A year after what little they had was shattered and torn, the women of Haiti are struggling against a new crisis — rapes in the camps.
Last January's earthquake not only left behind death and debris fields, it also, say experts, created a rich hunting ground for sexual predators.
“This has been a neglected area in the reconstruction,” Andrew Thompson, Haiti co-ordinator for Amnesty International Canada tells QMI Agency.
With more than one million people still living in tent and makeshift communities around the capital of Port-au-Prince, as well as throughout southern Haiti, armed predators patrol the shadows at night.
A greater police and international presence after dark would be an important step, Thompson adds.
More than 250 cases of rape were reported in several camps in the first 150 days following the disaster that killed 230,000 people.
Now, rape survivors continue to step forward, says an Amnesty International report, Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti's camps.
“Women, already struggling to come to terms with losing their loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the earthquake, now face the additional trauma of living under the constant threat of sexual attack,” says Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International's Haiti researcher.
“For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority. This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis.”
The report says the pre-existing, widespread numbers of attacks have only got worse amid the calamity.
The report includes accounts by more than 50 survivors, including a 14-year-old girl, who lives in the southwest section of the capital.
Last March, she was attacked as she tried to use a public toilet, recalling: “A boy came in after me and opened the door. He gagged me with his hand and did what he wanted to do.
“He hit me. He punched me. I didn't go to the police because I don't know the boy, it wouldn't help. I feel really sad all the time ... I'm afraid it will happen again.”
Officials argue a lingering breakdown of security and order means, unless a response is developed, the rapes will continue amid the shadows.