3 out of 5 girls are sexually abused by age seven – Lillian Butele
Lillian Butele Kelle is a mother, entrepreneur, published author, cancer survivor and lead warrior in the war against sexual abuse against children. I met her on a Friday afternoon on her way to another interview. I notice she talks pretty fast. She talks with conviction and passion. As if sensing what I am thinking, she pauses a bit and says: “I was never like this. In fact for decades, I kept quiet. The secrets stuck in my throat became toxic and manifested as throat cancer. I refused to die with a secret that had taken so much away from me,” she narrates.
Encouraged by her husband, Lillian turned her life story into a book. She later wrote a manual or guide about sexual abuse called The Bad Touch. Today she splits her time between the USA and Uganda carrying out sensitization campaigns, especially in schools, about the silent epidemic ravaging our nation.
How was your book received?
My first book; I Know Now It Was All For Good: Learning That Nothing Just Happens, is a tale of my struggle with sexual abuse, alcoholism, broken relationships and suicide. When I launched it in 2013, my parents discovered with the rest of the world that I was abused by a family friend from the age of seven. Imagine their shock! Many other people approached me sharing their own experiences and to ask, what happens next?
This prompted me to write another book called The Bad Touch, which teaches children to recognise and reject sexual abuse. The book tells the story of a mother teaching her children how to resist and expose abusers. When it was released, it caused panic among families. Many parents and guardians dismissed their maids and house attendants hoping this would mitigate the problem. I am glad it brought that kind of awareness but the vigil needs to be continuous and not done during moments of panic.
How bad is the epidemic?
Did you know that child abuse and sexual molestation is the single most cause of deviation behavior in adolescents? Almost 99% of prostitutes were molested during their childhood. People who were molested sometimes turn around and become molesters themselves. Recent research shows it is easier to find people who were molested than those who were not and to me this is a clear indication of how bad the situation is. What makes it worse is that it happens within our homes and out of fear, most victims stay silent. For example, a mother cannot tell anyone if the husband is the one abusing the baby and a sister will find it hard to report a brother who has raped her.
Hence the book The Bad Touch?
Prevention is better than cure. I have turned my focus on empowering children in a bid to stop molestation before it happens. If they know what it is, they have a bigger chance of escaping. I am targeting children as young as four; when they are just learning to read and rhyme. So as they are being told that sharing is caring, they should also be told about the possible dangers and how to avoid them.
That is what the book is all about. As a matter of fact, I am in talks with the ministry of education to make the book a mandatory text book in primary schools. Luckily, the minister of education, Janet Museveni, wrote the forward for the book and I hope she picks interest in my cause.
How can we empower our children?
We have a campaign titled, Run And Tell. We teach children about how to recognize signs of molestations. During one of my school tours, a boy confided in me, saying: “auntie, a group of boys at school during break time go behind the library to have sex. Today one of them did not have a partner so he offered me Shs5,000 to be his partner. Because I do not like to do those things, I ran away.”
“Unfortunately, some children think it is a game because it started in childhood. We give them examples of touches that are sexual in nature. The fact is that sex feels good even to children; it can be ticklish and fun. The ones who tell are those who are penetrated and tear and are in physical pain.”
Parents need to wake up and open a line of communication with children. A little girl came to me and opened up about being molested. She wanted to know how to forget. I told her that she would never forget but it would get better with time. The first thing was to forget and turn that negativity into something positive. She said as a Primary Four pupil, she was raped by a teacher and although she was taken to a different school after the incident, another teacher raped her in the new school.
Another girl came and revealed to me the name of the teacher who had recently molested her and I was glad that case is currently being investigated. Where were the parents of these children who so badly needed someone to talk to? Parent in Uganda must create an amicable and open relationship with their children so that they are free to speak up about anything affecting their lives. The truth is that the enemy you fear is right under your nose, at home.
Lastly. . .
I want Uganda to start taking care of her children. We need to make our children a priority. They should be paramount because right now they seem to come as a by the way. Children are our future and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we shall be able to save our nation. We are all quick to condemn the young generation and vilify them but we forget that we have contributed greatly to them becoming what they are.