New One-Stop Recovery Center in Kenya Finds Children are Seeking Post-Rape Care More Frequently than Adults

By Caroline Kambona & Julie Mwabe

October 1, 2014

Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be a global epidemic that primarily affects women and girls worldwide. Findings from Kenya’s Gender Violence Recovery Centre’s 2011-2012 annual report showed that 90 percent of the 2,954 GBV cases at the center that year were reported by women and girls.

GBV is also one of the contributors of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Sub-Sahara African countries. “Sexual violence is not just a risky issue in terms of one getting infected with HIV or any other sexually transmitted infection, [but] survivors normally feel ashamed,” said Olga Masinde, a psychology lecturer at the University of Nairobi. “We live in a society where the survivor is blamed and hence many would rather not report it either to the police or even to their families.”

Overcoming these barriers to disclosure must be addressed on multiple levels, including creating services that allow survivors to access timely, supportive, comprehensive care and raising awareness of the issue to reduce the social stigma women and children often experience when they decide to disclose violence.

In October 2013, Kenya opened a comprehensive GBV recovery center at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH GBVRC) in Kisumu County—the first such center in Nyanza and Western parts of Kenya, which have the highest prevalence of GBV.

More than 500 survivors of GBV within Nyanza and beyond are set to benefit from the established center in Kisumu each year.

The one-stop center provides comprehensive services to GBV survivors that include HIV testing and counselling, post-exposure prophylaxis , medical evaluation and treatment, laboratory services, emergency contraceptives for females of reproductive age, STI screening and treatment, forensic analyses, trauma counseling, psycho-social support, short-term safe rooms and paralegal services. The center was also designed to offer child-friendly services, including a play room to help girls and boys feel comfortable and safe when receiving care.

Between its opening and June 2014, 61 percent of the survivors served at the center were age 18 and younger.

This shows the importance of having child-friendly services available, but also indicates that more attention must be given to overcoming the barriers in reporting and seeking services—raising awareness that sexual violence is never acceptable and everyone deserves safe and supportive care. Renovation of the center was supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and implemented by the JOOTRH, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and LVCT Health.

More effort should be directed to ensure that these comprehensive services are available across all the counties in Kenya. Andrew Suleh, the medical superintendent of Nairobi’s Mbagathi District Hospital, says post-rape care would be better if all the necessary services were in one place.

“A survivor should be able to get all services at one place, ranging from counselling to provision of emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis drugs and even legal aid,” he said. “Ideally that should be it, but due to human resource constraints, this might not be easy to achieve in resource-poor settings such as ours.”

Even when services are not available in one location, ensuring that service providers across sectors are trained to deliver and make referrals to survivor-supportive care is an important step towards ensuring comprehensive services are available to women and children.