Agony of men suffering in silence as GBV soars

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022 15:51 | By
Agony of men suffering in silence as GBV soars
Men going through gender based violence hardly report the cases due to stigma. PHOTO/Pexels

Joseph Otieno (not his real name) was 12 when he faced a traumatising experience that is still deeply etched in his mind. He was defiled by a close relative, something he is still yet to comprehend despite the event happening 18 years back.

At the age of 30, the memories of the vile act still linger, a bitter pill he just cannot swallow Pangs of anger and pain are written in his eyes as a string of veins form in his face as he narrates in detail the painful ordeal he went through when he was sodomised.

“This is somebody whom I respected, somebody that I looked up to, a relative who was also a leader within the church,“ he says.

On that fateful day, he recalls, several visitors had come to their home, which was located next to the church where his uncle preached. The visitors spent the night at their homes.

His parents, however, told him to spend the night in his bedroom with his uncle in a bid to accommodate other guests since space was limited due to the many guests. Little did they know that the uncle would prey on their innocent child.

“He was told to sleep with me in my bed. There was nowhere else to sleep. In the process, he grabbed me and forcefully removed my clothes and sodomised me,” he narrates.

He adds that he was afraid to tell his parents what transpired and feared his parents could not believe him since his uncle was a respected man who was always saving souls at the pulpit.

“Sharing this with my parents was so hard because I did not have the guts and I feared my parents would not believe me,” he continues.

The following day at night he said his uncle sodomised him again and he continued doing so over a period of time. The act ended up with him being taken to the hospital to treat a condition that he developed.

“I was taken into a local hospital within our area and several tests were done on me and the doctors told me that I had an anal infection,“ he says.

After being diagnosed, he was given medicine to treat the condition. On returning home from the hospital, his aunt was mad at him and accused him of sleeping around at a tender age.

At the age of 12, it was difficult for him to comprehend that the infection was a result of the defilement.

“I felt so bad and sorry for myself because I could not explain where the infection had come from. I was very bitter with my uncle, and could not tell on him because he served at the same pulpit with my parents who were also church leaders and worse off, he was my uncle,” he says.

He only started connecting the sodomy with the health complications when he got to form one and at that moment, his hatred for his uncle intensified. Otieno says that things became worse when the perpetrator sodomised a colleague who reported the abuse.

This, he says, gave him an avenue to open up to his own abuse more than a decade later. “It was hard for me to explain, I knew it would be difficult for me to convince my parents. But I gathered courage, sat my mother down and explained the ordeal to her.

“I felt relieved after sharing my story and also the fact that my uncle died makes me feel better because I cannot see him,“ he added.

The 30-year-old revealed that when he shared his story with his girlfriend, she asked if he was gay, but he clarified to her that he was not and it was at that time that his relationship ended.

“I don’t know if sharing was the reason for the breakup because the relationship did not last long after that, though it ended smoothly,” he adds.

Otieno is one among several men who are suffering in silence after enduring sexual assault, in most cases, from people known to them and at times family members who they trust to protect them. Although the cases are rarely reported, interviews with a number of victims show that men, too, are victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV), including rape.

For Otieno who hails from Nyakach Subcounty within Kisumu, the memories are still fresh in his mind and pray that no child should go through what he did.

Today, he runs an organisation based in Kisumu that is leading the fight against GBV against all genders. He claims that many men have been suffering in silence. He is pleading with both the National and County governments to allocate more funds to issues related to gender violence and to set up enough safe houses for survivors.

"Let’s allocate money for safe houses, legal aid to address GBV issues, and also pay attention to men going through abuse,” he says.

Otieno also advised men going through violence to come out and speak out about their experiences. Gerald Ayieko (not his real name) is also going through physical abuse. He says that his wife constantly beats him up, and denies him food and conjugal rights.

“I am the head of the house, but I do not understand why my wife does this to me. I shared what she does to me with her brother and he dismissed me saying that his sister could not beat me up,” he says.

Tuli Tulitu, a Kisumu-based gender equality activist says that there are more GBV cases reported by women than men. She is part of a group that led campaigns against teenage pregnancies under the banner ‘Mama Ida Odinga Trust

She argues that men tend to be silent due to cultural stereotypes about masculinity. In the African culture, it is perceived as a weakness when men complain that their women harass them.

“The reason why 90 per cent of GBV cases go unreported is cultural because men fear being referred to as weak, they opt to suffer quietly yet the majority of them are abused both emotionally and physically,” she says.

That is why you find most men in the bars up to the wee hours of the night drinking to take off their stress instead of sharing,” she adds. Dr Osir Otteng, a health communication lecturer at Maseno University blames society for judging men when they report their cases


"I felt so bad and sorry for myself because I could not explain where the infection had come from. I was very bitter with my uncle"


• Dr Osir Otteng says there’s a need to conduct civic education on men to make them report the cases in order to reduce GBV cases amongst them.

• He says men need to be taught to accept that women of yesteryears are not women of today and that a lot has changed.

• He urges men facing any form of abuse from their women to report it.

• The government rolled out an initiative to end Gender-Based Violence including sexual violence by 2026. • There are also very few statistics available on the number of men who are victims of GBV.

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