The civil war is over, but there is a treacherous, unspoken war that still rages in dark rooms and abandoned buildings, in classrooms and workstations. Rooms you’d hardly suspect. Offenders too close for comfort.
In 2013, on average 4 cases of rape in Liberia were reported every day.
Those are the reported cases.
Nearly all of them were children under 18.
Yet most of the violence goes unreported.
Sexual exploitation is a way of life in Liberia. An accepted way of life for too many. A means to end. An end as basic as the opportunity to go to school.
They accept it because they don’t see another way. “It’s a family matter,” they say and continue on with scrubbing dishes in the plastic tub and hanging sopping clothes on the line stretched across the mud clearing.
More often than not, the perpetrator is not a stranger, not a creepy, rogue in a shady ally. The offender is close. A family friend. A protector. A provider. They don’t speak for fear of losing their means of survival. School fees. Food. A roof to protect them from the pounding rain.
But it’s not a family matter. It’s a criminal offense.
UNICEF Liberia has rallied Hip Co rappers and local sketch artists to fight the violence by spreading awareness through concerts and illustrated stories. Their latest book, Sara Let’s Speak Out, shows how children themselves can help end and prevent child rape by speaking out about the abuse and supporting peer victims. Sara Let’s Speak Out will be sent to schools around Liberia, and teachers will be encouraged to read and discuss the book in their classrooms. This is part of a series of events and products that will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months as part of an integrated initiative to end violence against children. These will include anti-rape concerts featuring acclaimed Liberian Hip Co artist Takun J and other Hip Co artists, as well as the production of several anti-rape music videos by these artists.