There are a lot of harsh realities in West Point: zero running water, few job opportunities, crowded living spaces. A few months ago, after she returned from Liberia to work with More than Me’s volunteers there, Katie said something that has stuck with me. “In West Point, and in lots of places across Liberia, if you are a girl and you’re 14, you have probably been raped. Everyone knows about the problem, but it happens, it’s almost like a part of every day life. Women get raped.”
Unfortunately, rape is one of the present, yet unspoken, vestiges of post-war society in many countries. A Harvard University study found that during the war years, “Among women, 42.3 percent of former combatants experienced exposure to sexual violence.” According to a 2005-2006 government survey in Liberia, 92 percent of women questioned had been raped. The non-profit Doctors without Borders has devoted almost all of its work in Liberia to handling sexual violence and its aftermath. One Doctors without Borders worker said, “Every day I meet the victims of sexual violence and their parents.”
The Economist recently posted a video called, “Rape, a weapon of war: Destroying the glue of a society.” Narrated by photographer Marcus Bleasdale, the video is a slide show of Bleasdale’s pictures from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although, the situation is different in DRC, what Bleasdale says about rape in conflict and post-conflict areas is relevant to Liberia.
So what can be done?
In the short term, doctors and health workers can aid victims and try to educate people about how to find help after they are attacked. In the longer term, education and the economic benefits that come along with education, will remedy the lingering violence from Liberia’s shattered past. The more young girls who know how to stay healthy, how to find help, how to stand up to attackers and not be ashamed, and how to avoid or have the opportunity to avoid dangerous situations the sooner this unfortunate trend will abate. More than Me believes that education is the best line of defense against indifference, ignorance, and ignominious violence.Tweet