By Word & Action
On Jan. 4, a tragedy occurred in Haiti — the latest in a number of gender-based sexual violence against women and children — presented itself for all to witness. A 16-year-old young woman was gang raped and the video of this heinous crime was streamed live worldwide via the Internet. The five men who raped this young girl remain at large. However, on Jan. 26, Haitian authorities reported the arrest of a dozen males ages 16 to 44 suspected of similar criminal acts within the island. According to several Haitian news outlets, the Port-au-Prince prosecutor’s office along with two senators have offered a reward equivalent to $7,500.00 USD for information leading to the arrest of the 16 year old’s alleged rapists.
The problem of gender-based violence in Haiti, particularly child sexual abuse is a public health issue, which has sparked the attention of Word and Action, Inc. (W&A), a Florida based nonprofit organization. W&A’s mission is to support children and families impacted by child sexual abuse both in the States and in Haiti through prevention, advocacy and clinical services. We recognize the legal response to this public health phenomenon has been woefully inadequate and there exist a lack of judicial infrastructure for victims to seek recourse. The reporting of sexual violence to the police in Haiti remains a very difficult and convoluted process. Thus, it contributes to countless cases being under-reported. The Overseas Security Advisory Council indicate that sexual crimes in Haiti have become a major problem and crime statistics are woefully under documented by the Haitian National Police.
As part of its mission W&A has led a campaign of Awareness in various cities in Haiti, and seeks to lead the conversation and collaborate with the Haitian government and stakeholders toward judicial reform. It is time to create preventive laws and measures in order to protect Haiti’s vulnerable children. W&A board members have already reached out to several Haitian lawmakers and will continue to push for concrete actions regarding this important issue. We are also working on a legislative proposal with our legal advisors to advocate for children impacted by gender-based violence. With the support of concerned lawmakers, W&A hopes to submit its proposal to both Haitian legislative chambers.
We urge our local/state-wide community members to reach out to Haitian government officials and ask them to take concrete action to put tackle this problem. The violation of our children must stop. This disconcerting problem of gender-based violence, in particular child sexual abuse, cannot be taken lightly. Our community and our children will no longer be silent. Let us hear and respond our children’s silent cries and provide preventive measures to protect the future generation against sexual predators.
Our prayers and hearts go out to this 16 year old, her family and all those impacted by this traumatic crime. W&A encourages the Haitian justice department to diligently take legal steps to protect the community. We hope that justice will be served swiftly. It’s about saving children’s lives.
Word and Action (W&A) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2009 by psychotherapist, Georges Bossous, Jr., who after many years of practice, had identified a need for cultural competency when treating Haitian victims of child sexual abuse and their affected loved ones.