Haiti: A family torn apart

Odette’s brother turned against her and their mother with devastating consequences. Both women are now in a safe house, away from him and his fellow gangsters

Mario, 29, despises his mother. But it is his sister he would like to see dead. From his prison cell in Haiti’s national penitentiary, he plots her destruction.

“The earthquake changed my brother,” says Odette, her eyes trained to the ground. “He was taking cocaine and hanging out with bad people.”

Odette is subdued, her brow bathed in perspiration. Dressed in a knee-length, green cotton dress, she appears far younger than her 14 years.

Odette’s family moved to the squalid Champ de Mars displacement camp after the January 2010 earthquake took their home, and her father’s life. At night, nine people curled up close on the dirty tent floor and tried to sleep.

“It was not a nice place,” Odette says simply. “We were always falling sick.”

Odette did not know she was pregnant until the morning her mother saw her bathing behind the family tent.

“She said my stomach was big. She wanted to know the name of my boyfriend. When I said nothing, she began to shout. Finally, I had to tell her. ‘Mama,’ I said. ‘It is Mario who has done this terrible thing to me. I was a virgin’.”

When Odette was first referred to the women’s support group Kofaviv, she kept threatening to poison herself.

“We discovered that she had been raped a number of times by her brother,” says Chantal Dumera, director of Kofaviv. “She also had an acute vaginal infection.”

When gang members started to make death threats against Odette and her mother for reporting Mario to the police, Kofaviv found them a room in a safe house.

“She and her mother are away from the gangsters now,” says Chantal. “Her infection has been treated and she has tested negative for HIV. Kofaviv will support her in every way we can, but she is very fragile. She is not coping well at all.”

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