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E4: Ripples of Harm: Sexual violence in Kenya, a better approach



Existing programs intervene and respond to incidents of sexual violence in Kenya, Wangu Kanja explains. But the founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation and convener of the Survivors of Sexual Violence Network in Kenya, has created a different approach--one that identifies and responds to the many, overlapping, and rippling harms that occur in the context of sexual assault. 


Assault is not only a rape, Kanja says, it is also: the retraumatisation by a family that blames the survivor; the relentless bureaucracy necessary to bring a case to the police (medical records, stamped, authorized; perpetrators identified by survivors, asked to carry out citizens arrests); intimidation to drop charges if they are pressed (including at times abduction); and the reality of having to see your rapist in court every few months for as many as ten years.


The project tells of a better way of thinking about the relationship between sexual violence and what can be done about it.

Kanja is an R4T partner, and her project case study, Managing Time, tracks and compiles data collected from a mobile app (pictured below) to report and document the process of justice following an assault. The project tells of a better way of thinking about the relationship between sexual violence and what can be done about it.


The data collected by the app shows that harm is perpetrated by institutions positioned to help and protect the men, women, and children who survive sexual assault. It shows how and where problems occur in the justice system, and the links between drawn-out legal procedures and problems with police and medical systems. It is also working to show how failure to adequately address the issue is leading to social breakdown on a number of levels.

The Wangu Kanja foudation not only tracks the problem, to show harm that ripples out from an act of violence, but also creates a network of survivors to help others through the process. The women (and some men) help to raise awareness of a range of social issues in the community, and are also the first points of contact for others who have endured a rape ordeal. The foundation is creating social structures to deal with existing problems, even as these problems are diagonsed through formal data collection. Survivors are in charge of advocating for their rights.


Sexual assault is not a single problem that can be solved with a single intervention, the harm caused is not only from the rape ordeal, but from the transformed way that survivors must navigate and negotiate life within their communities.The foundation is innovating and producing research around an alternative that deals with the larger structures of harm that cannot be recognize within the event/response binary. 

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