Dr. Francien Chenoweth Richardson, a psychologist and counsellor, has cautioned Liberians to be more proactive in addressing Rape Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), stating that rape is a second highest crime in Liberia. “We know that cases go to the court and at the end of the day these cases are thrown out.”
Dr. Richardson, is a professor of Psychology from Immaculata University located in East Whiteland Township, Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia Area. She said rape or SGBV is everywhere; so it is necessary for policymakers and state actors to work robustly to eradicate the menace in the society.
Facilitating the ongoing ‘Capacity Development Training in SGBV Trauma in Monrovia sponsored by the Cummings Africa Foundation (CAF) for healthcare professionals, policymakers, social workers, community leaders, and civil society organizations, Dr. Richardson repeated that gender-based violence is everywhere and that Liberia is no exception. “The true hallmark of this teaching is to apply knowledge learned to your daily work as healthcare professionals so that we all can be able to work robustly to end rape and SGBV.”
Also presenting on the difference between ‘Sex and Gender’, the important role gender plays as a relates to power and abuse and what is SGBV ,of which participants were asked to defined SGBV in their own terms, Cllr. Joyce Reeves Woods, said: “SGBV is an act committed against a person without his or her consent.”
Thereafter, a heated argument followed on ‘consent’, whether or not a child has the right to give consent when it comes to sex; what is the appropriate age to give consent, and whether or not consent means yes or no. At the end of the session on consent, a two-minute video was played by Dr. Richardson on consent.
The video titled ‘Consent, it easy as tea,’ brought into play a scenario that says “When you ask someone to make you a cup of tea and they agree, and when the tea is prepared and then the person refuses to drink, don’t force him or her to drink the tea against his or her will but always seek that person’s consent. Even if you prepared the tea and the person refuses, just accepted the fact. The video ended with a quote “Whether it is tea or sex, consent is everything.”
She also presented on ‘Sex and Gender’ and important role gender plays as a relates to power and abuse. Professor Richardson said sex and gender are often mixed together though similar. “Abuse is everywhere and it affects everyone, both male and female”, she noted.
She further explained the international framework on Rape and SGBV, consequences of SGBV and the causes and effect of SGBV and how it affects the survivors.
She also expounded the difference between ‘child and pedophile’, boys and SGBV’, gender against men, power and domience. “SGBV against male are under-reported”, says the facilitator.
She added that out of the 195 countries in the world, only 62 countries recognized and report SGBV against men and boys. Most men are not coming up because they feel that gender is only for females, and at the end of day they live with the trauma. “SGBV against men can be used as a power to disempower them,” she added.
She also provided counseling tips for participants which include creating an atmosphere that will enable a client to feel free to explain his or her ordeal. “Believing you make the survivor to know that what he/she is telling you is true, validation, education and knowledge will help you as a social worker to better understand what your survivor is telling you.”
After that, a group session work practice followed. Participants demonstrated how to interact with their clients and how to validate what the survivor is telling them.