The New York Times has a wrenching piece today about sexual violence against women in Haiti, a piece in which the reporter, Deborah Sontag, plays a role. Sontag writes about happening upon a 22-year-old woman named Rose, soon after she’d been released by men who’d kidnapped and raped her, and— most terrifying, in Rose’s telling— stashed her in the ruins of an earthquake-ravaged home.
[Po]lice investigators showed up at [Rose]’s house in the Delmas 33 neighborhood shortly after her release, and a reporter from The New York Times happened upon the scene, later accompanying Rose to a women’s health clinic at the family’s request.
Being present when Rose and her family were grappling with the horror of her ordeal offered a firsthand glimpse inside the vulnerability that many Haitians, and particularly women, feel right now. Sleeping in camps, on the street and in yards, many feel themselves at the mercy not only of the elements but of those who prey on others’ misery.
So many cases of rape go unrecorded here that statistics tell only a piece of the story. But existing numbers, from the police or women’s groups, indicate that violence against women has escalated in the months after the Jan. 12 earthquake…
When the police left, Rose rode in the back of a car to a Doctors Without Borders clinic, wincing in pain as it bumped over rutted roads. At the tented clinic, she was instructed to take a seat on a bench…
When Rose was called into an examining tent, she stumbled, woozy from hunger. The nurse gave her a couple of packages of crackers. Rose said, “I don’t have any money for those.” The nurse told her they were free. Rose offered one of the packages to a Times reporter, who declined and left her to be examined privately…
As she emerged, her uncle — whom Rose calls Papa — watched her from a distance, tears streaming down his face.
“Beautiful child, oh beautiful child,” he said. “Look into my eyes and you will know how I feel. When is this all going to end? Haven’t we suffered enough?”
The AP’s Jonathan Katz, who before the January earthquake was the only US correspondent based full-time in Haiti [I wonder how many there are now, nearly six months on?], filed this report Tuesday:
Haiti has made little progress in rebuilding in the five months since its earthquake, because of an absence of leadership, disagreements among donors and general disorganization, a U.S. Senate report says.
Obtained Monday by The Associated Press, the eight-page report is meant to give Congress a picture of Haiti today as U.S. legislators consider authorizing $2 billion to support the country’s reconstruction.
That picture is grim: Millions displaced from their homes, rubble and collapsed buildings still dominating the landscape. Three weeks into hurricane season, with tropical rains lashing the capital daily, construction is being held up by land disputes and customs delays while plans for moving people out of tent-and-tarp settlements remain in “early draft form,” it says.
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.