Monday, November 9, 2009

Rape survivors urge to seek emergency medical care

Rape survivors urge to seek emergency medical care
-as MSF launches “Rape is hospital and clinic business” campaign

The international medical humanitarian aid agency, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), will today, Monday, launch an awareness campaign across Monrovia, to urge more adult survivors of sexual violence to seek vital medical and psychological care, particularly in the first three days after rape.

“Though MSF provides care to more than 70 survivors of rape or sexual abuse in Monrovia each month. “We know there are many more hidden survivors, particularly adults, who never seek help.” says Theresa Saday, MSF’s Sexual Violence Project Supervisor in Monrovia. “Many are too shocked, humiliated or terrified to access services, while others may not know how vital it is to come for care within the first three days after rape. Those first 72 hours are crucial to limit serious longer-term damage, like HIV or other infections, tetanus or unwanted pregnancy.”

By October this year, MSF had already assisted more than 650 survivors of sexual abuse, over three quarters of whom were under 18 years of age. The largest age group of abused children were aged between 13 to 18, closely followed by the 5 and 12 years age group, while the youngest girl treated was a mere 18-months old.

Saday continued, ‘I meet the people behind the statistics of sexual violence, and whether young or old, I see that rape has brutally shattered their lives and health, causing serious physical and emotional injury. The sad reality is that there is still a conspiracy of silence and denial within many families and communities. I want survivors of abuse to know that they are not alone, that sexual violence is a despicable stain on our society, and that we are here to help – with safe, free, confidential medical and psychological care.”

Starting today, MSF will run a one-month targeted radio, mobile phone, drama-group and poster campaign to reach thousands of people across Monrovia with the message that “Rape is hospital and clinic business – get free care now!”, meaning that rape is a medical emergency for which care is not only available, but also urgently needed. MSF has also established a 24 hour emergency helpline (06-122 122) to coincide with the campaign and hopes this initiative will lead to a 30% overall increase in those seeking both medical and psychological care within three days after rape.

Currently, MSF provides comprehensive emergency and follow-up medical psychological care to survivors of sexual violence in Island hospital, a paediatric hospital in Bushrod Island, and in New Kru Town Clinic, which is the out-patient department of Redemption Hospital in Bushrod Island.

Besides the care provided by a medical practitioner, an MSF social worker provides psychosocial support, welcoming the patients and accompanying them to consultations. After the first consultation, follow-up counseling sessions are scheduled for up to one year. This follow-up support also includes discovering if the patient needs protection, as there are often serious threats against those who decide to seek treatment or take their case further. MSF teams also provide medical-legal certificates to every rape survivor who visits their health facilities.

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