Liberian Woman, 49, Narrates Heartbreaking Rape Experience
Ganta, Nimba County – Ten years ago on August 12, 2007, 49-year-old Mardea Dahn was awaken by a knocking on her door. She opened the door; her ex-boyfriend Felix Sawyer forced his way in despite her resistance. She was sexually assaulted that night.
Report by Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
“If you’d told me before it happened that he was a rapist,’ she says, ‘I would have said you were wrong.”
“However, if you’d said he’d beat me up if I left him, I probably would have agreed.”
“We’d been together for almost three years, and he’d grown increasingly controlling.”
She did eventually leave him but after three months he found her and started following her.
“I remember running and locking the door behind me because he was coming down the road. I’d sit in the dark and daren’t put on the phone light.”
A relationship with a man right now is out of the question. ‘I’m not at the stage where I’m healed at all.’
She has suffered flashbacks and severe worry, and says that, seven years on, the psychological and practical impact continues to resonate.
‘I was raped in my own home, where I thought I was safe.”
“Afterwards I was too frightened to sleep during the day or night. I had to find somewhere else to live.”
“I didn’t have the funds, but I’m here in Ganta because the incident occurred in Monrovia.
‘I kept thinking, “This is my day to tell everyone what that bastard did and put him where he belongs.”
I used my anger. Why should I feel ashamed because he’d broken into my house and raped me?
Rape victims should be empowered to go into court and testify with screens, like I will want to do but now he’s dead, so they don’t have to look at the perpetrator.
Mardea waived anonymity to encourage other women who’ve been raped to come forward.
She’s now a volunteer with Victim Support and works at the Ganta Police depot.
Felix was on the run for months met his death when a hunter mistakenly shot him and was pronounced dead according to Mardea.
Today she runs her own local provision business and seems an energetic, upbeat person.
‘Immediately after the rape I was scared to tell anyone – I was scared of my sister, stigmatization, losing my friends – and really embarrassed.”
“I was naive, I’d been drinking, I’d wanted to go “a bit further” with someone, and I dressed provocatively. I thought if I told anyone I’d been raped they’d take one look at me and say, “For real?”‘
Mardea is college graduate from the University of Liberia with a BA in Public Administration and Economics, she currently lives in her late mother’s home town Ganta after the incident.
She has no hope of coming to Monrovia to live because according to her she gets her goods from bordering countries Guinea and Ivory Coast.
The Ministry of county Gender coordinator in Nimba Yaah Belleh Suah disclosed that the SGBV remain a major challenge in the county.
She named persistent non-support, rape and physical violence reported between September and October.
Suah said SGBV should be discuss adding that confidentiality should be the key in reporting on such cases.
Alexander Franklin is the Deputy Commander for Women and Children at the Women and Children in Ganta who said they have worked very hard in the past few years, but because of the attitude in county, women are still reluctant to report rape cases.
Mardea agrees and says her older self regrets not telling anybody. ‘For many years I thought I made the right decision.
Now, I know that to keep all that a secret was wrong.
But I got through it. I never felt I needed healing. My spirituality has helped me understand what happened and my behavior afterwards.”
“I believe that even the bad things happen for a reason – to make us grow, evolve and get stronger.
‘I’m a survivor, not a victim. I don’t want sympathy. Victim is a mindset. I played that role in my head for seven years. I hated myself, had no self-respect and really didn’t care if I lived or died.”
“But being a victim means you hand over your power. During the rape everything was completely out of control.”
“I never want to be out of control again. Today I’m have a bit of a control; for example, I could never even work for someone else.
‘I’m not saying it’s quick or easy to get to a positive frame of mind, but it’s a fact – I was raped. I’ve had to get over it.”
“There’s too much good in the world to live life as a half person.’