PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – Several family members of a five-year-old alleged rape survivor in Paynesville are being held by the police pending the results of medical examination from the Hope for Women medical facility that could determine whether their child was raped.
On June 1, authorities at the ELWA Medical Center called in at the Zone 8 Depot One police station that family members of the girl had taken her at the hospital for treatment and conceiving information that she was raped.
Family members told staff at the hospital that the child had fallen from a tree, instead of having been raped. Healthcare workers, however, revealed that the child arrived at the facility with her genitals severely swollen and she was unable to walk.
According to the head of the Women and Children Protection Division at the police depot, James Tokpah, Dr. Lorraine Cooper of the ELWA Medical Center reported the case, claiming that the child’s genital was tampered with and that the family was not telling the truth.
“There were a lot of conflicting information during our investigation and some relatives admitted to bathing the child’s private after her fall. One mentioned a stick being removed from the injury site,” Tokpah said.
According to him, most of the relatives taken to the police by Dr. Cooper were released and only those who admitted having contact with the child were still being held.
“Our main concern was that the family might have been trying to cover up,” he noted.
The police say they visited the scene where the child reportedly fell and retrieved a bench, and a mortar and pestle, which the family claims wounded the child. They claimed that the items were stacked on one another as a ladder for the used child to climb the mango tree.
The family also alleged that the child landed with her waist on the mortar when she fell down, causing severe injury to her vulva. No one has been officially charged, pending medical reports.
“We have asked Dr. Cooper to bring her report, as well as the report from Hope for Women before we make any official charges,” Tokpah added.
Cooper noted that ELWA Hospital does not have the authorization to conduct rape tests; it makes referrals to authorized facilities like the Duport Road Clinic, Hope for Women, Redemption Hospital, and John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center.
“It is not my duty to intervene in rape cases, but to alert the police and Gender Ministry, which I did immediately in this case, due to the severity of the child’s condition,” she said.
The family members were taken to the police when they reported at the ELWA Hospital to seek treatment for their daughter.
“We brought our child here after she fell and they took her away from us and had us arrested so we can’t stand up for our rights,” said Peter Garway, a family member who claimed that he paid L$12,000 (US$61) to have all members of his family who were arrested released from the police.
Authorities of the Liberia National Police and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection are still awaiting the rape kit result from the Hope for Women medical facility. The results will determine whether to formally charge the family members and prosecute the case.
Hope for Women’s administrator, Tarnue Jallah, told The Bush Chicken that medical tests have been conducted, but results are not available for reasons he did not disclose.
Cecilia Dickson, the grandmother of the child who was also earlier arrested by the police, claims the family has been denied access to their child since she was taken to ELWA Hospital. She says the child was removed from ELWA Hospital and taken to an unknown destination, two days after she was taken to ELWA.
Officials at the Gender Ministry’s Sexual and Gender-Based Violence unit confirmed that the child was taken to a safe home until investigations into circumstances surrounding her injury are complete.
Featured photo by Olivier Asselin/UNICEF