found out more about the stories behind the reasons the older girls are with us. One girl told us that the son of the man who was arrested beat her daily and told her not to testify. He cut her with knives and sticks and her little face is covered in scars. Heartbreaking and so brave. She came to us a few weeks after the rape was reported and in that time experienced horrific physical abuse on top of the sexual violence. She is in the process of giving her evidence in court – brave is just not a big enough word.
Another of our girls has spoken for the first time to tell the story of her and her siblings and hers is shocking. She speaks of a life where they were all left to roam and many many men had sex with them on a daily basis. Her details are too upsetting to repeat here but she also said that they were bribed by a neighbour with sweets to tell a different story in court – and that is destroying her! She is living in constant fear and I have a clearer insight into why she tries to be invisible in the house and her fear when an official car arrives through our gates. Heartbreaking. To have this young lady who is so careful not to show herself, and most certainly not show any fear or sadness, literally in my arms like a baby, sobbing openly and allowing me to comfort her – I have no words. It is why we are here – it is why we fight so hard for both houses to continue – these are CHILDREN and their stories are so shocking they almost could seem unbelievable. Sadly they are so real. Sadly they haunt our children on a daily basis. Children who have been through more than I can ever even imagine. Children who are finding a voice from a dark place and having the trust to know we can manage their pain and find a way forward for them; The bravest of brave children.
Today John and I are meeting with The Law Society and we will be presenting our concerns for the children’s representation – or lack of it – in court. We have been accused of keeping girls at Rafiki Mwema after they have testified – we will be explaining again about our process. The adults focus on the court we focus on the child. Just because they have given evidence does not mean they are ready to return home as we have found to some of the children’s cost. This is a therapeutic home and they are with us for that journey as well as the court and hospital. Another day in the office today!