Report: Rapists Prowl Haiti's Earthquake Camps
Suzie thought life couldn't get any worse after her husband, parents and brothers died in Haiti's earthquake one year ago. The family home was destroyed, and Suzie was forced to take her two sons to live in a makeshift shelter, crammed into disease-ridden quarters like more than a million other quake survivors.
But the very place where Suzie sought safety was where she was brutally attacked -- raped by a band of armed men preying on survivors in mourning. In the middle of one night back in May, a gang of men barged into the shelter and blindfolded Suzie and a friend, then raped them in front of their children.
"After they left I didn't do anything. I didn't have any reaction," Suzie said. "Women victims of rape should go to hospital, but I didn't because I didn't have any money," she said. "I don't know where there is a clinic offering treatment for victims of violence."
Suzie is one of hundreds -- perhaps even thousands -- of women who lost everything in Haiti's devastating earthquake last January, only to be tortured afterward by armed rapists roaming their makeshift camps. She and some 50 other victims are profiled in a report out today from Amnesty International, which reveals a shocking trend of rape in some 1,200 camps set up to shelter more than 1 million quake survivors. Another nearly quarter-million people died in the quake.
A women's support group in Haiti, KOFAVIV, recorded more than 250 cases of rape in several camps in the first 150 days after the Jan. 12 quake. One year later, it still hears of new rape victims almost every other day. Many other attacks go unreported because victims have no place to go -- police stations and courthouses were also wrecked in the earthquake.
That's according to Amnesty's new report, "Aftershocks: Women Speak Out Against Sexual Violence in Haiti's Camps." In it, more than 50 survivors of sexual violence in post-earthquake Haiti share their terrifying stories.
A 14-year-old girl identified only by her first name, Machou, said she was raped in a public toilet last March at the quake survivors' camp where she lives in Carrefour Feuilles, southwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
"A boy came in after me and opened the door. He gagged me with his hand and did what he wanted to do," she told Amnesty International.
"He hit me. He punched me. I didn't go to the police because I don't know the boy, it wouldn't help," she said. "I feel really sad all the time. ... I'm afraid it will happen again."
Another woman, Guerline, said she and her 13-year-old daughter were both raped by four hooded men in their camp one night last March. "They told me that if I talked about it, they would kill me," she said. "They said that if I went to the police, they'd shoot me dead."
She's sent her traumatized daughter out into the countryside to live with relatives, but Guerline and her three other children sleep under sheets now in downtown Port-au-Prince. But she said she has trouble sleeping because of the violence. "Bandits and rapists don't sleep," she said.
Such troubling stories show that the Haitian government must do more to protect women and girls, Amnesty International's Haiti researcher, Gerardo Ducos, said in a statement on the group's website.
"For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority," he said. "This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis."
Police presence has not been adequate in the quake survivors' camps, Ducos said, and there are reports that even the few officers who are on patrol have told rape victims they can't help them.
"There is no security for the women and girls in the camps. They feel abandoned and vulnerable to being attacked," he said. "Armed gangs attack at will, safe in the knowledge that there is still little prospect that they will be brought to justice."
Today's Amnesty International report is not the first word that rape and sexual violence are rampant in Haiti. Such attacks were even common before last January's earthquake, but they are believed to have grown exponentially after it.
Another unnamed victim told the BBC recently that she was raped just after giving birth. "I cried, I yelled, but nobody came, there was nobody," she said. "After they finished, they beat me. They beat me so much that you can see scars on my skin and my knee."
ETA: Here is the story at MSNBC
Also: Doctors Without Borders is treating survivors as well as providing treatment to infants born in these terrible conditions.
ETA2: The organization MADRE is also working with KOFAVIV in bringing aid. I linked this in the comments but am also adding it here. Here is a post about some of the actions they've been taking, including providing women in the encampments with whistles so they can deter their attackers and summon help.