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Haiti Update: Visiting KOFAVIV: A Refuge for Rape Survivors

On a recent trip by MADRE staff, we visited our partners at KOFAVIV.

KOFAVIV and MADRE have co-founded "The KOFAVIV Women's Center" a refuge that provides essential services for rape survivors. The center has become a critical resource for the women it serves. Women who arrive at the center traumatized by an attack immediately are cared for by KOFAVIV members, who accompany rape survivors to urgent medical care and legal services.

Many of the girls who use the center are orphans and are forced into survival sex to provide themselves with the most basic daily necessities, such as food or a sliver of soap. With even a little support, like a pair of flip flops or the promise of a meal, KOFAVIV is able to pull these girls out of that cycle. KOFAVIV also provides counseling, human rights trainings and arts programming, to help women and girls on the path to rebuilding their lives.

Since the earthquake, Haitian women have faced an epidemic of sexual violence in the displacement camps of Port-au-Prince. Every day, new women who have survived rape arrive at the KOFAVIV Women's Center. Over half of these cases of rape involve girls under the age of 17–the youngest rape survivor we met was 4 years old. Since September, the KOFAVIV Center has treated more than 350rape survivors, and every week, 400 women come for peer-to-peer counseling sessions.

But many obstacles remain. Malya Villard-Appolon, one of the leaders of KOFAVIV, told us that one of the young girls had stopped attending the peer-to-peer counseling sessions. Concerned for her well-being, they sought her out in the displacement camp where she lives. She told them that she had stopped coming to the trainings because she had lost her only pair of shoes and couldn't make the walk to the Center. For other women and girls, the inability to afford the cost of transportation throughout Port-au-Prince keeps them from visiting the center, and KOFAVIV has launched a concerted but difficult effort to help cover these costs.

To help bring their services to women and girls, KOFAVIV is hoping to move more of their workshops into the displacement camps. The plan is to start new workshops in seven camps with 40 girls in each. Eventually, as they grow through the mentorship of KOFAVIV's leaders, these girls will also become role models for other young girls struggling to heal from rape.

Your support helps make KOFAVIV's life-saving services possible – thank you.

Photos from the project:

To learn more about these photos, click on each one for a description.

To read part two of the Haiti work trip update click here. 

This trip was the first for Yifat Susskind as MADRE's new Executive Director. She shared her thoughts and observations with us through the myMADRE blog; a compilation of her blog entries can be found here.