February 8, 2021
By Yusufu S. Bangura
While launching Sexual and Gender Base Violence (SGBV) survivor’s data at their Wilkinson Road office in Freetown, Deputy Executive Director for Rainbo Initiative, Gibril Kargbo revealed to newsmen on Friday 5th February, that the center recorded 3,339 sexual assault cases in 2020.
He said their analysis on survivor’s data across the five rainbow centres indicate that 3,584 SGBV cases were recorded of which 3,339 (94%) were sexual assault while 209 (6%) were physical assault.
He said Freetown alone recorded 1,409, the highest across the regions which are more worrisome for women and girls in Freetown.
While giving background about the centre, Kargbo said the initiative was established as national NGO to provide free medical treatment and psychosocial support for survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Sierra Leone.
He said over the past years, their institution has helped more than 45,000 (93%) women and girls below the age of 17.
He added that 52% of the sexual assault cases recorded in Freetown involved girls aged 11-15 years.
He said they have heard and seen horrible stories about survivors involving two and three month’s old babies and a 100 years old woman as the oldest.
He said after the incidences of SGBV, they strongly advocate for free health care treatment for survivors of GBV in all public hospitals and promote women’s interest to decision-makers, donors and private sector.
He said they have also advocated for access to justice and speedy trial of all GBV cases and they also influence national SGBV policy and practice.
“Our centres provide free medical examination and treatment for injuries and illness caused by the assault. We provide medical certificate confirming that the survivor has been raped or sexually assaulted and help reporting the incident to the police. We provide information on the legal system if the person wants to take the case to court. We also provide counselling to survivors to help them cope with the emotional and psychological effects of rape among others,” he said.
Kargbo added that they have trained several magistrates and lawyers on the interpretation of rainbow initiative’s medical certificate when survivors are pursuing litigation.
He said with the help of donors, they were able to construct two new rainbow centres of excellence in Bo and Makeni.
The director continued that the new edifice would be used for training of other players, stating that they have collaborated with the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs to set up of the one-stop centres.
He said it was unfortunate that despite the COVID-19 measures, they continue to witness soaring cases of GBV with most of them going unreported and survivors suffering stigma, discrimination and at times lose their life.
Meanwhile, Kargbo intimated that they are faced with so many challenges in doing their work as an organisation, because communities and families are doing less to identify early warning signs of child sexual abuse.
He added that parents are not supporting survivors to access medical services, and that there is a general lack of safe ways for child survivors to seek support without alerting their abusers.
“There are still widespread toxic assumptions, judgements and victim-blaming attitudes held by members of the public around consent, and we don’t have enough homes for SGBV survivors in our operational areas, non- availability of forensic labs nationally to further test evidence,” he concluded.
He called on the government and other donor partners to continue supporting them as they want to envisage a Sierra Leone that is free from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, with a mission to respond to and prevent SGBV in the country.