"For the Children": Sequel to a Male Survivor Speaks Out
It is the highest read article on this site thus far with over 550 reads. It is also the most controversial as well. Waciira Muya’s courageous story as a male survivor of CSA (child sexual abuse) and gang rape in his teens has touched hundreds of lives.
All it took was one voice to speak up to encourage countless others to begin to do the same.
In the first article about Waciira’s story, we heard about his harrowing survival tale. Here is the aftermath.
The Question of Suicide
At his lowest moment, Waciira Muya contemplated suicide. He googled suicide methods and considered hanging himself with a rope. He would walk to Hog’s Back bridge and contemplate jumping. “It would be the end of me.”
While he never ended up going through it, the trauma remained for many years. But friends began to reach out at the right time in his life, and the constant reminder of Jeremiah 29:11 encouraged him.
Eventually, he shared his pain with his family and they supported him.
However, it was difficult for Waciira as, “an African man going through the effects of sexual abuse within African culture.” To Waciira, “the black community is not an individualistic society.” He wanted to speak out against sexual violence against men, but was discouraged from going public. The idea goes that people don’t want to “tear up the family.” Within this disconnect, Waciira pushed his frustrations and pain “deep down.” But like Pandora’s box...triggers would reopen his suppressed feelings.
Opening Pandora’s Box in the Black Community
Waciira’s survival experience led him to study clinical counselling. “[In the black community] counsellors are a foreign thing to us.” He began to discover chilling trends in African communities concerning silence, shame, and blame. “When you do reach out to loved ones, you are often told “to just give it to Jesus.” “But the Bible also says, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”
African fathers are often the predators and young children are often intimidated into silence. With no other resources given to assist child victims...where do they turn?
“There is no key formula from point A to point B. A lot of our pastors need to be trained. We rely so much on spiritual resources. Pastors are held up as God-like figures.” As a result, Waciira constantly finds himself receiving the complaints of survivors who confide in him that many pastors tend not to listen to the stories of survivors. They are quick to quote scriptures and little else. He refers to a Catholic proverb often repeated, ”you need to endure to become a matriarch.”
The tragedy is that, after receiving the diatribe of “give it to Jesus” and “do your part, ”one woman in a Kenyan slum suffering from domestic violence took her own life. Waciira notes that, “traditional African societies make it hard for women to leave abusive relationships. Since the children are seen as the husband’s “heirs”, they are crippled economically, and shunned culturally (for divorce). There are some courses and trainings offered for women to learn “how to be a good wife.” At the same time, “cultural mentality in various communities across the country is that “beating is synonymous with love.”
Through this journey of discovery, Waciira developed a passion to help children.
The Psychology of Male Abuse Victim-Survivors
“Statistics say that 1 in 6 boys by the age of 18 experience sexual abuse.” the reason that many male survivors of sexual abuse do not speak out is because, “people will question your manhood.” They will often ask the question, ““How can the stronger sex be abused by another man?”
Some men can’t admit that their wife beats them. Circumcision is a hot topic in Kenya. It is a very sensitive debate; “it distinguishes boyhood from manhood. The combination of these cultural markers of “manhood” cause men to shy away from sharing stories of abuse. It’s a reality where you would “go to your grave with this information.”
Within all this, Waciira finds that there are research gaps in everything.
“For the Children”
“There are high rates of CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) and physical abuse. We are very hesitant to speak about sex in the African community.”
“In our work with children living in the slums, we have encountered desperate parents living in poverty who have begun to prostitute their young daughters to Western foreign aid/humanitarian workers in order to feed their families. “
“We have even witnessed the large practice of foreigners coming to Kenya to volunteer in children’s homes and sexually abusing them. They usually give generous financial donations to cover up their crimes. The sad thing is that the directors of many of these orphanages and children’s homes turn a blind eye to this. The directors are a part of the problem. When you begin to speak out against these things, you become the target and they try to phase you out!” Another thing about this is that anyone can open a school in Kenya. As long as you have money, you can open a private school. These private schools are not well regulated so sexual abuse can be rampant without people even knowing it. It is known that if a parent is sexually abusing the child and is found out, the child is simply transferred to another school and the parent goes scotch-free.”
Waciira now works with schools, promotes community awareness, and makes connections concerning child abuse in villages and slums.
“The justice system is very flawed here. Responses to child sexual abuse or sexual assault in general for that matter are met with opinions such as: “A man is a man, what did you expect?” There is absolutely no excuse for perpetrators to engage in that!”
“When you consider options for children’s counselling, it usually costs around $25 Canadian. For families living in poverty, this is not an easy thing to do.”
“For the entire country of Kenya, there are only about 8,000 counsellors. Within that number, there are so few male counsellors.” Counselling is considered very feminist here.” When you consider men’s mental health, the saying goes, “Be a man. Go fend for your family.”
“A lot of people are suffering in silence. We need to improve the child protection system. In the West, you have Kids Help Phone etc. We don’t have that in Kenya yet.
Waciira’s Tips for Survivors
“It’s hard. I blamed myself for many years. It’s a process. You will feel frustrated. People will not understand. It is sadly even natural for people to criticize and doubt your story. Don’t aspire to what “Waciira or Liz” is doing as the only model...Find something you can facilitate for your own individual journey. There are no instant results. But there is hope at the end of the tunnel that you take.”
1. Whatever abuse, it is not your fault
2. Get rid of justifying abuser’s actions
3. Different personalities will handle abuse differently
4. Triggers don't mean that you're a failure. No one is saying that you need to erase the memory
5. Try to identify a social support system. Open up to a trusted friend.
6. It’s perfectly okay to cry. It just signifies that you are human. People always ask you, “what’s your plan?” It’s perfectly okay not to know.
7. Talk to local primary physicians (doctors etc.).
8. It's not easy, it will be very turbulent.
9. Speak your truth but you cannot predict the consequences
“In the past I have worked with predatory clients. I learned my trigger points through it. I would take a break, walk away for a moment, step away and “self-debrief” my trauma. There is a need for psychological first aid.”
“When it comes to faith, especially Christians, a question which comes up often is, “Is it okay to be angry with God? My response is, “Is God so small that He can’t take your anger?” However, my advice for you is, “don’t stay there forever.”
1. Be prepared for ambiguity. People block things out. If you can’t make sense of it, how much other people?
2. Only you will know the right time to tell your story. Everyone’s story is unique
3. No one should pressure you for how or when you should tell your story
For the parents who have children disclose to you histories of abuse:
1. You need to be able to listen to your child. Listen. Do not go into interrogation mode.
2. Visit a mental health practitioner. Helping your child heal spiritually is good, but it is also important to seek medical advice concerning mental health
3. Don’t make it about you. Be patient. Love on your child.
4. Be observant. You know how your child regularly behaves. Look into deviances in academics, vandalism, drugs, social behaviours, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, social isolation.
5. Revisit the pattern of trauma. For young children, when you begin to notice that everything is a fight or it is a war every time that it is time for bed. Take notice of these behaviours. Your children are telling you something without speaking.
6. Check residues in laundry (soiled underwear etc.)
7. Young children may begin to show an interest in sex (language etc.).
8. Check your children’s drawings etc. There can be clues anywhere.
If we have learned anything dear readers, know this: one voice, one story, one dream, one experience has the capacity to change the fabric of communities, families and the world. Whatever your story is, whatever your passion is--don’t belittle yourself.
Your voice matters.
Your voice is valuable.
Keep on speaking. You may be saving lives without even knowing it.
More About Waciira:
Waciira Mahihu Muya is a passionate Counselling Psychologist who strives for the mental health of Children and adolescents. Waciira is a registered member of KCPA ( Kenya Counselling Psychological Association ) and associate member KAMFT ( Kenya Association Marriage Family Therapy ). In addition to that he has a Diploma In Early Childhood Development Education, awaiting to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Counselling Psychology and is currently a Candidate of the Master of Arts In Marriage and Family Therapy at Pan Africa Christian University specialization Track Child and Adolescent Therapy.
In addition, Waciira was re-elected as a Secretary General of PACUSA ( Pan Africa Christian University Student Association ); and successfully advocated for a University Counselling Psychologist to provide various Psychological and Mental Health services to University Kenyan Students and the community.
Waciira also serves as the Co-Founder of REPCN (Reframe Psychological Counselling Network) which strives to provide psychological services amongst adolescent teenagers and their families. The company has hosted various psycho-education seminars to various slums in Kenya and low income households as well as various high schools and primary schools in Kenya.