By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator
Though rape is a longstanding problem in Haiti, sexual violence has increased drastically since 2010’s tragic earthquake. Thousands of people still live in crowded makeshift tent cities, and women are extremely vulnerable to the often armed men who roam the camps at night. Amnesty International reports that over 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake; there is no doubt that hundreds more rapes remain unreported.
Based on her experience as a two-time rape survivor, Malya Villard-Appolong, along with Eramithe Delva, established KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims) in 2004 to address the medical and psychological needs of rape survivors. Since the earthquake, Villard-Appolong and her group have helped more than 1,400 women. KOFAVIV innovatively improves safety in the camps by organizing nighttime community watch groups, providing cell phones, whistles and flashlights to camp residents and offering safety trainings. The organization also partners with Haitian lawyers to pursue cases, advocates for safer conditions and works for a reconstruction process that respects women’s rights.