I don’t know what drives a man to rape. No, that’s not true. I know exactly what drives a man to rape. Power. Or more accurately, lack of power. Exerting force over something or someone else makes us feel stronger. So if we feel weak, the best way to restore our confidence is to find someone weaker and prove ourselves.

A rapist may feel a sexual urge due to an unrelated trigger. He may like the way the target looks, or how they carry themselves. Their target’s manner might evoke an internal sexual response. They might be on a high from a victory in battle, or from drugs, or culture, or social interaction, or even basic pressure to fit in.

But the act itself – the actual rape – that’s always about power. The power that comes from knowing they can get away with it, and that they are now bigger, stronger, better than the person they have raped. They have defeated their target’s resistance. They have put their target in their place.

Or worse, they have punished someone close to the target, like a husband, boyfriend, brother, father, tribesman … mother. Because sometimes, rape has nothing to do with the selected target and everything to do with the target’s loved ones.


This morning on my way to work, I saw three street boys. It was cold and rainy, and the boys were asleep on the pavement near the Komarock stage. Their clothes were grimy and their skin was exposed. I wondered how they could sleep when I was huddled and shivering even in my endless layers of clothing.

The boys were my daughter’s age, barely teens. I looked and them and shuddered. Because those boys will grow up to be men. They will be angry and bitter and hardened. They will detest anyone that has a better life than them, and this rage will turn on anyone that happens to be alone in their path – including my daughter.

We’ve said over and over again that rapists come in all shapes and sizes. Your demoralised husband after a hard day’s work when you’re too tired to soothe him with your body. Your horny boyfriend after a night out with the boys. Your date who thinks spending cash entitles him to sex. Your teacher who sees you as a woman, not a child. Your dad, because you look exactly like you mum when he first met her.


The emasculated brother-in-law who resents your husband. Your neglected grand-dad who feels spited by oncoming impotence. Your desk-mate from prima who was furious you tore his love-notes while you beat him in exams. The neighbourhood boys who despise the pretty church girl for keeping her knees closed.

The friend who hates you seeing him as a brother. The ‘cool guy’ you ignored on front of his boys. The random dude that catcalled you and felt disrespected when you didn’t respond. Your brother’s pal who’s seen you in shorts and t-shirts since you were two. The man at the kiosk who thinks kuma ni kuma hata kama ni mtoto.

We can’t really protect ourselves from those rapists, because we hardly ever see them coming. But there’s another kind of rapist. The shifty guy that lurks in alleys waiting to drag you away. The violent robber that breaks into your house despite your best attempts at security. The carjacker that targets your matatu.

And chances are this kind of rapist was once a lost kid sleeping in the rain.

I’m doing all I can to give my baby girl a better future, but there are things I can’t protect her from. I can’t keep her safe from an angry bitter world, or from the rage and entitlement of kids society gave up on. Kids that are now men with the fists, the time, the opportunity, and the remorseless fury of the damned.

As I watched those sleeping boys this morning, I thought someone – anyone – should do something to stop them before they grow up. To grant them a sense of purpose and direction, some food, a warm dry place to sleep. To give them dignity and value so they don’t grow up hating the world and targeting my daughter.

I don’t have a solution – at least not yet. But I know that I have one more thing to keep me up at night; finding a way to sort out street kids before they become street men. If not for their own sakes, then to keep my daughter safe. Because the best way to stop women from being raped is to prevent men from feeling the need to.

♫ Leech ♫ Eve 6 ♫

135 thoughts on “Tomorrow’s rapists

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