Silent Screams: Unveiling the impact of Domestic Violence on childhood

In my childhood memories, the haunting echoes of help-seeking cries repeat. Uwiii, uwiiii…ananiuwa, nisaidieni ananiuwa! –these were the frequent pleas for help from women seeking refuge from the terror of domestic violence. These weren’t just distant incidents; they were scenes unfolding right in my neighborhood, within the lives of women I interacted with on a daily basis. They were nurturing mothers to children I grew up with and the caring neighbors whom I shared laughter and stories with. Yet, behind closed doors, violence was a silent predator, a silent killer!   

I vividly recall the nights when these women, desperate for safety, sought refuge in our home, running from the brutalities inflicted by their spouses.  Their trembling voices and eyes swollen from weeping still resonate within me. “Help! Help! He’s going to kill me!” The distinction between the vibrant, caring figures they portrayed during the day and their distress during the night painted a heartbreaking picture into my young mind. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend the gravity of these situations.

When I dared to ask why, I was met with a hushed response: “Shh! that’s adult stuff.”-a futile attempt to shield me from the horrifying truths hiding in the shadows of reality. But those words birthed countless unanswered questions: Why did the husbands resort to violence? Why didn’t the women leave?  Why did these women endure abuse?  Why did our society turn a blind eye to this agony?  The silence surrounding these distressing scenes left a void, fostering a normalization of such horrors. It was a community where women’s dependency on their spouses and societal stereotypes suffocated their cries for justice.

Domestic violence is a societal epidemic that steals innocence and shatters lives. When we turn away from these realities, when we label it as “adult stuff” or “private matters,” we perpetuate a cycle of violence. By covering for domestic abuse in secrecy, we grant it the power to thrive, robbing individuals of their voices and perpetuating a culture of impunity. The consequences of this silence extend far beyond the immediate victims; they ripple through generations, leaving scars on the minds of children who witness the pain but lack understanding. Children growing up in such environments are denied the safety and security that every child deserves. They absorb the toxicity, perpetuating a cycle that normalizes violence and hinders the evolution of healthier relationships. The emotional scars inflicted during these formative years, shape perceptions of relationships, power dynamics, and what is deemed acceptable behavior.

As I reflect on those disturbing times, I am driven to break this silence. It’s time to speak up and demand accountability. We must create spaces where victims feel empowered to seek help without shame or fear. It’s not just the responsibility of the individual experiencing abuse to break free; it’s a collective responsibility of society to challenge the societal structures that condone and normalize such behavior. It starts with education, conversations and unwavering support for victims.

During these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, let’s amplify our voices. Let’s speak out against the silence that enables domestic violence to thrive. Let’s advocate for implementation of policies that protect victims, support systems that provide resources, and initiatives that educate and empower women and girls. We can rewrite the narrative, building a society where every voice is heard, every cry for help is answered and where safety, respect, and dignity are not privileges but inherent rights for everyone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please seek help. You are not alone, and there are organizations ready to support you. Here is a list of organizations and rescue centers available in Kenya for Gender Based Violence Victims

Gender Violence and Recovery Centre

The Nairobi Women’s Hospital is known for quality healthcare provision especially to women and girls, and so the Gender Violence and Recovery Centre is an addition to its core competence of health provision, but with a focus on victims of gender-based violence. The Centre does not only provide shelter and physical protection but is also keen on psychosocial support as well as creating  awareness to the community on gender violence, which is an integral part in causing behavior change against GBV.

The Gender Violence Recovery Centre helpline number is +254709667000 or +254719638006

Located in Meru County, Tumaini Girls Rescue Centre facilitates the protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of girls who may have experienced or face danger of sexual violence, physical or psychological abuse, while guiding them spiritually with Christian values. The Centre also collaborates with other community home shelters and acts as a referral point and a collaborative centre especially in providing shelter for boys in distress. It has an in-house resident capacity of 60 girls with the potential to support 300 boys and girls under its community program. 

Tumaini Girls Rescue Centre helpline number is +254724370653

  • Wangu Kanja Foundation

The Foundation was founded after, Wangu Kanja, the founder, went through a gruesome sexual and physically violent experience 20 years ago. As was the case at the time, the society castigated her and this brought out the need in her to set up a place where sexual violence victims can seek solace after the experience. Apart from awareness creation, the centre provides medical aid, psychosocial and legal support, in addition to financial empowerment to survivors.

Wangu Kanja Foundation helpline number is +254722790404

Unlike other gender-based violence rescue centres, Solwodi is focused on rescuing girls who turn to commercial sex trade due to poverty or who are traded in the human trafficking business for sexual exploitation. They also help victims of forced marriages and other violent or exploitative situations. Also domiciled under Solwodi is SOLWOGIDI, (Solidarity with Women and Girls in Distress) for educational and financial support, through income generating activities. 

SOLWODI helpline number is +254739422422

Run by the MSF (Doctors without Borders) Lavender House Clinic is a rescue centre for victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Mathare, Nairobi County. Owing to prolonged social and economic segregation, sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent in slums and other low income earning areas such as Mathare hence the need for the Clinic. The clinic offers medical and psychosocial support to the victims, as gender violence may also result in mental health issues if left unattended.

Lavender House Clinic Contact 020 2400330

Rescue Dada Centre is rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration centre, that is located in Ngara, for girls who have been living in the streets either due to poverty or dysfunctional families at home. The Centre’s mission is to transform ‘street connected girls’ to productive individuals either through education or economic empowerment to minimize the chances and possibilities of them going back to the streets. The Centre also empowers vulnerable caregivers of formerly street connected girls for them to get out of poverty and be at a position to comfortably provide for the girls and eliminate the need to go back to the streets.

Rescue Dada Centre contact: 0725 694 624

Healthcare Assistance Kenya (HAK) is a fast response sexual and gender-based violence emergency helpline, a first of its kind and the only one in the country. HAK works by referring SGBV survivors to emergency service providers to prevent the infection of sexually transmitted diseases after an ordeal. Privacy and confidentiality between the victim and the helpline is maintained through an SMS based communication platform, or by dialing 1195 after an incident.

Healthcare Assistance Kenya (HAK) Helpline numbers 1195 or +254 705208065 or +254733738626

This blog aims to shed light on the untold stories and the lifelong impact of domestic violence. It’s a call to action, urging society to break the silence, provide support, and pave the way for a future free from the shadows of abuse.

6 thoughts on “Silent Screams: Unveiling the impact of Domestic Violence on childhood”

  1. The article is quite informative. I especially like the listed rescue/recovery centres that come hand in hand with their respective contacts. This will help many who know victims and have no idea where to start….thank you I gained!

  2. Thee Grandpa December 4, 2023

    The writing is so surreal that has made me recall how kangemi households would be war zone in early and late 90s. You are a great voice of our generation.

  3. Mubiru Jefferson December 5, 2023

    What a compelling narrative Mwanaisha,so insightfull,thanks for sharing those hotlines for various support centers,yes its important to prioritize safety and seek assistance from trained professionals who can provide guidance and resources tailored to your specific situation.

  4. Jefferson Mubiru December 6, 2023

    What a compelling narrative ,so insightful,good you shared hotlines for support centres as t’s important to prioritize safety and seek assistance from trained professionals who can provide guidance and resources tailored to your specific situation.

  5. This highlights the hidden pain of domestic violence. I totally agree with your call to break the silence, advocate for policies, and support victims. I didn’t know any of the highlighted institutions.

    This is a great step towards creating a society where every voice is heard and every cry for help is answered. Thanks for sharing

  6. Thank you for sharing your voice on such a sensitive but wanting matter. This was such an informative piece. Thank you, especially for sharing helpful resource centers where help can be sought. Looking forward to reading more from Mwanaisha

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