Written by Stephen J. Boss.
NEWS WORTHY NEWS / DE COUTUREKRANT – JANUARY 23, 2023 – CITÉ SOLEIL, HAITI – When Mamaille stares up at the ceiling of her hut at night, she can see the sky through the many bullet holes made in the metal roof after last summer’s gang fighting in Haiti. She imagines her daughter there. I think maybe her soul is in heaven, and then I start crying,” says Mamael, a rape survivor. Sometimes I fall asleep crying so I don’t have to know. “
She is one of the victims supported by a Catholic nun, Sister Paisi, who has opened several schools and orphanages in some of the poorest areas of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Gang violence also affected devout Christians involved in missions, as she raised her four children alone after their father disappeared months earlier. Mamael, 39, said she never found out if he was murdered or simply ran away from the endless violence, she told The New York Times.
Now she has found a way to get at least one of her children out of the hell of Cité Soleil, a slum in perhaps the poorest part of Port-au-Prince. Criminals fighting for land have seized all the escape route from the country’s largest slum is besieged, a jumble of slums and dilapidated buildings in the capital, the New York Times reported. Armed men went door to door, burning homes and killing residents whom they considered loyal to their enemies. On the ground and the charred and mutilated corpses piling up in the sun – those nightmares are well captured. People shared photos of the latest gang victims in their WhatsApp chat groups,” the New York Times wrote.
Survival seemed to be easier for the wealthy, who hired bodyguards and traveled in armored vehicles. But violence also haunted them: often armed men pulled people out of the safest cars in broad daylight. Kidnapping for ransom has become one of the main activities in Haiti.
After making several escape attempts, one day it became known that the nun was willing to move school children out of the slums to a safer area. Hundreds of students gathered at a local church, waiting for her. Among them was the 17-year-old daughter of Mamael, who was in the school uniform.
But Sister Pacey did not turn up because of the violence that had broken out that day – and so Mamael and her daughter returned home, their dreams of a better life dashed again. Just before they reached their home, automatic gunfire erupted and Mamael saw her daughter fall facedown in the dirt. “I saw that my daughter was shot,” Mamael said. “I felt the pain you feel when you give birth to a baby.”
When she took her daughter to the clinic, the girl was already dead and her blue skirt and yellow blouse were soaked in blood. “I lost my daughter, and I lost my heart,” Mamael told the New York Times. “I lost my whole life.”
After leaving her daughter’s dead body in the clinic, Mamael roamed the streets, screaming in misery. Her cries must have caught the attention of gang members lurking nearby, for suddenly, Mamael says, a group of men with weapons appeared. They dragged her behind a house and raped her one by one. She said there were eight of them, and they beat her up before she left.
“I’d rather die,” said Mamael, weeping softly, “because when you die it’s over; it’s over.” “You never think about what happened to you.”
Mamael is not her full name. Worthy News & News Partner De Couturekrant usually does not publish the full names of sexual assault victims unless they mention it themselves. The next day, Sister Paisi reached the edge of Mamail and said she eventually helped evacuate hundreds of children and take them to shelters in the city.
The nun has seen so much death and pain in Haiti. But what happened to Mamael and her daughter, she says, made her feel helpless more than anything else. The woman is now assisted by Sister Pacey, whose full name is Claire Phillip. In one of her centers, the nun took care of dozens of women and girls who had been raped or threatened by gang members.
So many women fled Cité Soleil that Sister Paisi no longer had a place to house them, so she began renting homes in safer neighborhoods to rape victims. “When the boys in the gang tell them they love them, they run for their lives,” said the nun.
This is because the government has ceded more power to armed groups who have begun annexing vast new settlements – and carrying out kidnappings and extortion on a massive scale. “They weren’t as self-sufficient then as they are now,” said Reginald Delva, a Haitian security adviser, referring to the country’s gangs.
According to UN researchers, rape has become the gangs’ weapon of choice to further intimidate the local population.
However, Mamaille goes to one of Sister Paesie’s nearby schools for rice and cooking oil or goes to churches to beg for money. She collects rainwater and mixes it into a chlorine tablet to purify it enough to drink.
“Sometimes I go three days without being able to feed my children and myself,” she says. Despite this, it looks up at the night sky through the vents of its metal roof.
The nun has seen so much pain and grief in Haiti…
Sister Pacey captures scores of women and girls who have been raped or threatened by gang members…