This past Friday, one of nine remaining tents in one of Port-au-Prince’s better camps went to a 33-year-old mother of five whose 10-year-old daughter had been raped and molested by at least three different men on three separate occasions in another camp. I happened to be there reporting another story so after, I went to find this woman. I’ll call her Marie.
My translator’s face froze at a few points during the interview, which lasted about 45 minutes. Marie’s daughter was bright and cheery, giggling while taking pictures of her younger brothers and sisters with my digicam (it was upside down most of the time) while us four adults sat cross-legged on the ground. After a bit of chit-chat I asked the fourth adult, a male member of the camp committee who showed us to the tent, to leave. No fuss displayed but I’d basically come into someone’s house, his camp, and asked him to scram. My translator went outside to smooth that over. On his return, alone, Marie sat up and started talking like I’d flipped a switch.
In my mind, her story is a stand-in for those of the mothers of another camp, Tapis Rouge, where a woman leader said in reply to my direct question, “There’s no rape but a lot of our teen girls are pregnant.”
The first man that “wasted” Marie’s daughter (her word, not the translator’s) was a friend. Of the three it is this violation of trust along with her child’s body, that hurts most.
The man would ask her, because he has a baby too and he has a tent. He said could you send your daughter to watch my baby, I’m going to be stepping out for a few minutes. She found that, it was no problem. She would send the daughter to go watch and he would lay her down and have sex with her.
Marie found the second man, a 22-year-old, fingering her daughter.
When she saw that, she hold on to him and then got him arrested. Put him to jail.
The man was released and returned to the same camp, near the airport. Marie needed papers to certify that this man had indeed molested her daughter. At one point, Marie said a doctor had the papers. In the same sentence, she said they were being prepared. I did not follow up on these details.
Flore encountered the third man when she went to the restroom one day. She never came back.
When she came back, the mom was going to beat her because she came back so late. The daughter ran to a neighbor’s tent and stayed there. The next day the mother came back, got her daughter and checked her daughter and she said her inside was so… she said, open. And then she asked the daughter, what happened to you? And the daughter said, while I went to the bathroom there was this man that held me and had sex with me.
Marie checked her daughter, she said, because of how Flore looked when she went into the neighbor’s tent. She just knew. Flore allowed her mother to look between her legs but refused to say what happened to her. She talked however, after Marie took a machete to her throat and threatened to slit it. When I asked why, Marie said, I wanted her to say the truth. My translator emphasized, say.
By now, the camp–where other “incidents” have been occurring, Marie said–knows what is going on. She presumed that “the organization people…couldn’t handle this situation anymore.” On Friday, someone told her that she was to be moved right away.** That is how she came to be here, sitting this rainy evening in a proper tent–not flyaway blue sheets nailed to rough wood poles–with a thin blanket for a sleeping area and enough boxes of MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) to feed her children for two maybe three weeks.
Marie feels now like she is “living” but doesn’t know if she will stay in this place. She hustles. After the earthquake, which killed the father of her children (all her children, she emphasized early on) Marie sold small bottles of mayo, oil and butter on busy sidewalks. Out here, she doesn’t know how she will make any money. There’s nothing around for miles except for other displaced families.
Flore was supposed to take a shot, Marie said, but too many days had passed between the rape in question and the doctor’s visit. She couldn’t have the shot anymore. What the shot was, or its purpose, Marie said the doctors never told her. Next, doctors prescribed medication to Flore. However Marie doesn’t make enough money to feed her five children. She never filled the prescription.
Flore is outside in the rain with my camera. Some of the pictures are clear.
**Editor’s note: It’s likely that the doctor who examined Flore had friends in high places. Those 10 tents were reserved, I was told, especially for the most extreme cases. It’s possible that the shot Flore was supposed to take within a certain time period after being raped was ARVs for HIV prevention.