141st APHA Annual Meeting

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Aspects of rape culture in Kenya slums

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 12:30 PM - 12:50 PM

Paula Tavrow, PhD , Department of Community Health Sciences, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
BACKGROUND: About one in four girls living in Nairobi's slums is coerced into sex before she turns 20, yet rape is almost never reported. While poverty, crime and inadequate policing contribute to this situation, the “rape culture” —i.e., people's attitudes and practices which excuse or tolerate rape—is also important. METHODS: To delineate aspects of rape culture in Nairobi slums, seven focus groups with slum-dwelling girls and adults (male and female) were conducted in October 2012. The focus groups centered on three issues: (1) whether victims were responsible for the rape; (2) whether victims should keep quiet about the rape; and (3) if false accusations of rape were common. FINDINGS: Girls were inclined to blame the victim if she dressed provocatively, stayed at school late, went to her boyfriend's home, or went out for entertainment. Only girls who had not gone somewhere willingly were exonerated. In contrast, few adults would blame the victim, except if she went to her boyfriend's house or behaved extremely provocatively. Regarding keeping quiet, most girls thought she should disclose in order to get treatment or help, but some felt strongly that to preserve family harmony victims should not accuse family members or relatives of rape. Girls thought false accusations were rare, but many adults believed false accusations were very common, generally to extort money from a boy or man (particularly a teacher). CONCLUSIONS: To make inroads in reducing rape in slums, community awareness-raising is needed of the implications of blaming, silencing and/or not believing victims.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain the meaning of "rape culture" Describe community attitudes that contribute to rape culture in slum settings Identify the main differences between young people and adults in attitudes towards rape victims

Keywords: Sexual Assault, Developing Countries

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am on the faculty of the UCLA School of Public Health and have done considerable research in Kenya in the areas of adolescent reproductive health and coerced sex.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.