Haiti: Legal advocacy and protection for victims of sexual violence in post earthquake tent camps.
Imagine that you go to the police department to file a complaint for rape and the police officer, because you are unable to identify the perpetrator, refuses to make a report.
Jayne Fleming is a San Francisco based human rights attorney who is preparing and filing humanitarian parole and political asylum applications for sixty Haitian victims of gender based violence.
Many of Fleming’s clients are referrals from KOFAVIV and FAVILEK agents who advocate for victims in twenty two tent camps in Port-au-Prince. The agents provide services including accompaniment and referrals for legal assistance, psycho-social support and medical care.
One recent afternoon Fleming received a phone call from a KOFAVIV agent requesting $20. for transportation for a victim to the Bureau des Avocats (BAI) where she was conducting interviews with clients. Several hours later the woman arrived in a tap tap with her two teen age sons. The 45 year old mother had tried to protect her teen age daughter from a group of attackers. The daughter escaped. The angry men turned on the mother. The victim was brutally beaten and gang-raped.
Fleming interviewed the victim and provided money for a medical exam and prescriptions. At the conclusion of the interview the two sons carried their mother outside and lifted her awkwardly into the back of the waiting tap tap. The victim moaned quietly as she lay with arms splayed out in the bed of the truck.
Fleming has spent thousands of dollars out of her own pocket for safe houses, emergency food aid and medical care. She is at capacity with sixty clients. The image of the 45 year old mother who was raped while trying to protect her daughter remains vivid. The troubling reality is that there is simply not enough legal capacity to advocate for all of the victims. When this mother is released from the hospital she will return to the tent camps. With no rule of law, legal consequences or police protection the rapes and sexual violence will continue unabated.
*KOFAVIV and FAVILEK are grassroots women’s organizations established by and for rape survivors of the military coup d'etats against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 and 2004, which resulted in widespread rape of women by soldiers and police.