Things That Matter

U.N. Peacekeepers Coerced Haitians As Young As 11 Into Bearing Their Children, Then Abandoned The Mothers

A new report exposed the unsettling phenomenon of hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers, sent to provide aid to Haiti, fathering children with locals and abandoning them. The report published by The Conversation found that 265 of the 2,500 Haitians surveyed provided accounts of U.N. peacekeepers fathering children.

MINUSTAH is the 13-year stabilization mission in Haiti, set forth by the United Nations following the exile of President Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Haiti has continued to struggle with natural disasters and disease outbreaks (often brought by U.N. peacekeepers themselves). MINUSTAH was intended to stabilize the region. Instead, The Conversation uncovered a chilling pattern of exploitation and sexual misconduct.

U.N. peacekeepers created a culture of coercion.

Some Haitian victims were children as young as 11 — forced into sex, impregnated, then abandoned to raise children in extreme poverty. Others surveyed alluded to sexual violence, but most often women’s conditions made them willing participants out of survival. U.N. peacekeepers would exchange “small amounts” of food and money for sex.

“All day, I heard women who are complaining about the sexual violence that MINUSTAH did to them. And they had given them AIDS through sexual violence. There are also some of them who are pregnant,” a participant said.

What is astounding about the research is that the survey, led by Professor Sabine Lee of the University of Birmingham and Susan Bartels a clinician-scientist at Queen’s University in Ontario, was not intended to be about sexual assault or relations at all. The pattern was so common, the Haitian locals would bring it up of their own volition, according to the Washington Post

“They come, they sleep with the women, they take their pleasures with them, they leave children in their hands, give them 500 gourdes,” one man told the researchers. 

The abandonment of children fathered with Haitian women was rampant.

“I see a series of females 12 and 13 years old here. MINUSTAH impregnated and left them in misery with babies in their hands. The person has already had to manage a stressful, miserable life,” a woman from Cité Soleil said

Many of the people interviewed suggested that once it was discovered that the men had impregnated a person, they were moved to a different station or repatriated in their home countries. These children were left with young mothers who often can’t even afford to send them to school. In some cases, women would be forced into sex work to support their babies. 

“He left her in misery because when he used to have sex with her it was for little money, now his term reaches its end, he goes and leaves her in misery, and then now she has to redo the same process so she can provide meals to her child, can’t you understand,” a Port-au-Prince man said.

The U.N. responds to the allegations in the report.

The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations said it would take the claims in the report seriously.

“We have unfortunately seen cases involving MINUSTAH peacekeepers over the past years, although allegations have been generally declining since 2013,” the statement said. “Our approach puts the rights and dignity of victims at the forefront of its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.”

The Washington Post notes that the U.N. has received 116 sexual misconduct allegations since 2007 regarding Haitian peacekeepers. On record, 29 peacekeepers have been implicated in fathering 32 children with 26 women. Lee and Bartels feel that the nature of sending foreigners with more social and economic capital into regions with extreme poverty is a recipe for exploitation. 

In many cases, the power differential between foreign peacekeepers and local populations allows foreigners, knowingly or unknowingly, to exploit local women and girls,” Lee and Bartels wrote. “The prevalence of transactional sex in our data underscores the significance of the structural imbalances – peacekeepers have access to some of the resources that are desired or needed by the local population and so they are in a strong position to exchange those for sex.”

The researchers and advocates are hoping the revelations in the study lead to justice for Haitian women who simply cannot afford to take legal action, if they wanted to seek out child support, against foreign peacekeepers who are citizens of entirely different nations. 

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ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

Things That Matter

ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

According to the Texas Tribune, the key witness in the ongoing sexual assault investigation at an ICE detention center has been deported. She was previously being held at a Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas.

While the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General initially forbid ICE from deporting her, the office apparently reversed their decision on Monday. According to reports, the office determined that “further interviews could be done over the phone”.

via Getty Images

According to previous reports, the unidentified 35-year-old woman alleged that guards had “forcibly kissed” her and touched her on the private parts.

Documents, which were extensively reported on by ProPublica, described the harassment as a “pattern and practice” at this particular detention center.

The woman also alleges that the guards would attempt to extort sexual favors from her and other detainees when they were returning from the medical unit back to her barrack. One guard allegedly told her that he would help get her released “if she behaved”.

The unnamed woman reported the harrasment to her lawyers who then filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The DHS then opened an investigation into the ICE Detention Center in El Paso.

The FBI has, since then, interviewed the woman extensively. According to documents, the woman gave investigators a tour of the facility where she showed them where the alleged harassment took place–in what were identified as security camera “blind spots”.

According to her, the guard told her that if she reported him, “No one would believe her”.

via Getty Images

Since the woman made these accusations, at least two other women at the same detention center came forward with similar claims. One of these women has already been deported.

According to previous reports, the unnamed woman accusing ICE officials of sexual assault was being held at the El Paso detention center for a drug-related crime and illegally entering the country. She claims she initially fled Mexico after a cartel member sexually assaulted and threatened her.

While ICE says that they have “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody”, the reality is much bleaker.

According to the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, ICE has had 14,700 complaints filed against them between 2010 and 2016 alleging sexual and/or physical abuse.

In the most recent statistics available, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault in 2018. Forty-eight of those were substantiated by the agency and 29 were still pending an investigation. According to Freedom for Immigrants, only a fraction of these complaints are investigated by the Office of Inspector General.

The woman’s lawyer, Linda Corchado, has not been shy about expressing her displeasure over her client’s deportation.

“[The government] allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”

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Daisy Coleman, The High School Sexual Assault Survivor Featured In A Netflix Documentary, Has Died By Suicide

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Daisy Coleman, The High School Sexual Assault Survivor Featured In A Netflix Documentary, Has Died By Suicide

Netflix

In 2016, Netflix debuted the heartwrenching documentary Audrie & Daisy a film that examined the tragic experiences of two high school students. Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman were two teens at the time of their sexual assaults. Both women were subjected to cyberbullying and abuse after their assaults and forced to heal with little support. But soon after her assault, Audrie Pott was driven to suicide by hanging.

The film showed that Coleman also struggled with suicide ideation after the assault.

Four years after the film’s debut, Coleman (who had become a sexual assault victim advocate) has died by suicide.

In a post to her Facebook page on Tuesday, Coleman’s mother shared the news: “My daughter Catherine Daisy Coleman committed suicide tonight,” Melinda Coleman wrote. “If you saw crazy messages and posts it was because I called the police to check on her. She was my best friend and amazing daughter. I think she had to make it seem like I could live without her. I can’t. I wish I could have taken the pain from her! She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone.”

At the time of her assault, Coleman was 14 years old. She was sexually assaulted by a high schooler named Matthew Barnett and was dumped outside of her home wearing only a T-shirt in the dead of winter. The documentary film said Coleman had been left behind in sub-freezing temperatures and that her hair had stuck to the ground.

Barnett was eventually subjected to a felony sexual assault charge for what he did to Coleman but the charge was later dropped.

After, Coleman became a target for bullying.

Filmmakers followed Coleman for two years watching the ways in which Coleman and members of her family were subjected to the trauma of her assault.

“I definitely feel like people have certain views and perceptions about me and about cases like this because they’re uneducated,” then-19-year-old Coleman told People in a 2017 interview. “That’s exactly why I’m going out and trying to educate people on what’s going on in our society.”

Speaking about her experience, Coleman said that she didn’t hold any animosity against her attacker. “I honestly don’t have any vindictive feelings toward him,” Coleman told People. “I feel like all of that negativity that he put onto me was passed down to him at one point, so I felt the need to stop that kind of transaction of negativity and hate… I went through a lot of years of self-loathing and asking myself, Why me? So much ‘woe is me’… I just decided one day that I was done being negative about it. I needed to forgive myself for what happened.”

In 2017, Coleman worked to help others from being subjected to sexual violence for the national campaign SafeBAE — Safe Before Anyone Else.

If you or someone you know might be considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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