What you need to know:
- Superintendent of Police has felt the agony GBV victims go through to get justice.
- The victim is tossed from one office to another; go to hospital, get yourself checked, come back give me the statement, get me the witness.
Her desire to change the narrative pushed her into conceptualising a new police-friendly and people-centred approach to addressing SGBV in Kenya - Policare.
It is a one-stop SGBV centre model where victims will access all services within the same premises.
Ms Zipporah Nderitu is tired!
The Superintendent of Police can no longer take the secondary trauma victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) have to endure.
Having worked in the police service for 22 years, Ms Nderitu has walked the journey with the victims. She has felt the agony they go through to get justice.
“The current mechanisms are not victim-friendly. They are not people-centred,” she observes.
“The victim is tossed from one office to another; go to hospital, get yourself checked, come back give me the statement, get me the witness. So the victim gets to talk to about five to seven police officers, talking about it (sexual assault) over and over again. We are re-victimising them,” she says.
The desire to change the narrative pushed her into conceptualising a new police-friendly and people-centred approach to addressing SGBV in Kenya.
That is Policare. It refers to ‘Police Cares.’
Policare, is a one-stop SGBV centre model that has been adopted by the Kenya Police Service and which the leadership has committed to implement in the fight against the sexual offences.
The victims will access all services within the same premises. These would include medical, legal and psychosocial services.
Last Tuesday, the Deputy Inspector General of Police led officials of the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) and legislators in sightseeing the designated building, which will finally become the cradle of the centre.
It is an old building in the Old Nairobi Area, in Nairobi County. It is currently under renovation and the NGEC has given the government 90 days from August 18, to operationalise it, Ms Nderitu says.
“I want to restore the victims’ dignity,” she says “and that they can trust the police once again.”
The fear of extension of trauma at the hands of the police scares off victims from reporting their ordeals, she says.
But with the centre, contacts between the police and the victim will be limited.
The services will be digitised and once her or his information is collected, it is kept in the data bank. Any officer on duty, will then retrieve it without requiring the victim to explain his or her situation afresh.
The centre will pioneer intelligence-led interviews, where all the staff attached to it will be cautious of the victim’s trauma and make efforts to ease it while serving them.
It will provide washrooms for the victims to clean themselves once evidence is collected.
“You know the victims are told not to take a bath. And sometimes she is bleeding. This is traumatising,” she says.
“At the Policare, once evidence is taken, the victim takes a bath and changes clothes, picks his or her dignity and goes back home with his or her self-dignity intact.”
“A magistrate will also be on site and cases will be heard immediately,” says Ms Nderitu.
The Policare will also have a special unit to deal with sexual assaults against persons with intellectual disability.
GENDER EQUALITY ADVOCATE
Had she not become a police officer, Ms Nderitu says, she would have become a gender equality advocate.
Nevertheless, she is serving in that capacity through the eyes and wisdom public security defender.
She is happy that finally her idea of converting the police service into a victim-friendly service when it comes to SGBV matters is gaining momentum.
It has, however, been a five-year journey characterised with opposition. She nevertheless refused to give up on her idea of reforming delivery of SGBV services in the police service.
Until her idea was accepted by the DIG in August last year, everybody else she discussed it with told her to forget about it, and instead focus on fishing out the perpetrators.
Rise of SGBV cases beginning mid-March when Covid-19 hit Kenya, revived discussions on her idea that finally there is light to it becoming a reality.
But for the centre to be fully operational, she says, there has been to be “a policy requirement to provide guidelines on its functionality, a strategy and standard operating procedures, because it is a new concept.”
This far, the police service leadership is engaging the legislators and private partners to ensure all that is needed to run the centre is availed.
With the running of the similar centres across the country, Ms Nderitu says, victims will no longer be treated “like a ping pong ball tossed about and kept waiting for their matters to be heard in court.”