Head of the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police, Superintendent Isha Bangura says that sexual abuse cases has reduced compared to previous years, due to public education, awareness-raising and the precedence set by courts on offenders.
She said that laws on sexual abuse are really working, adding that from last year (2012), the cases received more frequently are physical assault ; once in a month, we have cases of sexual abuse, but the physical assault is an everyday complaint.
FSU investigates cases of sexual violence, sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, child cruelty, child trafficking, children in conflict and contact with the law.
Superintendent Bangura said that FSU is almost everywhere in the country, although not in every place, adding that they have 44 FSU’s in the country, including the recent one at Aberdeen Police station.
She stated that in 2004, the Unit signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to work together and the MoU agreed that every FSU should have one social worker. But unfortunately, the Ministry does not have that capacity for every FSU to have a social worker. We only have 14 Social workers.
In 2012, she said, we really worked and did a lot of work. However, we faced a lot of challenges, for instance, for our presence to be felt everywhere, we need more structures for FSU to be everywhere.
In some areas, where there is no FSU, people walk miles to locate the nearest FSU to make reports
She noted that FSU received complaints from the public and the complainants who have evidence, are being investigated and sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and if it is necessary to charge to court, they (DPP) will advice and then the matter will be charged to court.
The FSU Head stated that from January to September 2012 for Western Area, 2,343 cases were reported, for the South 829 were reported ,for the North 1,195 cases were reported and for the Eastern region, 695 cases were reported.
For cases charged to court with evidence and witnesses for the Western area, 288 were charged, for the South 146 were charged , North 188 were charged and for the east, 164 cases were charged in different cases.
Superintendent Bangura further stated that for the year 2013, they will continue their sensitization, public education, develop training manual for their personnel on the recent sexual offences Act.
She said that our challenges are for residential magistrates in the rural areas to sit on this cases, motor vehicles for investigation, financial support for some victims who cannot afford to foot their medical bills, need more social workers, adding that one major challenge is juvenile holding centres.
The FSU Head called on people to make use of the Unit, as they exist to bring peace in homes, while discouraging people from compromising sexual abuse cases and report them to the FSU.
By Abibatu Kamara