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Sunday, February 25, 2018
HomeHealthCeteraU.S. Forensic Nurse working with Kenyans to address sexual violence

U.S. Forensic Nurse working with Kenyans to address sexual violence

CHMP Senior Fellow Nancy Cabelus, DNP, MSN, RN, is an international forensic nurse consultant currently working with Physicians for Human Rights on a program addressing sexual violence in conflict zones in central and east Africa.

nancy-cabelusI have been working for the past couple of weeks in Kenya as a forensic consultant for Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).  PHR’s program on sexual violence in conflict zones hosted a training workshop in Eldoret, one of the largest towns in Kenya. Participants in the workshop represented a cross section of medical- legal professionals and members of civil society who work with sexual violence.  Survivors of sexual violence face many barriers to justice due to weak infrastructures of medical and legal systems. Barriers to justice identified by the training participants include a lack of training of both medical and legal professionals. More specifically, there is an omission of evidence collection and documentation that could lead to better outcomes in a court of law. Corruption also plays a part. In cases of defilement (sexual assault against a child under 18 years of age) the child victim’s family is offered money by the offender rather than facing a guilty charge and a 40- year prison sentence if convicted by a court of law. Doctors report that there is also tampering of hospital medical records. Next of kin to sexual offenders may be working in local hospitals. These hospital workers will ask the doctor to write a favorable medical evaluation rather than document the true medical findings.  Sometimes, medical records mysteriously disappear. Steps have been taken by government hospital officials to ensure that records are kept locked and only designated persons have keys. False testimony in court creates another barrier to justice and frequently witnesses request to be paid for their testimony.

Sexual violence is a daily occurrence in Kenya. Many do not report the incidents because they do not trust the police or the criminal justice system. As a forensic expert on sexual violence in Kenya, I hear these reports and cringe. Allowing a perpetrator to pay off the victims, victim’s families, or witnesses further damages the criminal justice system and also provides the perpetrator with opportunity to re-offend.

Latest comments

  • I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing there to address the problem. Really horrific situation. Like the Afghan girl who was raped as revenge against a member of her extended family. Corrupt, misogynist policies that harm (not a strong enough word) women and devastate families. Thank you for the work you do, Nancy.

  • its really essential to protect the vulnerable from sexual violence.i work at Center for Assault Recovery of Eldoret as a nurse, and sexual violence is the talk of the day.its unfortunate that we don’t have a trained health worker on Forensic.
    currently we are handling Rape and defilement ,history taking ,taking specimens for evidence investigation,Treatment, counseling and legal advice.we also do sensitization in schools and community gatherings eg chiefs barazas on sgbv prevention.