Charles* is an insurance salesman and financial advisor who prior to coming to Nairobi, worked in a nearby town. To fend for his family, he goes from office to office selling policies. On one dark day in July 2016, he walked into the wrong one.
"I was in the CBD and I walked into a building expecting to go to some offices. When I reached second floor I felt something was wrong and I realised I was in a brothel," he begins, speaking of an incident that saw him come close to committing suicide.
"Before I knew it, I was ambushed by some women who were half naked. In that confusion I tried to run away and I found myself in another room full of half-naked women. They were close to 70 in there. As I tried to rush out, three women pushed me into another room.
One removed my belt, another one was stealing from me and the third one was naked. Amidst that confusion, one of them gave me a condom and in the process it happened. I don't know how but it did. After the deed they let me go. I found my wallet with no money and I ran out," he reveals.
Charles* did not report the matter to the authorities. But a week later, he started showing symptoms of an infection in his genital area and he decided to confide in a friend. Since the assault he had not had any sexual contact with his wife who remained oblivious.
"After talking to a friend he advised me to go to The Nairobi Women's Hospital for treatment. I had started feeling pain every time I would urinated so I went and I found out I had a urinary tract infection. My plan had been to take my family upcountry, come back to Nairobi, light a jiko, die and go to hell.
I wanted to die because I had chosen to be a responsible father and husband to my wife. How could this happen to me? I was very bitter with God in fact. I didn't live a reckless life. Before I came to Nairobi I used to work in a very immoral place but I chose to marry instead of moving around with different women," he says gazing into nothingness as he tries to collect his thoughts.
At the hospital, he was put on a treatment regime but the medicines didn't work at first. He was tested again and given a new course of medication that eventually put him on the path to recovery. "After that I decided to tell my wife. When she came back from the village, I told her we had to go to hospital for testing. I hadn't told her what for but she agreed. The doctor told her everything and thank God her test results came back and everything was fine."
Charles*still considers the Nairobi Woman's Hospital and its Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) a second home. Although he chose not to have his identity revealed for obvious reasons, it was important for him to share his story to help those in similar situations.
"The reason I chose to share my story is to show men, especially African men, the importance of sharing. Had I not talked to my friend who advised me to go to hospital I wouldn't be alive today. It is hard for the society to understand how a man can be raped and before it happened to me I wouldn't have believed it either," he says of the incident that took place along Luthuli Avenue.
Like many survivors, he did not report the matter to the police. "I didn't report it but I have made an effort to know where these brothels are located so I can warn people. Most of them are on Tom Mboya Street. I wish someone would expose them and take action," he says.
He didn't get any justice but he is healing. "I will finish my free counselling programme this month and I consider myself 90 per cent healed," he says.
Sexual violence still remains the most common type of gender-based violence in Nairobi. "Children are the most vulnerable and most of the time they are abused by someone they know. Unfortunately, they are scared to report because of threats and others are told it is normal," Emily Akoth a programme officer at the GVRC reveals.
"From January to April 2016, child perpetrators were on the increase and from our data we realised something was wrong," she says. "We visited schools within Nairobi and found children with pornographic material. Not professional porn but videos they had taken of themselves performing sexual acts. A child is in primary school and is already a porn star. He becomes a celebrity in school. We saw one of the videos and we were very shocked to see a young boy having sex and others said it was normal."
To make matters worse, a teacher at one of the schools confided that children are gang raping each other. "A young boy even confessed to having sex with girls in pre-unit," she adds.
The GVRC concluded that children have been groomed to have sex at a very early age and unfortunately, when they sexually assault each other the law will not hold them criminally liable until the age of 11.
"Some time back, 15 boys were brought in for counselling. They said they had been abused by a video den owner in Kibera. They were aged between 9 and 14 years. The owner would show them porn and then he would abuse them. The boys would then introduce their friends and in the end, he had abused roughly 40 boys. Only 15 reported it," Emily says. "To make matters worse, these young kids believe in forceful sex."
While cases of younger perpetrators are on the rise, a GVRC report released last year indicates an increase in the abuse of minors below the age of five by ayahs and stepfathers. The report also breaks down the types of gender violence unique to each county.
"Each area has unique issues. Kajiado for example reports more cases of female genital mutilation and physical violence. Nairobi and Kiambu have a high incidence of sexual violence," Emily says.
Rebecca Gitau, a psychologist at the GVRC, says they receive 60 to 70 new cases weekly across five units in Nakuru, Nairobi and Kajiado with sexual assault being the highest form of violence. "We are also very worried at the rate which children are being assaulted," she says.
Rebecca also calls attention to the challenges of getting justice in an environment where survivors fear of testifying in the presence of perpetrators, especially when they are released on bail.
She advises survivors of rape not to have a bath and to visit the nearest hospital so that any evidence can be preserved should they wish to report the matter.