HomeUnited NationsHealing Haiti in the face of an increase in sexual violence

Healing Haiti in the face of an increase in sexual violence

“I didn’t know what to do but a friend did report the incident to the police, but nothing was done to find the man.”“At the time, I was 16 years old and living with my cousin and her husband,” she said. “I looked after their children, like they were my own.” Claudine should have been at school but after her mother and grandmother died had no other option but to become a domestic worker in her cousin’s house. It was there that she was sexually assaulted by her cousin’s husband. In July, the United Nations said that rival gangs in the Cite Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince were adopting the “systematic use of rape against women and girls as a weapon of war.”

A refuge from abuse

Nahomy Augustin is a project coordinator for the international NGO in Haiti. “Many of the young women here are the victims of extreme poverty and insecurity, to the extent that the lack of basic services and opportunities that they have access to means that they become vulnerable to abuse,” she said.

Personal items are available for purchase by the residents of Rapha House.
The refuge, which is located in an intentionally inconspicuous building, in a tranquil neighbourhood above Port-au-Prince, supports the young women in the recovery from their traumatic experiences. “We take a holistic approach,” said Nahomy Augustin, “and provide a range of services, including medical and psychological care, accommodation and legal advice as well as family mediation.”

The refuge, which is located in an intentionally inconspicuous building, in a tranquil neighbourhood above Port-au-Prince, supports the young women in the recovery from their traumatic experiences. “We take a holistic approach,” said Nahomy Augustin, “and provide a range of services, including medical and psychological care, accommodation and legal advice as well as family mediation.”

UN Haiti/Daniel Dickinson Claudine* looks across a sweeping valley high above the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. The lushness of the tropical vegetation, the cool fresh air and the low-hanging clouds are in stark contrast to the dusty, hot and suffocating backstreets of Petionville, lower down the valley, where four years ago she was the victim of sexual abuse which changed her life. The Spotlight Initiative, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is supporting this and other refuges for women in Haiti. A year after her daughter was born, Claudine was taken to a refuge for abused minors, many of whom like her were caring for newborns. The refuge, where she has lived now for three years, is run by Rapha House, an organization which is committed to ending the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. “I am proud of the Spotlight Initiative and the much-needed assistance it is providing along with our local partners, but what I heard on this visit is a stark reminder of the urgency to tackle the root causes of sexual violence.”

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