It was reported that out of the nine million of the inhabitants of Haiti close to half of them are children (Balsari, Lemery, Williams, & Nelson, 2010). Child protection has been a major challenge for Haitian authorities. For instance, as a result of the January 12, 2010 earthquake the Haitian institutions have become more fragile, which in turn worsened Haiti’s ability to protect its children (Balsari, Lemery, Williams, & Nelson, 2010) from various forms of abuse and in particular, sexual abuse. The exact number of children being sexually abused in Haiti is unknown.
Reports of sexual violence including rape and sex trafficking are staggering. Kolbe & Hutson (2006) reported a high prevalence of sexual assault of women and girls in Haiti. In addition, a study including 35,000 female victims found that more than half of them were below the age of 18 (Kolbe & Hutson, 2006). In 2006 a report indicated that 13.8% of identified sexual predators are of the Haitian National Police (Kolbe & Hutson, 2006).
In the light of many disturbing statistics, Word and Action, Inc. (W&A) has boosted its efforts in raising awareness about the above issue through its sexual abuse prevention initiative in Haiti. For 10 years W&A has been hosting numerous presentations, trainings and conferences on child sexual abuse in Haiti. Recently, on April 26, 2017 W&A hosted a presentation on child sexual abuse for over 60 Social Worker students at the State University Roi Henry Christophe at Limonade, Nothern Haiti. W&A Haiti’s northern coordinator, Vita Pierre—a very dynamic Law graduate student, who is currently enrolled in the Social Work program, organized the logistics for this presentation. Ms. Pierre traveled several times from Gonaives to Limonade and was able to register students to partake in the presentation.
As a result of Ms. Pierre’s efforts More than 100 students were registered along with her small team of students. For two straight days, two sets of students were able to attend and participate in this preventive initiative on child sexual abuse in Haiti.
At the end of the presentations, post-evaluation forms were distributed to participants in order to document and determine the effectiveness of our initiative. Students were asked to grade as “very good, good, and poor” the entire presentation. In addition, they were encouraged to share ideas and comments regarding the presentation.
The Executive Director of Word and Action, Mr. Georges Bossous, Jr. led the two-day-presentation. Students were able to ask question and share their opinions regarding the subject and materials being presented.
One of the remarkable moments included the intervention of a female student who felt that young women must be scolded for wearing revealing clothes, which in her opinion could “excite men to sexually abuse them.” A young man counter-argued by underlining that such a view might be used as an excuse for sexual predators. Furthermore, the male student highlighted that it was not for women to change their life style or appearance rather it was for the supposedly abusers to control theirs impulses. The presenter concluded that there is no excuse whatsoever for sexually abuse acts. Although, it is recommended for both young men and women to be very vigilant and aware of certain reality related to rape and other sexual violence in Haiti and around the world.
Balsari, S., Lemery, J., Williams, P. T. & Nelson, D. B. (2010). Protecting the children
of Haiti. The New England Journal of Medicine, 362(25). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1001820. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1001820
Kolbe, R. A. & Hutson, A. R. (2006). Human rights abuse and other criminal
violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households. The Lancet, 368(9538), 864–873. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69211-8. Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(06)69211-8/fulltext