Patterns of sexual violence against adults and children during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya: a prospective cross-sectional study

Sarah Rockowitz, Laura M Stevens, James C Rockey, Lisa L Smith, Jessica Ritchie, Melissa F Colloff, Wangu Kanja, Jessica Cotton, Dorothy Njoroge, Catherine Kamau, Heather D Flowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives This study examined patterns of sexual violence against adults and children in Kenya during the COVID-19 pandemic to inform sexual violence prevention, protection, and response efforts. Design A prospective cross-sectional research design was used with data collected from March to August 2020. Setting Kenya. Participants 317 adults, 224 children. Main measures Perpetrator and survivor demographic data, characteristics of the assault. Results Bivariate analyses found that children were more likely than adults to be attacked during daytime (59% vs 44%, p<0.001) by a single perpetrator rather than multiple perpetrators (31% vs 13%, p<0.001) in a private as opposed to a public location (66% vs 45%, p<0.001) and by someone known to the child (76% vs 58%, p<0.001). Children were violated most often by neighbours (29%) and family members (20%), whereas adults were equally likely to be attacked by strangers (41%) and persons known to them (59%). These variables were entered as predictors into a logistic regression model that significantly predicted the age group of the survivor, χ 2 (5, n=541)=53.3, p<0.001. Conclusions Patterns of sexual violence against adult and child survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic are different, suggesting age-related measures are needed in national emergency plans to adequately address sexual violence during the pandemic and for future humanitarian crises.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere048636
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Medical Journal Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding This research was funded by ESRC Grant ES/T010207/1 (to HDF, MFC, JCR and the Wangu Kanja Foundation) and AHRC Grant AH/T008091/1 (to HDF and the Wangu Kanja Foundation), the Institute for Global Innovation, University of Birmingham (to HDF and the Wangu Kanja Foundation), and a research grant from the Ring for Peace Foundation (to LLS).

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


  • COVID-19
  • child protection
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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