AFRICANGLOBE – When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. That was actress Sophia Loren. What she forgot was that not many people spare thoughts for children’s homes.
While they’re meant to be a sanctuary for unfortunate young ones, at times they teem with danger and threats to the very children they are supposed to shelter from harsh reality.
More saddening is that the abuse of children in these homes sometimes takes place in the presence or with the knowledge of benefactors, some of whom have even been accused as perpetrators.
Such is the case of deviant visitors who troop to these homes to ‘help.’ Like one Matthew Lane Durham of Edmond, Oklahoma, USA.
Molesting 10 Boys
The 19-year-old was in Kenya between April and June 2014 on a voluntary mission. But he now faces charges of raping and molesting 10 boys and girls aged between four and nine in the bathrooms of Upendo Children’s Home, Ruiru. According to the affidavit filed by FBI agent Scott Lobb and signed by an official of Upendo, at least one of the victims is HIV positive.
During previous visits, Durham lived with sponsor families in Nairobi, but in his most recent trip, he requested to stay at the children’s home in an ‘overflow bunk.’
A live-in caretaker at Upendo became suspicious of Durham’s behaviour and asked the children if there was anything out of the ordinary going on. It is then that the children revealed the abuse, the affidavit states. The caretaker then reported the allegations to Upendo officials, who obtained a confession from Durham, confiscated his passport and notified local police.
Last month, Durham returned to the US, where he was arrested in Edmond and held at the Logan County jail on charges ranging from travelling to engage in illicit sexual conduct, engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and aggravated sexual abuse of children.
Last Tuesday, an Oklahoma judge ruled that Matthew Durham could be released on a $10,000 bond, in addition to his father agreeing to act as custodian, surrendering his passport and agreeing to a 24-hour home lock-down.
Defense lawyers claim Durham was threatened he would ‘face certain death’ in Kenya if he did not confess. Durham’s mother, father and pastor testified on his behalf during a detention hearing on Monday, claiming that the written and video confessions were coerced.
Prosecutors claim the teen said a demon named ‘Luke’ made him commit the crimes. Durham has been accused of multiple rape allegations at the Upendo Children’s Home located in the outskirts of Kenya’s capital. Upendo helps care for neglected and disabled children.
Defense lawyers claim Durham was pressured and coerced into making the confession. The Kenyan Embassy in Washington has not responded to requests for information.
Jailed For Life?
If found guilty, Durham could be jailed for life.
The child molesting vice isn’t only within children’s homes, as many Kenyans have come out to reveal they were sexually abused, as children, in the most unlikely of places – churches.
According to Ken Munyua, a psychologist, clergy defiling young boys are mostly sworn to celibacy, so they don’t want to be seen with girls.
Munyua adds that most pedophile priests from foreign countries feel they will be protected by their mother countries via repatriation, which is why jail and the law does not scare them.
A Kenyan, John Mutawali, claims he was abused by a Catholic priest when he was 16, back in 1982.
“I have been following up on my complaint since 1982 but I have made no headway to date. I made a complaint to Cardinal Otunga, Ndingi Mwana Nzeki and John Njue; but my letters have never been responded to.
I was a young boy when I became a sexual abuse victim to Archbishop Geuseppe Ferraioli. I told my elder brother who instead of empathising with me, dismissed my plight offhandedly. In fact, when my mother died, I could not attend her funeral since my brother was so cross with me and even threatened my life,” says Mutawali.
Archbishop Ferraioli was the Pope’s Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya between 1981 and 1982. He died in 2000 aged 71.
Fred Mwaura, a social worker at Joy Divine Children’s Home says: “Some of the pedophiles believe they would not be investigated, because the law would be sympathetic to them by virtue of them being from the church.”
“If someone was to do anything to a child in a normal orphanage, there would be more and faster scrutiny. But under a church, the consequences are assumed to be less severe,” he adds.
A study conducted by Coast Women In Development (CWID) in 2010 shows that internationally-listed pedophiles were fleeing child sex tourism centres in Asia because of tough new laws, and were headed for African countries where laws and enforcement is lax.
Besides laxity in the enforcement of laws, Kenya is yet to ratify international protocols on Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking and Children Involved in Child Conflict and Child Sex, according to this analysis.
A CWID 2012 study indicates that 38 per cent of sex acts involving minors and tourists take place without protection.