Abstract: Household Characteristics Associated With Human Rights Victimization in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

134P Household Characteristics Associated With Human Rights Victimization in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Saturday, January 16, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Ryan B. Hertz, MSW , Wayne State University, Researcher, Detroit, MI
Athena R. Kolbe, MSW , University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Doctoral Student, Ann Arbor, MI
Royce A. Hutson, PhD , Wayne State University, Assistant Professor, Detroit, MI
Bart W. Miles, PhD , Wayne State University, Assistant Professor, Detroit, MI
Eileen Trzcinski, PhD , Wayne State University, Professor, Detroit, MI
Background: In 2004, the democratically elected Haitian government of President Aristide was overthrown, and an interim government was established. Shortly thereafter, the Haitian National Police and United Nations Mission and Intervention in Haiti (MINUSTAH) began collaborating to provide security for the interim government. Kolbe and Hutson (2006) reported an estimated 8,000 murders and 35,000 rapes and sexual assaults in Port-au-Prince during the twenty-two months following the coup-de-tat. Their findings regarding reported perpetrators establish a pattern of abuse at the hands of armed forces under the command of the interim government, as well as actors affiliated with anti-Lavalas militias and political parties.

This secondary analysis examines the most violent human rights abuses Kolbe and Hutson reported—physical assaults, sexual assaults, and murders—in relation to the political conflict and socioeconomic strife during this period. It assesses the applicability of social disorganization and conflict theory frameworks to the pattern of documented abuses that occurred during the months the interim government was in power.

Methods: Kolbe and Hutson collected the data set utilized in this secondary analysis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti during December of 2005 using random GPS coordinate sampling within the boundaries of the greater Port-au-Prince area. 1,260 households (comprised of 5720 individuals) were interviewed regarding their demographics and household members' experiences with human rights violations between February 29, 2004 and December 2005.

Bivariate statistical methods were used to examine associations between social disorganization indicators at the household level—including lower income, unemployment, and other indicators of poverty, as well as residential mobility and exposure to community violence—and having reported one or more instances of human rights victimization within the household. Bivariate tests were also used to determine whether political affiliation and level of income increased likelihood of victimization perpetrated by specific political actors.

Results: Findings revealed that physical and sexual assault victims were disproportionately members of lower-income households, lived in comparatively substandard housing, had greater difficulty accessing food, and had higher rates of exposure to community violence than non-victims.

The Haitian National Police, foreign soldiers, and other government forces disproportionately assaulted members of Lavalas and Lespwa affiliated households, as well as members of lower-income households. The demobilized army, armed anti-Lavalas groups, and their partisans did not appear to be as politically driven in their assaults as government forces, but still tended to assault members of lower-income households. Additionally, murders in which political actors were identified as the perpetrator were disproportionately committed against members of Lavalas or Lespwa affiliated households.

Implications: The study concludes that most—but not all—social disorganization factors tested were applicable to the pattern of human rights abuses documented in the initial survey, and that conflict theory was an appropriate framework for analyzing human rights violations in which forces under the command of the interim government were identified as perpetrators. These findings highlight serious implications for civilian populations in post-conflict areas where foreign powers have interfered with democratically elected governments.