Retired from the everyday three hours traffic jam on the Somalia Drive towards Gardnerville in Monrovia, the least of my worries now is waking up to gather my gadgets to follow a news story.
An 11 years old girl has been raped by a man more than two times her age. Another Rape, Another Child: Will It Ever End?
My name is Samuka V. Konneh and this story is told with support from the Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC) and its partner, Womankind International.
Back of 11 yrs
It’s 1:30am on Friday, May 1, 2014 and I am still at the James N. Davis, Jr. Memorial Hospital at Neezoo, Gardnerville ever since 10pm the previous the night when an eleven years old girl from the Aluminum Factory Community was rushed by family members for immediate medical attention. But how immediate can the medical attention be when the alleged rape has occurred over 72hrs, according to the survivor and her family.
Little Mary (not her real name) was raped around 17:30 on Wednesday by a 25 years old student of the Stella Maris Polytechnic only identified as James (also not his real name). Medical report from the JDJ hospital has confirmed that the girl was indeed tampered with; of course avoiding use of the keyword ‘raped.’
But the last page of an over 7 pages medical report prepared by Examiner Martha G. Tokpah puts it square: “Hymen is broken and is associated with vaginal wildly dilated.” Hymen is a fold of mucous membrane partly closing the orifice of the vagina. Literally, this 11 years old girl is no longer a virgin.
Born January 4, 2003, Mary tells me that the man who raped her is friends to her father; and this is true. Her father, Lawson, confirmed that James is his favored pekin (friend) in the community. “He is the one that I like among all the young people here. In fact, I provided him job at my working place. He is like a son to me. There is no boundary between us,” he says.
According to Mary, she had gone to get the draw bucket in Phillip’s room, where it’s usually kept, when the alleged perpetrator forced her to sex and threatened to kill her if she shouted or told anyone afterwards.
“When I went for the draw bucket, he hold (held) my hand and started doing rude rude things to me. He closed my mouth, choked me and say he will kill me if I shout(ed) or told anyone,” Mary told me shortly after her medical examination.
For this fear, Mary hid the information from her parents for three whole days. Because her physical and mental realties have begun to change visibly, she ended up confiding in neighbors who created alarm and informed her parents. “So, I told one woman in the community about it who then tell (told) my father,” she added. Mary lives with her father and a step-mother in a cramped room in Aluminum Factory.
Her body is pale and quickly dwindling. Her energy to resume school this Monday is one yet to be seen because of her poor health.
January this year, the Liberian government released alarming statistics on incidences of sex crimes. It says two thirds of rape victim in Liberia last year were children; meaning 65% of 1,002 cases reported in 2013 were victims between 4yrs and 14yrs. The Liberian government also said and that ten under-14s had died as a result of rape injuries. Of the 1,002 sex crimes cases reported, only 137 cases went to court and only 49 rapists convicted.
The French News Agency had quoted the Ministry of Gender saying that the number of reported cases could have been three times more were parents not compromising cases home.
“Parents are compromising the cases because mostly the perpetrators are relatives or friends. We can say that the figure could be at least three times this if parents were not compromising,” the Ministry said in an information releases to the AFP.
Liberian leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in her state of the nation address early this year described child rape is one of Liberia’s biggest challenges and a growing concern.
The alleged perpetrator is currently in detention at the Liberia National Police Zone Four Deport ‘B’ around the former LPRC junction in Gardnerville where he told investigations that though he attempted raping the girl, he did not do. “I did not enter,” he said.
At the station, police officers would not make any comments until the girl returns from the hospital. However, indications were that they did not really care if she even went to the hospital.
Apart from taking down statements and preparing a hospital referral form, Det. Satta Kiazolu advises the rape survivor and her parents to wait again for another day before going to the hospital – even though her own referral note indicated that the alleged rape has occurred more than 72 hours ago. “Take this form with you and the girl to the hospital. But it is better that you wait for tomorrow before going to the hospital. If you go now, no one will be at the hospital,” Det. Kiazolu advised.
There and then, the rape survivor and her family were on their own – not one single police officer accompanied them or made any effort to take them o the hospital.
Although nosy for story, I had to improvise by helping to drive them in my car after 10pm to the hospital, where we stayed until after 1am when I conveyed them back to their home. Other family members following us were delayed by night patrol police officers because they rode on motorbikes.
Dark and scary, the community slept quite. But I must get my quotes. News is time. “I have always heard about this rape thing but for me to see it direct with my own eyes, this is the first time. Now I believe what people have always said about rape. It is a dangerous thing. I can’t imagine what my daughter is going through. My advice is for parents to look out for their children. Monitor those they go around and those that come around them. Who could have imagined that that boy I take as my own son would have done this horrible thing to my daughter?” Mary’s father, Lawson, said.
He promised to pursue every legal means that will ensure justice for his daughter. “If I (have) wanted to compromise it, I wouldn’t have gone to the police in the first place. Because I want justice, I went to the police. Even though the police disappointed me by not paying attention to my daughter, I still feel there is a way out,” He threatened.
Joyce Tarpeh is Prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice Sex Crimes Unit. When told about the rape case, she said she couldn’t do much because it was weekend. In fact, she shut the phone down because I could not give her more details.
“What is the name of the perpetrator?” She asked. “Phillip,” I replied. “James is no name. There are a lot of Phillips are out. You can’t call me and not give full disclosure,” she retorted. “Well, I am only giving you information. You can go there and find the information for yourself. My access is limited. I can’t do your work,” I responded. Then she shut down the phone because her ‘out-of-the-court cross-examination’ of a journalist could not yield much information.
I then called the SGBV Crimes Unit’s Hotline. Unlike prosecutor Tarpeh, a responder on the hotline thanked me and promised to inform the Case Liaison Officer (CLO) for Gardnerville to swiftly intervene.