Research Brief: Intimate partners are the most common perpetrators of sexual abuse in Kenya
Sexual abuse of children is a major global public health and child rights issue. Prior to this study, few countries had collected data on the burden of child sexual abuse in Africa. To design effective programs to prevent child sexual abuse depends on a better understanding of perpetrators and the context of child sexual abuse. In 2010, Kenya completed the Violence Against Children Survey (VACS). This study describes the perpetrators and context of different types of child sexual abuse among youth. The study focused on the first incidents of sexual abuse, or the first time that youth experienced sexual abuse in childhood. It provided information about four types of childhood sexual abuse: unwanted sexual touching, unwanted attempted sex, pressured unwanted sex, and physically forced sex. This summary includes findings from youth ages 18 to 24 who reported on their experiences before age 18. The study also includes information about the experiences of youth ages 13 to 17 over the past 12 months.
- For unwanted sexual touching, the most common perpetrators of first incidents were intimate partners for girls (32% of incidents) and boys (44% of incidents).
- First incidents of sexual touching commonly happened at school (25%), traveling on foot (21%), and at another location (26%) for girls, and at the victim’s home (24%), at school (26%), and at another location (38%) for boys.
- For unwanted attempted sex, the most common perpetrators for girls were relatives (33%) and neighbors (25%) and for boys were intimate partners (41%).
- First incidents of attempted sex typically took place traveling on foot (33%), at the victim’s home (25%), and at the perpetrator’s home (22%) for girls, and at the victim’s home (39%) for boys.
- For pressured unwanted sex, the most common perpetrators were intimate partners for both girls (56%) and boys (58%).
- First incidents of pressured unwanted sex took place in the perpetrator’s home for girls (44%) and in the victim’s home for boys (30%).
- Intimate partners were also the most common perpetrators of physically forced sex for both girls (50%) and boys (61%).
- First incidents of physically forced sex typically took place in the perpetrator’s home for girls (42%) and in the victim’s home for boys (63%).
- Across all types of child sexual abuse for both boys and girls, perpetrators were typically older than victims.
What is added by this report?
The VACS data revealed consistency in the types of perpetrators of child sexual abuse in Kenya. The perpetrators of the first incident of abuse were largely people known to the victims and were most likely to be intimate partners, friends or classmates, neighbors, and family members or relatives, depending on the type of abuse. Similar patterns were seen for boys and girls. Afternoon and evening hours were the most common times in which sexual abuse occurred. These findings suggest that effective prevention of child sexual abuse needs to involve programs that address the most common perpetrators and contexts. Prevention of child sexual abuse in Kenya can be strengthened by scaling up evidence-based and promising prevention strategies that address intimate partner violence among youth and adults.
Mwangi MW, Kellogg TA, Brookmeyer K, Buluma R, Chiang L, Otieno-Nyunya B, Chesang K, Kenya 2010 Violence Against Children Survey Team. Perpetrators and context of child sexual abuse in Kenya. Child Abuse and Neglect 2015; 44: 46-55.
*Footnote: some variation between prevalence estimates from published papers and country reports may exist. This variation reflects slight differences in the subsamples and variables used in the analyses.