Globally, approximately 1 in 3 women will experience violence during her lifetime, often at the hands of an intimate partner. The cost of this violence on women, on communities and on the development of nations—especially those recovering from conflict—is too high to accept.
In West Africa, 6 out of every 10 women who come to the International Rescue Committee seeking assistance after experiencing violence are reporting violence at the hands of a partner or spouse. The following is the story of a 21-year-old woman living in the crowded slums of the West Point area of Monrovia, Liberia. Having lost her parents, she has few options in supporting herself and her children after being assaulted by her partner.
(For her protection, this survivor's real name and photo do not appear here.)
Then he said ‘You are going to feel pain tonight?’ And I said ‘What kind of pain am I going to feel?’ He said ‘Don’t you know?’ And I said ‘I don’t know anything, except you tell me.’ While talking, he grabbed the machete and he started chopping. And he brought the machete straight on my face. You can see the mark.
And when I held my hand like this, he chopped my fingers. And he started beating me, chopping me, and I started shouting. And his father was outside and I was calling him, shouting ‘Koko, come, your son is killing me, Koko,’ but nobody would come to my rescue. . . .
And then they brought me to the clinic . . . They couldn’t deal with my case. That’s how the WAG [IRC -supported women’s action groups] got involved. They collected some money and took me to a bigger hospital . . . They couldn’t do the suture because it was too severe. So they took me to JFK Hospital, where I was admitted. And there they treated me. The WAG were always there visiting me. All of the money charged at the hospital, WAG paid some and IRC paid some. I spent two weeks in the hospital. Then I was discharged. I came home.
When I came home, the man was in jail, they’d arrested him and he was in jail . . . While he was in prison, whenever I went to follow up, they would say ‘Okay, we’ll judge the case, we’re going to do investigation . . . We’re going to deal with it tomorrow.’ … They kept postponing the case, and his uncle also works at the court. His uncle bribed and he was set free.
While he was in jail, his father, my father-in-law, promised to give support to the child … When he set the son free, he refused to give the money he promised . . . So right now, I’m not able to take care of the two children because I don’t have money.
Yesterday my daughter got sick and she was convulsing, and … I took the child to the drugstore. And the drugstore says the child has fever, and they’re charging L$800 to treat the child. And I told them, ‘I don’t have that money’ and I begged them to treat the child so I can find the money, maybe tomorrow, and I can pay.
Right now I don’t have relatives to help support me, I’m staying with a friend . . . My father died in 1990 and my mother died five months ago. My father had two children, and my oldest brother died. I don’t have anybody to help me.
Photo: Sam Duerden/IRC