April 2, 2010 Haiti
Update April 2, 2010
With every project we undertake, there is so much to consider. One of the things that, over the years, has weighed heavy on my heart is the huge problem of sexual violence.
Rape in Haiti is not just a product of the aftermath of January’s earthquake, but was prevalent in the country’s history and culture. Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war during times of political crisis. Men were taught to believe that women were to be “repressed, victimized, controlled and overpowered.” Over the years, this problem has escalated. In 2005, rape was criminalized. The key now is to refocus on this issue and punish those who are guilty.
In the tent camps, where there is such overcrowding and insecurity, women and girls are at an even-higher risk of rape than before. It is impossible to adequately police these villages. Women are insecure! This is why those in our yard are sleeping well. They don’t have to panic at nightfall, because they are safe behind locked gates!
Just in Port-au-Prince alone, there are over 1.2 million Haitians crammed into 460 camps. For many, the only thing that separates them from their neighbors is a bed sheet! Others live on the streets with no protection. Remember, too, that more than 4,000 prisoners escaped from the main jail when it toppled. Many men died who once protected these women. Men are frustrated because they have no jobs and take their frustration out on women and young girls. ‘Sex-for-food’ and ‘sex-for-housing’ have become common practices.
Haiti has the worst HIV infection in this part of the world and officials fear the current conditions will only increase the statistics. Radio spots and leaflets tell women how to protect themselves and to report to a medical facility within 72 hours of a rape for emergency treatment.
As I deal with many women, even in our church, who have been victims of rape, I see the great responsibility we have to protect them as we provide temporary housing. We must consider safe spaces for the women and children. We must think seriously about LED street lights. We must step-up police presence outside, as well as inside, the camps, to protect those sleeping there.
It is an awesome responsibility! Ministry to these victims is monumental. Our youth must be protected! Please pray for Terry and me and our staff as we often confront these issues and deal with broken lives because of sexual assault. All of our rebuilding will fail if we ignore these basic human rights.
We must ‘build back better’ in every area of life. Our people must know that Jesus died for this, too. When He said, ‘It is finished’, He meant it! Oh, that they will recognize how much He loved them and how much He understood what they would be forced to endure, and then let Him set them free so they can experience victory!
Thank you for standing with us. Without you on our team, we could not endure. Without your prayers, we would not know the wisdom, strength, health and life we have experienced! Without your financial aid, we could not continue to move forward to protect our people and give them a future!