The life of six-year-old Mercy (not real name) took a sad turn when she was defiled by a 29-year-old neighbour last year.
Mercy, who is still struggling to get her life back together, lives with her parents in Gandali Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Dambe in Mchinji.
In ensuring the welfare of their child, Mercy’s parents fought hard to get her justice.
Today, the perpetrator Thauzendi Nkhoma, once a trusted family friend, is serving a 10-year jail sentence at Maula Prison in Lilongwe.
While Mercy’s parents got the justice, there are some parents, whose children have suffered a similar predicament, but do not want to report perpetrators to authorities.
Some victims of rape, forced child marriages and marital rape suffer in silence.
Sexual violence, which is largely experienced by women and children, also includes obtaining sex through violence or coercion.
It has devastating impacts on the victim’s life for he/she becomes mentally, emotionally and physically affected.
But why do some victims hide such crimes?
Every Woman conducted random interviews in workplaces and streets on why some people do not report sexual offences.
Some believed people lack knowledge how to handle such cases.
“The victim is reluctant to report if the perpetrator is a relative or her financial supporter. In the workplace, victims are afraid of losing their jobs,” said Tadala Bokosi, an airtime vendor in Lilongwe’s Tsoka Market.
Lonjezo Gibson, a security guard who comes from Dowa said some victims do not want to disgrace their relatives or be scorned by other people by reporting the abuse.
“Sometimes one can be sexually abused by her/his spouse. It is very unlikely for the victim, especially if it is a woman, to report her husband to police because they are afraid that their marriage will end. Even children do not usually report their parents,” said Raphael Banda, a street vendor.
Other people said the victims are sometimes afraid that authorities may shift the blame on them while others said victims lack faith in the police and other authorities to deal with the cases accordingly.
However, despite all these reasons, Dorothy Chingaipe, an officer at Victim Support Unit (VSU) at Kanengo Police in Lilongwe stressed the importance of reporting sexual violence cases to authorities.
She said VSU has a conducive environment for assisting, supporting and protecting to victims.
“The victim is made to feel comfortable and build confidence in the unit. There is privacy in handling the cases.
“This helps the victim to give the required information which helps the officers know the position of the case at hand. Here, we counsel and give first aid to the victim,” she said.
Chingaipe further said that the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, under Section 153 sub-Section one and two provides the police with powers to ensure protection of public safety and rights of all persons.