By Onz Chery

Haitian women soccer players. Photo credit: Haiti-Tempo

The Haitian soccer federation’s president, Yves ‘Dadou’ Jean-Bart, was accused of sexually abusing young female players who live at the country’s national training center, Camp Nou’s Academy, in Croix-des-Bouquets, per The Guardian. He reportedly forced the young players to have sex with him by threatening to expel them out of the center.

The alleged victims remain anonymous and one of them had to get an abortion at 17. Another one said one of Jean-Bart’s friends tried to rape her. 

Those allegations have led FIFA to suspend the 72-year-old for 90 days on May 25, 2020, while the case is under investigation.

Still, Jean-Bart’s support in Haiti remains strong. The current players at the center organized a protest on May 4 to exalt his innocence, many of these players view Jean-Bart as a father. 

The Haitian Times spoke to two former players who consider him as a father as well: Zila Lafleur, 22, and Wisline Dolce, 33.

“Listen, even if they tell me Dadou is guilty, that doesn’t stop me from considering him as the person he was in my life,” said Dolce, a former senior team captain. “He was like a father to me, the way he talked with us. He gave us a lot of advice. He always made sure his players went to school, that they had discipline. So, when I’m being asked about Dadou, the only way I can answer is that Dadou will always remain a father.”

Former Haitian soccer player Wisline Dolce.

Jean-Bart’s case is playing out in the backdrop of the Me Too movement that has gripped the world. Women of all stripes have begun to hold powerful men in the private and public sectors who have abused women with no repercussions. In the United States people like Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer was convicted on two counts in his sexual assault trial, more than two years after the first allegations against him emerged.

And in a country like Haiti where there few, if any, powerful people who are held accountable for their actions, there are talks whether these young female players can get justice if Jean-Bart were to be found guilty.

“If I tell you Dadou will get condemned if he’s guilty, that would make me naïve, I know the reality of this country,” said Pierre Esperance, the National Network Defense of Human Rights’ (RNDDH by its French acronym) director.

“I live that every day at work, it doesn’t surprise me, we have an impunity that institutionalized itself in the country. An impunity that’s cutting off warrants. It’s sick, it’s corrupt. Haiti’s justice system is playing a huge role in keeping corruption and impunity in the society. There’s no justice at all […] There are many prominent people who were accused of serious crimes but never got convicted.”

RNDDH is investigating the case and published the first report on May 21, 2020. They interviewed three unnamed Haitian sports journalists who weren’t surprised by the sexual accusation because there were always rumors about Jean-Bart being sexually active with the players. The investigative reporter who originally accused Jean-Bart, Romain Molina, told The Haitian Times that he has recordings of victims talking.

Jean-Bart himself admitted that he impregnated a former Haitian player. The player’s age is undisclosed, and Jean-Bart didn’t openly mention that he coerced her but, even in this case, he would be guilty of having sexual relations with a former player.

Nevertheless, RNDDH spoke with four anonymous players at the center who falsified the accusations and also said that they view Jean-Bart as a father.

Because Jean-Bart was well-loved by the players, if the accusations are true, his victims could be greatly damaged mentally. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) analyzed that rape victims are more traumatized when they get assaulted by someone they’re familiar with than when the rapist is someone they don’t know.

“Some people think that rape by a stranger is more traumatic than rape by an acquaintance,” ICASA wrote in a document titled “When The Rapist is Someone You Know.” “Research has shown that this is not true. In cases of acquaintance rape, the victim’s trust in someone she knows has been destroyed. Likewise, her trust in her own judgment about people is shaken.”

Dolce trusts Dadou based on her many interactions with him – she knew him since she was 11 – but if he did abuse minors, she won’t support him.

“I’m not here to defend anyone or get into the justice system’s business,” Dolce said. “But concerning this person I was always around, I don’t know the Dadou they’re accusing. I would never allow myself to support a person who’s doing wrong, especially with these types of acts against kids. I said exactly what type of person he was with me when I was playing and that’s it.”

As for Haiti’s current star player, Melchie ‘Corventina’ Dumornay, 16, she still defended Jean-Bart even after he did something that was controversial to her on camera. Jean-Bart rested his arm on her shoulder in an interview in 2018 and was heavily criticized for it.

Dumornay didn’t see it as controversial.

“For people who understand the emotions behind the game, the feelings and passion, they can understand why he had his arm like that,” said Dumornay via Haiti Info Plus TV. “But our relationship is a father-daughter relationship. He’s our director, he’s here to guide us, to help us reach our objectives.”

Haitian soccer team’s teenage sensation Melchie Dumornay. Photo credit: Haiti-Tempo

Lafleur backs up Dumornay’s point of view as she said to The Haitian Times that she doesn’t think “the president would’ve ever done something like that [rape] because he loved all of us like daughters and sons.” Lafleur was at the center from 2012 to 2018. Lafleur and Dolce had the option to speak anonymously.

RNDDH is still investigating the case but refrains from talking about the ongoing process until they publish a second report. Molina also said that The Guardian will post another article on the accusation with new inputs.

Jean-Bart’s suspension is scheduled to end on Aug. 25, 2020. If there’s enough evidence for him to go to court, Esperance said it’s likely for Jean-Bart not to get judged until two to six years.

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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