I met a girl last week who was defiled by a relative over a long period of time and as a result of her abuse, she is about to be a mother. It is impossible for me to imagine the pain and evil she knows firsthand.  I simply cannot comprehend that kind of abuse or the betrayal she understands in her heart.  But underneath her pain, I also have been able to see the pure silliness of a child.  I see the brightness of her smile, the joy in her laugh and an intelligence that defies her circumstances.

Her strength is amazing, but sadly, her story is not at all uncommon.

Kenya has a shockingly high number of child sexual abuse cases.  Even after the Sexual Offenses Act was passed in 2007, Nairobi Women’s Hospital still reports that 15 rape victims come to seek treatment every day – and half of them are under the age of 16.[1] Rape in Kenya is classified into three areas: rape, sexual abuse of a woman over the age of 14; defilement, sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 14; and incest, describing the victim’s relationship to the perpetrator.  Incestuous defilement has been reported to account for 75 percent of defilement in urban areas, with girls aged 1 to 10 years old being the most vulnerable.[2]

Shouldn’t this make us angry?  Last week, I was walking through the market near our office to buy my new friend a skirt.  With every step my mind wandered back and forth between this girls life and the girls I know at home who are just her age.  They laugh at silly YouTube videos and are just beginning to think about boys.  Now my Kenyan friend is going to have one of her own.  How do we let this happen to our children? And why, as a country, is the response all too often merely sympathy without justice?

Already I have listened to social workers, pastors, and other community leaders and officials tell me how they feel powerless to help and so rather than seeking justice for the abused, they counsel the young girls and send them home.  On pastor even said, “We are beginning to care about justice too late.  Until now we were telling the abused that God works all things for good.  We were just concerned about salvation. Then we realized people were living on earth a long time before getting to heaven.”

The problem is not going to solve itself.  Just yesterday, The Standard reported that 600 teachers have been accused of defiling their students over a span of five years, with 122 cases in 2009 alone.[3] Very slowly, leaders, NGOs, churches, and politicians are beginning to speak out on this massive crime against children, but we are playing a catch up game.

Last week the First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, called on MPs to review the Sexual Offenses Act to make it a greater deterrent for sex offenders.[4] In my very very humble opinion, it is equally as important to call the system to enforce the good existing law, but… semantics.  I digress.  It is a positive step that leaders are taking in calling attention to this issue.

But it’s also easy to feel like it’s never enough.

Back to the story of my new friend:

Just a few days after I nearly exploded in anger in the middle of the market over this little girl’s abuse, I was visiting her in the hospital and pointed to the book of Psalms sitting next to her bed.  I asked her if she knew what it was; she said yes.  Taking the book from my hands she turned to Psalm 39 and said, “Verse 14… verse 14.”

Apparently, Psalm 39:14 doesn’t actually exist.

I thought she was just making up a numbers but on a whim asked her if she meant Psalm 139.  “Yes?” So I flipped and flipped through the pages, still skeptical that she had any idea what she was talking about.

Oh, how I was wrong.

A wiser theologian may know where this is going, but I can say with all honesty – I could not remember in that moment what Psalm 139:14 said.  And I am glad, because in a split second, the words coming off the page sent shivers up my spine.  I was hit with such a wave of intense clarity about God’s sovereign presence in her life and the life of her unborn child, striking down all of my doubts about their future when she began to read words I have heard hundreds of times before…

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book, before they came to be.

Psalm 139: 14

Moments like this are great comfort.  It is easy to become hopeless when we hear stories of rape, abuse and violence and natural to feel angry, but God is not deaf and he is not absent, despite how we feel about any given situation.

And some days when it’s especially hard, He is gracious enough to remind us of Himself through the voice of a child.  Just as David proclaimed in Psalm 33:5, “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”



[3] http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000003074&catid=4&a=1

[4] http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke/