Context.— Civilians were often the casualties of fighting during the recent Liberian
civil conflict. Liberian health care workers played a crucial role in documenting
violence against women by soliders and fighters during the war.
Objective.— To document women's experiences of violence, including rape and sexual
coercion, from a soldier or fighter during 5 years of the Liberian civil war
from 1989 through 1994.
Design.— Interview and survey.
Setting.— High schools, markets, displaced persons camps, and urban communities
in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1994.
Participants.— A random sample of 205 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 70
years (88% participation rate).
Results.— One hundred (49%) of 205 participants reported experiencing at least
1 act of physical or sexual violence by a soldier or fighter. Survey participants
reported being beaten, tied up, or detained in a room under armed guard (17%);
strip-searched 1 or more times (32%); and raped, subjected to attempted rape,
or sexually coerced (15%). Women who were accused of belonging to a particular
ethnic group or fighting faction or who were forced to cook for a soldier
or fighter were at increased risk for physical and sexual violence. Of the
106 women and girls accused of belonging to an ethnic group or faction, 65
(61%) reported that they were beaten, locked up, strip-searched, or subjected
to attempted rape, compared with 27 (27%) of the 99 women who were not accused
(P≤.02, .07, .001, and .06, respectively). Women
and girls who were forced to cook for a soldier or fighter were more likely
to report experiencing rape, attempted rape, or sexual coercion than those
who were not forced to cook (55% vs 10%; P≤.001,
.06, and .001, respectively). Young women (those younger than 25 years) were
more likely than women 25 years or older to report experiencing attempted
rape and sexual coercion (18% vs 4%, P=.02 and .04,
Conclusions.— This collaborative research allowed Liberian women to document wartime
violence against women in their own communities and to develop a unique program
to address violence against women in Liberia.