What you need to know:
- Initially, Mr Otieno, now a mental health advocate, would chat endlessly with the house girl, who later started enticing him.
It was a violation that hurt him deeply, especially since the poet had never had sex.
At 23, Eric Otieno was raped by a house girl. The ordeal traumatised him deeply, but he is willing to open up seven years later to encourage fellow men suffering abuse in silence.
As the world marks the International Men’s Day today, Mr Otieno aka Rix Poet’s kind of tribulations are faced by many more, experts warn, but most bottle up the pain.
Mr Otieno was brought up in a typical family setting in Nairobi’s High-rise estate by his teacher parents, along with two brothers and a sister.
But his life would be shattered by an encounter with the person his parents, like others, had entrusted to look after their home: the house help.
Initially, Otieno, now a mental health advocate, would chat endlessly with the house girl, who later started enticing him.
“One Thursday, I came from a walk to tea and mandazi at 3pm, which was unusual.”
Later that week, Otieno was yet again met with the mouth-watering aroma of heart-shaped mandazi served with a warm cup of chocolate.
“I still remember how delicious they were,” the poet says.
She did raunchy dances, which he found odd.
Then she raped him. It was a violation that hurt him deeply, especially since the poet had never had sex.
Tears raced down his cheeks.
He tried fighting back.
“My eyes shut. I was used to being abused and brutalised, and to me this was yet another episode which would pass.”
He says back then, his coping mechanism was to let his abusers have their way.
Otieno did not open up to anyone about it.
“Our fathers are symbols of power. You cannot go to them with such stories.”
He says he did not know how to handle the matter.
“I withdrew and she called me names, demanding to know what kind of a man I was.”
Weeks later after he had returned to school in Uganda, he started itching around his genitalia.
“I then did not know anything about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).”
Later he opted to open up to his deskmate, a Rwandan girl who helped him get treatment.
“She confided in me too and we trust each other to date, that’s why opening up to her was much easier.”
Dr Kenneth Gichuru Kariuki, a psychotherapist at Hisia Psychological Consultants in Westlands, Nairobi, says land helplessness is the state of a person allowing abuse to continue because he or she cannot do anything.
Research shows somebody who has grown up in an abusive environment is more likely to be abused.
Dr Kariuki points out a number of things that stop men from speaking up whenever consent is violated or they are abused.
First, our cultural set-up dictates that men should be the stronger sex and never appear to be weak.
“There is this myth that a man cannot be raped by a woman.”
Naturally, unlike women, men do not talk about emotional issues, according to the therapist.
“They would rather talk about football and cars.”
There is also the fact that the responses men get after opening up make them a laughing stock among their peers, while some get belittled as ‘ lesser men ’.
“There is this feeling in our society that men, and not women, benefit more from sex. It is biologically not true and makes it harder to believe it when a man is sexually abused.”
He reiterates that abuse starts when someone does not consent.
The therapist has been handling a case where a house girl spread a sexually transmitted disease (STD) to all young boys in an estate.
“Some parents let it happen and see it as evidence that their boy is growing into a man,” he reveals.
The expert, however, says parents should be there emotionally and be friendly to their children.
Dr Kariuki adds that boys who have a better relationship with their parents are more confident and likely to say ‘no’.
Dr Kizzie Shako, who works with the Police Surgery Unit at the Traffic headquarters in Nairobi, agrees with Dr Kariuki that young men have their first sexual interaction with house girls.
She also says in Kenya, there is a culture where men are not allowed to be weak, as ‘hio ni umama’.
“Men in our society don’t know what has been done and many consider having sex a plus,” explains the forensic surgeon and winner of the Human Rights Defenders Award 2017.
She advises young men to go to hospital and preferably a hospital known to handle sexual cases immediately it happens so as to get treatment, thereby avoiding early transmission.
“If as a man you are raped in our country by a fellow man, you are branded gay.”
But how do you prove a man was raped?
To this, Dr Shako says they swab the organs.
“At the hospital, we do forensic evidence collection.”
She also reiterates that all this is dependent on security and if security is compromised, one should go to the police.
“Men usually don’t want to help themselves, they want women to help them.”
Sex offences usually leave a sour taste in every logical human being’s mouth.
However, addressing this issue seems impossible because of one word – ‘consent’.
Many people don’t know where to draw the line.
Do you know what consent is? I stand by the ‘tea consent video’ definition and illustration on YouTube.
Ms Verah Okeyo, the diversity editor at the Nation, is of the opinion that many people know very well what consent is.
“Men know what consent is because if they are touched inappropriately by a fellow man, they won’t let him get away with it.”
To her, consent is about what makes you comfortable.
If you are not her friend in a particular way, you cannot crack jokes going that particular direction.
“I have never been sexually harassed, though in newsrooms it usually comes from married men.”
In the newsroom, it is about power, according to Ms Okeyo. She adds that if someone above you throws those glances and proposes coffee, to her it is harassment.
Boniface Shitakha, a boda boda rider who operates in Nairobi, says consent to him is when the other party is interested.
“If the lady is interested in talking to me and takes from me gifts like airtime and money, it means she wants me.”
Mr Mwangi Mogusu, a medical doctor in Machakos County, wants women to know that an erect penis is not consent.
A judge's take
“If you want sex, you have to put it on the table and negotiate,” says Lady Justice Martha Koome.
According to her, consent is consent, be it on land, property or sex.
“In court, the benchmark is never lowered and when it is withdrawn it is withdrawn.”
Planned Parenthood, on its official website, defines consent as actively agreeing to be sexual with someone.
“Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted.”
This means both people must agree every single time.
Consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner, then checking if things aren’t clear.
Therefore, consent must always be freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific.
Justice Koome also revealed that a majority of cases she has in court are of children, male and female who have been sexually abused.
“It is important for all to remember that anyone below the age of 18, regardless of body size, is a child and has no capacity to consent.”
“Why are we in such a hurry with children that we were discussing lowering the age of consent?” she posed.
She is also of the opinion that the age of consent should be raised from 18 to 21.
She advises young people to be very careful especially when they get into relationships and be absolutely sure of what they are getting into while laying the parameters.
Mr Robert Halakhe, an Economics graduate from Kenyatta University, told the Nation that he always downloads and carries consent forms with him, which are signed before any engagement with the opposite sex.
Consent forms are a smart way to protect yourself and very admissible in court, according to Justice Koome.
“In my line of work, I have also seen men who have been arrested for rape even though deep down I am convinced they are innocent,” echoes Dr Kizzie Shako.