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30/4/2013 - Sierra Leone - Don Bosco Fambul: stop sexual abuse and rape
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(ANS – Freetown) – On the occasion of a press conference, on 19 April, the Salesian Brother Lothar Wagner presented the  annual report of the Girls Shelter. Since the Girls Shelter was opened, two years ago, 521 crisis interventions have been carried out including follow-up care for girls and young women who have experienced violence.

The Shelter is open all day long and staffed by professional social and pastoral workers. In comparison to last year, Brother Lothar this time presented shocking empirical findings. It is not only the increasing brutality of the perpetrators of violence against the girls that is alarming, but also the rising number of rapes against girls and young women under the age of 14.

“Some of the girls were kept like slaves by their tormentors, oftentimes for years,” Brother Lothar told the journalists. Among the perpetrators are teachers and religious leaders as well as complete strangers who are active in child trafficking. “The boldness that characterizes the way the perpetrators act against the girls and young women bears testimony of the perpetrators’ grave moral void; oftentimes they do not even regard themselves as criminals but present themselves as benefactors,” the director said.

The German religious sharply criticized the investigating authorities and spoke of a “culture of impunity”. He reported the case of a rape against a 13-year-old girl by five male youths. After five days of intensive medical care the victim died of her injuries. The police have never investigated the case despite repeated demands by Don Bosco Fambul.

In 37 cases of rape the investigation files were demonstrably manipulated by the police or investigations were deliberately delayed. Perpetrators were released from custody and disappeared without a trace, in spite of the incriminating evidence against them. Only a fraction of the rapes make it to court to be punished. Only four of the 37 rape victims are going to proceed against the police manipulations despite the fact that many of the girls are severely traumatized. “Of course, we take care that the girls do not become victims again, and that the trauma is not repeated,” the social worker and theologian Brother Lothar Wagner says.

The head of the department of the crisis line for children and youths at Don Bosco Fambul presented statistics that supported Brother Lothar’s thesis. According to those statistics, the anonymous counselling interviews on sexual abuse and rape have skyrocketed in the past year. 745 girls and 34 boys reported sexual violence exerted against them. Most victims do not wish to report the perpetrators to the police.

In the years ahead,  Don Bosco Fambul plans to intensify both the services at the Girls Shelter and the external public relations.

Published 30/04/2013

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