Sexual Violence Against Haiti’s Women

Note: In the aftermath of the earthquake, women in Haiti have faced a formidable outbreak of sexual violence. Guest blogger Liesl Gerntholtz, Researcher at Human Rights Watch, interviewed a young rape survivor as part of an investigation into sexual and other violence against women in the country. This is part three of a series of guest posts.

Driving through Port-au-Prince’s Parc Jean Marie Vincent camp, the first thing I notice is how massive and congested it is. After that, the smell and the heat hit me. I had come to the camp to interview a young rape survivor, as part of a Human Rights Watch mission to Haiti to investigate sexual and other violence against women in the continuing aftermath of the earthquake. Sexual violence often increases in emergencies, when normal structures have broken down and women struggle to meet basic needs for food, water, shelter and hygiene.

A Rape Victim’s Story

I met “Gentile” in an empty tent, giving us at least a little privacy. We sat in the oppressive heat, and she quietly described how, a few nights earlier, she had been grabbed by five men and taken into a nearby house. There she was raped, forced to perform oral sex, and brutally beaten. When she finally managed to escape, the men chased her and beat her in the street, where a man finally rescued her and took her to his home. Later that morning, she returned to the streets, as she literally has nowhere else to go.

Click here to see “Haiti in Crisis”

Gentile, whose name I have changed for her protection, was lucky, if that is the right word, to meet up with a human rights advocate in the camp. He took her to a hospital, where she received some medical treatment. She was not sure what medication she had been given, as the doctor who helped her did not speak Creole and there was not one to translate what he was saying. As Gentile told me, “I really need somebody to be with me in this suffering… I am not sleeping… I feel weak.”

Women’s Safety Continues to be Compromised

During our mission, we were in 15 of the largest camps for displaced Haitians, and we documented a number of gang rapes in Parc Jean Marie Vincent camp alone. The camps are unsafe places, and many women live with strangers, having lost contact with family members and friends. Their access to food and water is compromised. They bathe and wash children in public places. There is no separation of facilities for women and men-and no lighting-so these are unsafe after dark.

Violence against women was a problem in Haiti long before the earthquake, with rape only recognized as a crime in 2005. However, much can be done to protect women from sexual violence during the reconstruction of Haiti. Aid agencies continue to take steps to address these concerns: highlighting the need for lighting and security in the camps, safe food distribution, private washing facilities and latrines, access to health services for women who are assaulted and raped.

Find out about the International Violence Against Women Act

As the work continues, it is essential to re-build the capacity of local women’s organizations that can lead the struggle against violence. Many have lost key activists and other staff members, and the remaining members have personal losses and their offices have been destroyed. Strengthening these groups and individuals will be key to protecting Haitian women and girls during rebuilding.

Learn more about the struggle to help the displaced women and girls of Haiti now.


Payal Rastogi
Payal Rastogi3 years ago

Thanks for this great job Natasha

Walter Firth
Walter F3 years ago

Thanks for posting Natasha.We all feel sorry for these poor abused girls and despise our fellow men who abuse them but as individuals what can we do for them?.Government officials appear to ignore our petitions.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R4 years ago

In this case black women are being raped wholesale by black men. Isn't it racist to report this ? It makes it appear that black people also commit crimes. Where are the calls for justice ? @ Erica B."What Haiti needs is condoms, AIDS protection/drugs" My prescription would be for vasectomy. One US doctor was providing free vasectomies and had more resistance in Haiti than in the Philippines, another old-school holdout. One of his customers had fathered 17 children, "because I'm a man" none of which he was supporting. AIDS protection would cause more population and more misery in a country that already has more than enough. The people can't even find people to buy their children as slaves anymore.

Angela J.
Angela J4 years ago

Thank you.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Alicia, for Sharing this!

Ernest Roth
Ernest R5 years ago

@ Erica B “What man feels less powerful than a poor uneducated man in a third world country” I guess that explains why rape so seldom occurs among priests, army commanding officers, world bank executives, and crime lords.

J M A.
JM A6 years ago


Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun6 years ago

Thank you for posting

Patti B.

Natasha, keep up the good work! Thank you!