Gender-based violence (GBV) has largely been understood as the act of violence against women. Hence society forgets that men also suffer the same way that women do, or even worse.
It wasn’t until I began to share my own story of survival that I realized how vulnerable men were to GBV. Two years ago, I was raped and I conceived a child as a result. I was 19-years-old at the time, but since the incident, I have written and spoken extensively about the aftermath of my rape. I cannot say that I don't think about my rape on a regular basis, instead it has just become a part of my primordial goo that courses through my veins and makes me who I am.
Every now and then, when my rape comes up in a conversation, I can tell by the look on people’s faces that they feel I talk about it too casually. Through the years, I have come to realize that what happened to me, happened to me. I did not cause it, I did not do it, I did not earn it, and I did not ask for it.
When invited for talks, I often ask- does rape or GBV target men or women? Well, 95% of the audience says women, and only 5% of them say GBV affects both sexes. This is what society has reduced us to; how we have been made to feel like men should not be vulnerable. But what they do not understand is that they suffer the weight too.
Sharing what I went through inspirited me to start different support groups for the men and women who shared their stories with me. Since then, I realized that GBV could be reduced through the following:
- Ending violence against women and men ties in with the original idea that everybody has a role to positively shape the current narrative around gender-based violence (GBV). Ordinary citizens can ensure that we all help end GBV and speak out to support outreach to the most overlooked survivors of violence, including women and men living in informal settlements
- The growing numbers of women, and in some instances men, who are coming forward with accusations of years of GBV are household names, such as actors and even directors. This has revealed the depth of the situation in the society, once again pointing to the global nature of GBV. It also reveals another concern, that the true picture is often obscured by under reporting - a culture of silence and impunity. At the heart of the violence is power, and how it is used by an individual or individuals, to subdue and control another person.
- Laws on their own will not have the intended impact if ordinary citizens do not join the fight against GBV. We also call on Kenyan men and boys to find their space and use their voice. Their role is important in shaping the narrative. We urge them to speak out. Speak out because it is the right thing to do. GBV is a human rights violation that has no place in our homes, workplaces or public spaces.