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Haiti's Forgotten Victims

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Ben James Ben James | 10:59 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The WHYS team took this picture of the Terrain Acra camp on our last visit in April 2010

This topic was discussed on World Have Your Say on 22 March 2011. Listen to the programme.

This blog post was written by the WHYS team in Haiti and posted by Ben J in London.

It's hard to imagine what it must be like - in the space of 45 seconds - to lose your home, perhaps some of your family and definitely some of your friends.

Harder still to imagine spending the next 14 months (and counting) in a tented-camp with thousands of other people and with only a sheet or tarpaulin separating you from the Caribbean sun.

For many of the 800,000 living in the tented camps around Port au Prince, being vulnerable and fearful is a way of life.

Gangs of men roam around and prey on and sexually assault the girls and women.

Few of these rapes are reported and even fewer end in the perpetrators being brought to justice through the courts.

When WHYS visited the Terrain Acra camp to broadcast just under a year ago, we stayed in touch with many of the 'residents' and they told us that an even bigger threat to their well-being than having their homes bulldozed and washed away was sexual violence.

To discuss the issue is difficult for several reasons: the subject itself is enormously distressing; if people want to tell their story they can't do it in the environment where the crimes occured; many of the victims do not speak English; some are too young to talk at all.

Kay Fanm - one of the grassroots women's organisations - estimate that 72% of Haitian women living in the camps have been raped.

Many of those who come forward for help have been raped 4,5,6 times, many of these were brutal assaults that required hospitalisation and surgery.

Rape has a long, shameful history in Haiti, used for decades as a tool of political suppression during the instability.

The country had one of the worse reputations in the world for sexual and domestic violence targeted at women, even before the earthquake in January 2010.

The only women's refuge in Port au Prince - KOFAVIV - has kindly allowed WHYS to use a communal area there to discuss the issue with you.

If three-quarters of the women in your country had been raped, it would be a national scandal. Why isn't it here?

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