Supporting children who experience sexual violence in Haiti

A girl faces away from the camera out a window
Taina, another client of the NGO OFAVA, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Image: UNICEF/Joseph
May 21, 2024

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Anaëlle* was 11 years old when her aunt's husband began abusing her. To make sure she didn't say anything, the man threatened to kill her if she told anyone. Anaëlle was raped by this uncle for five years until she found the courage to speak out.

Anaëlle's parents were farmers and ran a small business in Artibonite Department. They did not have the means to provide for their six children and agreed to let Anaëlle live with her aunt after being promised better living conditions for their daughter.

But on arriving at her aunt's house in Port-au-Prince, Anaëlle was reduced to a live-in maid by the whole family. She was mistreated, did not attend school, and every time her aunt's husband was alone with her, he raped her. 

Sadly, the sexual assault of minors is a common occurrence in Haiti. In July 2021, the Deputy Spokesman of the Haitian National Police (PNH), Gary Desrosiers, drew attention to the increase in cases of rape of minors. In 21 days, seven cases of rape were recorded, according to the divisional inspector. Like Anaëlle, some of these girls know their attackers, many of them family members who live under the same roof as their victims. 

"When we took her into our shelter, Anaëlle remained silent for two whole weeks." - Psychologist and OFAVA President Lamercie Pierre-Charles

Difficult care

After finding the courage to speak up about her uncle's abuse, Anaëlle was thrown out of the house by her aunt. The Ministry for Women's Affairs and Women's Rights learned of Anaëlle's case thanks to neighbours who contacted them. The state institution in turn contacted OFAVA, a Spotlight Initiative-supported women's organization that has been assisting women and girl victims of violence since March 2004. 

As is often the case after sexual assault, Anaëlle was in a state of shock.

"When we took her into our shelter,” says psychologist and OFAVA President Lamercie Pierre-Charles, "Anaëlle remained silent for two whole weeks. We had to establish a solid relationship of trust with her before she was finally able to open up and talk about her situation."

“I'm much stronger now... I'm no longer afraid to speak out." - Anaëlle*, survivor of violence

Ready for a better tomorrow

For six months, specialists and various support groups at OFAVA supported Anaëlle until she was able to process her ordeal. Today, Anaëlle has made a supportive group of friends and has regained her confidence. 

“I'm much stronger now,” she says. “OFAVA has given me back my self-confidence. I'm no longer afraid to speak out.”

Thanks to the support of the organization, Anaëlle has been able to return to school. "It's Spotlight Initiative,” explains Ms. Pierre-Charles, "that enables us to send girls and also the children of women who are victims of violence back to school."

With the Initiative's support, OFAVA has been able to enrol 165 children in school. 

After secondary school, Anaëlle wants to study agronomy. Taking part in reforestation activities organized by OFAVA has helped her to develop a passion for agriculture and she dreams of one day contributing to the implementation of agricultural policy for her country.

 *Name withheld to protect the survivor's identity. 

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