SINCE THE 2010 EARTHQUAKE, HAITI HAS SUFFERED FROM AN EPIDEMIC OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE— BUT SURVIVORS ARE FINALLY MAKING THEMSELVES SEEN
Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has suffered from an epidemic of sexual violence—but survivors are finally making themselves seen.
MARIE— not her real name—was a student looking for a job in Port-auPrince, Haiti’s capital. “I met this guy on the street,” Marie says. “We started to chat. He said that one of his friends was looking for someone like me. He said that he needed to go to his place. When we got there, he pulled out his gun. This is when it happened.”
Marie’s experience is all too common in Haiti. During the military’s rule from 1991 to 1994, it used rape as a weapon to intimidate and punish women, and after a coup in 2004, thousands of women and children were sexually assaulted, including more than a hundred victims who alleged assault by U.N. peacekeepers, according to recent investigations. Women’s organizations have pushed for reforms to the penal code to improve
THROUGH THE CLEAR RUNNING WATER, GOOSE BUMPS ON HER SKIN ARE JUST VISIBLE; HER WHITE DRESS FLOATS ABOVE THE RIVERBED. THE SCENE IS PEACEFUL—BUT HER STORY IS NOT. ONE YEAR BEFORE THIS PHOTOGRAPH WAS TAKEN, THIS WOMAN WAS RAPED AT GUNPOINT BY A MAN SHE THOUGHT WANTED TO HELP HER.
legislation protecting women, though government inaction and political instability have stalled the attempts. Rape became a serious crime only in 2005, after a group of women pushed for a change in the law. (Previously, a rapist could pay off or marry his victim.)
Though rape is a perennial problem in Haiti because of poverty, instability and attitudes toward women, reports of sexual violence surged after the 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-prince and left 1.5 million people homeless. Isolated bathrooms, poor lighting and a lack of safe housing made women vulnerable to attacks in the city’s makeshift camps, where, in 2012, residents reported sexual assault at a rate 20 times higher than Haitians living elsewhere, according to The New York Times. Doctors Without Borders
Storm in a Port: Sexual violence in Haiti peaked in the wake of the earthquake that devastated the capital, Port-au-prince (above), in 2010.