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Curbing Violence Against Women in Haiti

Haitian Times | 2-20-2013

Sitting with a group of parents and their children on the porch of Profamil’s headquarters, Mariola Dhema recounted vividly the day her three-year old daughter was raped by a 10 and a four-year old boys. Shifting on her chair and visibly uncomfortable, Dhema said the older boy pinned her daughter down while the other one jumped on top of her, leaving her bruised and bloodied.

Dhema, 40, who has another child, a 14-year old boy, said she discovered the abuse later that night, as she was bathing her daughter and saw blood trickling out of her vagina. A street vendor, who spent her entire day peddling her goods, Dhema, went to the local police precinct and filed a report. Like most victims of gender-based violence, neighbors blamed her for being an absentee mother and her little girl for being “loose”.

“The say that if I have the boys arrested, it would be unfair,” Dhema said, her voice cracking. “My little girl is innocent. But they don’t see the abuse they’ve done to my daughter and me. I don’t know if she’ll come out of this okay. She is so young. How can they do that to her?”

The boys are now in jail, awaiting trial for the rape. Dhema, fearing for retribution left the camp where she had lived after losing their homes in the January 2010 earthquake.

In many ways, Dhema is unusual because she is one of the rare people to report a rape in a country where the crime goes often unreported because of the social stigma and feared retaliation from perpetrators.

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