The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among sexually abused children at kenyatta national hospital in Nairobi, Kenya

Document Type



Internal Medicine (East Africa)


Background: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops following some stressful events. There has been increasing recognition that children who have been exposed to traumatic events like child sexual abuse can develop post-traumatic stress disorder just like adults.

Objective: To determine prevalence of PTSD in sexually abused children seen at the Gender Based Violence Recovery Centre at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Design: A cross sectional descriptive study.

Setting: Gender Based Violence Recovery Centre-Kenyatta National Hospital. Subjects One hundred and forty-nine (n =149) sexually abused children were recruited in the study.

Results: The mean age 14.8% boys and 85.2% girls was 13.2 years (SD 4.2) the age at which sexual abuse most frequently (55%) occurred between 15-17 years. Sixty three percent of children reported that the perpetrator was known to them, and 76.5% of perpetrators used verbal or physical force during sexual assault. The prevalence of PTSD among the sexually abused children was 49%. PTSD was significantly associated with shorter duration of sexual abuse, i.e., daily which is 67% as compared to months which is 4.7% (p = 0.005), Greater severity of injuries sustained during assault (p = 0.023), parent's marital status those whose parents were married or cohabiting 40% were affected as compared to 52% whose parents were separated or divorced (p = 0.003) and the family's way of sorting out their disagreements was also significantly associated with PTSD. Parents who sorted their disagreement by talking was at 31% while those who sorted their disagreement by fighting was at 67% (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: This study highlights the high prevalence of PTSD among sexually abused children presenting at Kenyatta National Hospital Nairobi-Kenya. PTSD is associated with the degree of physical or verbal abuse during sexual abuse, injuries during assault, and parent-child relationships. These findings are important in formulation of appropriate prevention and care interventions to be implemented by families and other stakeholders.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University


East African medical journal