Girl, 5, left paralysed after being raped by uncle

A five-year-old girl was left paralysed and unable to perform basic daily functions after being raped by her uncle when she was just four years old.

The child, from Sierra Leone, went months before anyone realised the reason she suddenly became bed-bound and unable to walk or play.

Some in her community had originally blamed witchcraft before discovering she had been brutally raped and left paralysed as a result of her injuries.

Her father objected to the rape being tried in court, requiring police to issue a restraining order so she could continue receiving medical treatment.

The girl’s uncle remains jailed without bail while his case is before the country’s high court. A defence lawyer has yet to be assigned.

The child, who was only four when she was raped a year ago, is still unable to walk, and has had to use a hand-crank wheelchair to move around the health centre’s grounds where she is being treated.

File photo of child sitting in window frame. A girl was left paralysed after being raped by her uncle.
The child was only four when she was raped by her uncle. Source: File/Getty Images

She has been undergoing treatment for bed sores that developed on her back while she was immobile at home for months.

One of her leg bones has broken — health workers believe it is a complication of her paralysis — and now she lies in a hospital bed with her leg in traction.

A tiny foot with specks of pink nail polish peeks out of her cast, which is tethered to the metal bed frame.

She has been out of school for a year and is getting restless.

“Even yesterday she was saying she wants to go to school and is going to need a motorbike,” her mother said in the local Krio language.

“When her grandmother was here sometimes she would ask her grandma: ‘When can I walk again?’”

Photo of Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio who declared sexual violence a national emergency in February.
President Julius Maada Bio declared sexual violence a national emergency in February. Source: AP

The law in the West African nation had carried a maximum penalty of 15 years, with no minimum sentencing requirement, however, advocates say one man convicted of raping a 13-year-old served only 24 hours last year.

President Julius Maada Bio declared sexual violence a national emergency in February and vowed to help the five-year-old get medical treatment abroad.

Those who have cared for her especially want to see the law fully implemented as a deterrent.

“It’s OK for us to declare such an emergency and to say that we’re going to give life imprisonment. But until it happens to one person, two people — that’s when we start to see the law taking effect,” Ivy Kalama from Freedom from Fistula Foundation, which runs the clinic, said.

The government also must secure the funding to set up a 24-hour call centre and train those who would work in the special division for child victims. And it is unclear whether how accessible these new services will be in Sierra Leone’s rural areas.

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