From the Editor’s Keyboard

Rape should never be Justified: A response to Basic and Secondary Education Minister Alpha Timbo

21 June 2019 at 21:31 | 1487 views

By Ngozi Monica Cole, PV Special Correspondent, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Mr Minister, there is never any justification for rape. Ever.
There continues to be troubling reports about sexual violence in Sierra Leone-from a 6 months old baby to a 55-year-old woman. Rainbo Centre, the only provider of free medical and psychosocial services for survivors of gender based-violence in Sierra Leone, is overwhelmed by the numerous cases of sexual violence they handle monthly. Reported rape cases have doubled over the past year, with a third of them involving a minor, including babies.

Sierra Leone has a rape epidemic.
Rape is rape and no matter the age of the victim, there is never any justification for rape.

The issue when dealing with survivors is that we tend to categorize them into those that are deserving of sympathy and those that aren’t. The language we use against older survivors and victims is often: What were you wearing? Why did you seduce him? Why didn’t you fight him? Why didn’t you say no? The language is coded to always place the burden and blame on women. Victim blaming and shaming places the blame fully or partially on the victim, holding them responsible for someone else’s violation of their bodies. The rape of a sex worker is no different from the rape of a child. The rape of a married woman by her husband is no different from the rape of a high school student by her teacher.

Rape has nothing to do with seduction and everything to do with power and a sense of entitlement to access women and our bodies. It has nothing to do with a woman’s ability to ‘seduce a man’. I am happy that people called out the minister, but dismantling rape culture and victim blaming also starts in private spaces as well. Call out people when they try to place the blame on a 15-year-old school girl being solicited for sex by her teacher. Assist and support a woman when she reports her discomfort about a man’s unwanted attention. When a woman says no, respect her decision and back off. When a woman reports that she has been raped, don’t insinuate that she contributed to causing the crime. Rape culture and victim-blaming should stop.

There should never be a justification for sexual violence. Ever.