THE HOUSE OF HEALING HEARTS PROJECT
In the past decade, several studies and researches have shown an increase in the number of children and women that have been sexually assaulted in Haiti. Sexual violence has always been a complex issue in Haiti and was frequently used as a political weapon in times of upheaval. A recent report from Amnesty International highlighted a dramatic increase in sexual assaults since the January 2010 quake.
It has reported that the Commission of Women Victims for Victims registered more than 250 cases of rape in several camps during the first 150 days after the earthquake. Most of these data were actually collected by women activists who provided sporadic support services to survivors of rape and sexual violence.
In the Haitian culture, sex is a taboo subject that is almost unspoken among majority of Haitian families. Sexual education is almost non- existent in that population. Because of the aforementioned, sexual incidents are unreported, ignored, and totally repressed. Also, the complexity of the Haitian culture prevents both children and parents to deal appropriately with sexual abuse, which, often leads to revictimization.
The main purpose of the House of Hearts project is to educate, treat, and support child-victims and their family throughout the healing process.
Why House of Healing Hearts
There is no known therapeutic center in Haiti that is specialized in the treatment of child sexually abuse. This center will be the first of its kind in the entire country. Therefore, child-victims will finally have a place to receive the appropriate and much needed psychological help.
Word & Action has already developed a “Culturally Based Approach Program” in attempt to address the issue of child sexual abuse in Haiti. Our program is unique and has been implemented in Miami- Dade, Broward County as well as in certain regions of Haiti. It includes three major components (i.e., Prevention, Education, and Treatment). We are encouraged by the increasing number of individuals who have been positively responsive to our program in the past two years.
Without an implemented program, sexually exploited and abused children will have difficulties to cope and function normally in the society. When sexual abuse occurs, a child-victim can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The long-term emotional and psychological damage can be devastating.
Sexually abused children may be too frightened to tell anyone, however, physical and behavioral signs can be noticeable. Physical signs such as vaginal or rectal bleeding, pain, itchiness, swelling or discharge. Also, difficulty swallowing, with bowel movements, and urinating may be experienced. In addition, recurring complaints of stomachaches and/or headaches, trauma to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen, and genital or rectal areas may be evident. Their undergarments may also be torn, stained or bloody. They may contracts several sexually transmitted diseases.
Behavioral signs like extreme changes in behavior (e.g., loss of appetite, eating disorder, clingingness, withdrawal, aggressiveness), recurrent nightmares, disturbed sleep patterns or a sudden fear of the dark; regression to infantile behavior, fear of being left alone with a particular person or at a particular place.
Frequent lies and delinquent behaviors may be seen which in turn can negatively affect their academic performance. These children are prone to sexual promiscuity and express affection in inappropriate ways. They may develop poor relationships with other children, lack of self-confidence, and the desire to engage in self-destructive behaviors (e.g., biting oneself, pulling out hair, wrist-cutting).
W&A is equipped with professionals and clinicians who are qualified and ready to provide treatment and supports to sexually abused children in Haiti.
“Violence against children” is a multi-faceted phenomenon. The focus of the project proposed herein “House of Hearts” is to create a healing environment where sexually exploited and abused children can receive the medical and psychological care they desperately need.
Instituting the House of Healing Hearts
Word & Action aims to build and operate a Module Center, House of Hearts, that will provide multiple services to sexually exploited and abused children as well as empowering women in Haiti. The center will adopt a holistic approach in providing an environment where these children can be healed physically, emotionally, and psychologically with the ability to reintegrate their respective community.
W&A wants to initially house 8 to 10 girls aged 8 to 17 in the “House of Healing Hearts for Girls.” Depending on our forecasted success rate, we will expand to further enroll more children, up to 20 per site, with the projection to open a “House of Healing Hearts for Boys.” Some of the services that will be provided to our Resident Children include: Shelter, Food, Education, Medical and Psychological Treatment, and
Social Skills Trainings.
We will hire a trained social worker or nurse who will management the residence and provide supervision, care, and guidance to the residents. We will also hire a chauffeur, a security officer, a cook, and a house -keeper.
The House of Healing Hearts will also include an outpatient Clinic/ Women’s Center that will provide medical treatment for victim children and women. We will hire a medical director that will manage the clinic and full-time nurses will provide consultations and medical care.
In addition, a Psychotherapeutic Center will be in place where master level clinicians will provide outpatient therapy. Our leading treatment model will be “Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Group counseling as well as a support group for sexually assaulted adults will be provided.
Word & Action Inc, will be insuring the project management through its local sister organization/ chapter, Word and Action for Haiti. The local staff will be constituted of a team of professionals in the health care, project management and social services. It will operate in the city of Port-au-Prince.