Pay Attention to the Signs!!!

For the last week, I have been involved in something that no one should have to deal with. On Tuesday, July 14, 2009, a special 16-year-old girl in my life was violently raped by someone she trusted and considered like a father. This heartbreaking vicious crime has reminded me of something I have learned in studying law that needs to be examined. Too often we focus on protecting our children from that random stranger, but the reality is that most violent crimes, particularly rape of females, are committed by someone the victim has known and trusted. I am unaware of the statistics here in Liberia, but in the U.S. the data is alarming. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics “about seven in ten female rape or sexual assault victims stated the offender was an intimate, other relative, a friend or an acquaintance.” [1] These statistics support why the police target their investigations on the people that are close to or known by the victim.

As parents, guardians, relatives, friends or neighbors we need to be very mindful of the children in our lives and take any complaints seriously. We need to pay attention to the signs such as changes in behavior of the child or the would-be perpetrator. I want to reinforce this again “we need to pay attention to the signs” no matter how subtle they are. We sometimes overlook certain anomalies when it involves people close to us.” Sometimes we ignore certain signs that are staring us right in the face.

I stress this point, because I am reminded of a scene in the movie “Bruce Almighty”. [2] Bruce, who was played by the actor Jim Carrey, was driving down the road begging God to give him a sign because he had reached rock bottom. As he continued to drive down the road pleading to God for a sign, all of sudden a truck pulled in front of him filled with road signs saying “stop” and similar messages. Each time Bruce asked God for a sign, the truck would slow down putting the signs right in front of his face. Bruce took those signs as a nuisance and failed to read them until it was too late. As the truck pulled away to the left allowing Bruce to see what was in front of him, he was startled to find that his road was about to end. He suddenly swerved off the road losing control of his vehicle to where he crashed into a pole.

I believe at one time or another, we all have had a truckload of signs in front us alerting us to some type of trouble ahead. However, like Bruce we didn’t pay attention to them until it was too late causing us to crash. I hope that this post will make all of us more mindful of our “truckload of signs” so that we can prevent anymore children from being harmed by someone they trusted.

For this special girl, we are pushing forward with prosecuting the perpetrator and ensuring that she receives all the necessary care. Some might be thinking is their justice for this girl in a country that is still recovering from war like Liberia. From what I have observed, rape cases are taken seriously here and there are many civil society groups that advocate for the protection of children and ensure that justice prevails. There have been many concerned friends and family that have come together to ensure that this innocent child receive the protection and justice that she deserves.

[1] “Victim/offender relationship: Males” were more likely to be violently victimized by a stranger than a nonstranger, and females were more likely to be victimized by a friend, an acquaintance, or an intimate.” 2005 Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Justice Programs – Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cvict_c.htm”>http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cvict_c.htm

[2] “Bruce Almighty” an award winning comedy film that was released in 2003 starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Aniston. “http://www.amazon.com/Bruce-Almighty-Widescreen-Jim-Carrey/dp/B0000AKCKI”>http://www.amazon.com/Bruce-Almighty-Widescreen-Jim-Carrey/dp/B0000AKCKI

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