... in Jamaica Road Community, Somalia Drive
It was a beautiful morning, and Rachel has just returned from the market to help her mother to cook the family's meal for the day. Happy and excited that the meal was about to be prepared, Rachel, immediately jumped into the kitchen to help her mother out, but in the process, nature came calling.
As she left for the toilet, little did Rachel know about the shock that was about to come her way -- being raped by someone she considered as a father figure -- an uncle.
"I cannot still believe he did this to me. I wish I had known; I was not going to use his toilet. The pains and shame is unbearable. This was somebody I knew and respected totally. I cannot believe someone I called uncle would do this to me. Ohh God, why me?" said a tearful Rachel, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.
Her horrific experience began when she left her house on Sunday, October 18, to use the public toilet in the Jamaica Road community, which is managed by the perpetrator, a man only identified as Flomo, who preyed on her vulnerability to abuse her.
Flomo, who Rachel accused of constant harassment in the past forced himself on the victim after asking her to come to his room, which is adjacent the toilet.
"I soon as I entered the room, he threw me down on the bed and began to rape me. I plead with him to stop, but he did not. That's how I started yelling and crying for help, before my brother came in the room to rescue me," Rachel explained. Before the incident, Flomo has been in the constant habit of harassing me each time I went to the toilet.
The issue of rape and other sexual violence crimes have been under the spotlight recently, since a 19-year-old boy in rural Liberia allegedly used a razor blade to expand the genitals of a 3-year-old girl in order to penetrate her.
That attack and the rampant increase of rape cases in the first five months, particularly during the height of the coronavirus outbreak in Liberia, in which more than 600 rape cases were reported, led to huge protests. In response to the anti-rape protests, President Weah declared rape as a national emergency, but there has been no sign of crimes against women and girls abating. According to recent crime figures, in an overwhelming number of rape cases, such as the case with 13-year-old Rachel, the victims know the perpetrators.
Under the national rape emergency, Weah announced several measures, including the appointment of a special prosecutor for rape and the establishment of a National Sex Offender Registry and a National Security Taskforce on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), among others.
"We are witnessing an epidemic of rape within the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting mostly children and young girls across the country," President Weah said at the national anti-rape conference in September this year.
Also narrating the ordeal, Rachel's mother said that she was seriously taken by surprise about the incident.
"We were about to cook when my daughter told me that she wanted to use the toilet. So I give her L$10 as toilet fee. It was not long when a neighbor came calling me to go see what has happened. When I got there, I broke down in tears and could not believe what my eyes have seen. It was terrible and it is still now."
According to Rachel's mother, after hearing that the old man has raped her daughter she was so ashamed to look in the girl's face.
"I became so confused to the extent I didn't know what do," she said.
Meanwhile, Flomo has been arrested and is currently behind bars at the Free Port Zone 10 police depot, awaiting the medical report from the incident, to be forwarded to court.