This may be one the most mind-blowing moments of our project. The day the video link went live really can’t tell the story of the eight years prior. Eight years of planning, talking, being told how ridiculous our plan was; Anne-Marie being turned away from meetings because she was a ‘silly woman’ and yet the exact same words spoken by our co-founder’s husband John Tipper, greeted as if the male communities had got together to help the ‘useless females!’ But none of that matters because we are supporting the most vulnerable witnesses to give evidence safely.
This story started 8 years prior to this in an orphanage in Nakuru when Anne-Marie was asked to support two young boys, just eight years old, who had been kidnapped by a street man, imprisoned and repeatedly raped. The one time one of the boys escaped, they were returned by a family member. They were in deep trauma and in immense physical pain. Anne-Marie spent several weeks preparing them to be able to tell their truth in court. This didn’t mean that they were coached in anyway, simply listened to and helped to lessen the shame of what had happened to them. This was a very short piece of work for such an immense trauma, but so much more than most children have. Most abused children have no support at all, and often arrive in court ill prepared for the trauma ahead.
Nothing could prepare Anne-Marie for what she experienced that day. Nothing. The sexual abuse was unbearable for these little boys, but this maybe even worse.
Anne-Marie describes this in her own words.
‘Sitting in the packed court room, watch ‘cases’ being heard before theirs, with a small boy shaking by my side. We had to report to the court for 9am and we sat for 3 hours before the court was cleared and we were shown into a smaller room off the main court. The judge and the prosecutors came in and acknowledged the two boys with a nod of their heads. The boys shook with fear and the boy I will call Abe learned closer to me. His heart beat shook the court room, his fear bouncing off the walls. The fear in his eyes, in his body, in his whole sense of being was sickening to be beside. If I felt that, what did he feel.
After several minutes we were told to wait outside the court and I could not believe that brought the very ‘thing’ that had raped and abused these boys to stand next to us. The smell of his rancid body flooded my nostrils and Abe shut down. A mask of ‘nothing’ covered his face and he became like a statue. I feared he would be able to say nothing when we arrived in the courtroom. This evil man started at him; straight into his small beautiful face and laughed. At that point Abe shook and looked like he may vomit. I couldn’t believe this was allowed to happen right in front of the armed guards, but no-one noticed, or no-one cared.
Once in the courtroom, things were even worse. The rapist was allowed to challenge, question, shout and get right into the face of theses baby boys. He called them liars and said that they had accepted chips from him so why were they complaining now. The verbal abuse struck the heart of the boys and made me feel I couldn’t breathe in, for fear of inhaling his evilness.
The boys were amazing and this rapist is housed in the Nakuru mens prison for a minimum of 25 years.
I made a promise that no child should ever have to go through that again. No wonder children froze in fear and didn’t give evidence and rapists walked free. Their fear must have been immeasurable.’
It took Anne-Marie and her team eight long, frustrating years but we now have a brilliant system. A soundproofed room, with recording video equipment, which mean vulnerable witnesses are protected from this damaging and sickening process.
Anne-Marie has fulfilled the promise she made that day and Play Kenya intend to have most video link systems around Kenya.
This is the FIRST of it’s kind in the whole of KENYA! We are so so proud and excited to be pathfinders and look forward to getting more and more systems to support more and more beautiful children and families
This would not have happened without the persistence of John Tipper. Every time Anne-Marie was turned away, she turned to John to go back and say what she had been trying to say, but no-one would listen. This team work, along with Sarah Rosborg who, as well as raising the needed funds, was as outraged and driven as anyone. A small strong team that made change happen.