The experience of violence against children in domestic servitude in Haiti: Results from the Violence Against Children Survey, Haiti 2012

Leah Gilbert, Avid Reza, James Mercy, Veronica Lea, Juliette Lee, Likang Xu, Louis Herns Marcelin, Marisa Hast, John Vertefeuille, Jean Wysler Domercant

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14 Scopus citations


Background There have been estimates that over 150,000 Haitian children are living in servitude. Child domestic servants who perform unpaid labor are referred to as “restavèks.” Restavèks are often stigmatized, prohibited from attending school, and isolated from family placing them at higher risk for experiencing violence. In the absence of national data on the experiences of restavèks in Haiti, the study objective was to describe the sociodemographic characteristics of restavèks in Haiti and to assess their experiences of violence in childhood. Methods The Violence Against Children Survey was a nationally representative, cross-sectional household survey of 13–24 year olds (n = 2916) conducted May–June 2012 in Haiti. A stratified three-stage cluster design was used to sample households and camps containing persons displaced by the 2010 earthquake. Respondents were interviewed to assess lifetime prevalence of physical, emotional, and sexual violence occurring before age 18. Chi-squared tests were used to assess the association between having been a restavèk and experiencing violence in childhood. Findings In this study 17.4% of females and 12.2% of males reported having been restavèks before age 18. Restavèks were more likely to have worked in childhood, have never attended school, and to have come from a household that did not have enough money for food in childhood. Females who had been restavèks in childhood had higher odds of reporting childhood physical (OR 2.04 [1.40–2.97]); emotional (OR 2.41 [1.80–3.23]); and sexual violence (OR 1.86 [95% CI 1.34–2.58]) compared to females who had never been restavèks. Similarly, males who had ever been restavèks in childhood had significantly increased odds of emotional violence (OR 3.06 [1.99–4.70]) and sexual violence (OR 1.85 [1.12–3.07]) compared to males who had never been restavèks, but there was no difference in childhood physical violence. Interpretation This study demonstrates that child domestic servants in Haiti experience higher rates of childhood violence and have less access to education and financial resources than other Haitian children. These findings highlight the importance of addressing both the lack of human rights law enforcement and the poor economic circumstances that allow the practice of restavèk to continue in Haiti.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-193
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Child domestic servitude
  • Haiti
  • Restavek
  • Violence against children
  • Violence against children survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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