NAIROBI, Kenya— New evidence shows mass rape occurred during the post-election violence period following the 2007 presidential election in Kenya, according to research by RTI International, Physicians for Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, and Nakuru Provincial General Hospital.
The study, published in PLOS One, focused on identifying whether the three-month post-election violence period in Kenya was linked to changes in the characteristics of sexual assault cases. Co-authors of the study include Mike Anastario, Ph.D., and Kelle Barrick, Ph.D. of RTI's Center for Justice, Safety, and Resilience and the RTI Global Gender Center.
To examine sexual assault characteristics over time, researchers reviewed more than 1,600 medical records of patients who reported assault between 2007 and 2011 in three healthcare facilities in the Rift Valley.
"This is the first study to use medical records review to illustrate the prevalence and characteristics of sexual assault cases during the post-election violence period in Kenya," Anastario said. "Our findings are consistent with the accounts of survivors who testified before the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence, where the majority described gang rape during this time period."
Gang rape was frequently reported by victims of sexual assault during the post-election violence period, according to health care workers interviewed by researchers.
During this period, researchers found that sexual assault survivors waited at least one month to visit a health care facility, which limits the type of forensic evidence that can be collected from the survivor of sexual assault. Among those victims, many had abdominal injuries and reported not knowing the perpetrator and having more than one perpetrator.
Delays in reporting sexual assault cases were attributed to barriers of accessibility, security, fear and limited knowledge of the immediate need to visit a health care facility. In certain cases, women waited up to nine months to access a health care facility, seeking medical care for a pregnancy resulting from rape.
"The evidence collected by this study will be useful to inform public efforts to combat sexual violence in Kenya," Anastario said.