Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month it's only right we as Haitians address rape culture within Haitian Culture. In a past blog titled: Restavek Girls & Rape Culture. We discussed how Haitians use victim blaming to avoid speaking up against patriarchal domination that often oppresses women and girls. Because this domination is normalized rape occurs and is treated like an open secret hence restavek girls given the awful label, “la pou sa” meaning “there for THAT” and the “THAT” means rape. In Haitian culture we do speak to our young children about safe touch and who is allowed access to your body i.e. parents, doctors, babysitters etc. HOWEVER, what isn't discussed is who could be a sexual abuser, children having the choice to protect their bodies, and secure support given to children if they do experience violation.
For example, in the U.S. 93% of people who commit sexual assaults are known to their victims. And across the board regardless of culture and country the statistic remains high when speaking of sexual predators being known to their victims. As well as sexual crimes are crimes that are heavily under reported. Being known to a victim isn't just a pastor, teacher, friend or coach. Being known means FAMILY MEMBERS as well. This is what makes sexual assault so gripping because often times than not it's not 'Stranger Danger.' (A stranger who has the intent on acting out insidious behaviors by manipulating a child they do not know. Examples of this are a stranger asking a child to help him find his missing dog. Offering children treats if they go off with him or her. A stranger telling a child that s/he has something special for the child if said child does an act etc.) What we have been told in childhood growing up in the U.S., is false. In actuality it's probably an uncle, brother, cousin, aunt etc.
In Haitian Culture we don't know the facts of sexual assault because we don't speak about sexual assault. Sex in general is very taboo and is reserved for husbands and wives even though out of wedlock children happens frequently and men having a wife and girlfriend(s) other is a long standing Haitian male stereotype. When parents don't take the time to know the facts and vet people based on their character these predators are able to manipulate a situation to their advantage and yes, this includes molesting a child. Too often in Haitian Culture we leave the gate open for predators to prey on our children by assuming a person is good because said person appears to have a good reputation or because a person is a Christian or because a person has money. All these things can be a facade just to gain a parent's trust to ultimately get access to their child to do whatever s/he wants to.
I remember growing up in the U.S. (I'm Haitian American) when my mother would tell me to "Saluer" so and so. It wasn't an option it was a demand. I had to embrace a person that I may or may not know. Someone I may not have felt comfortable with because in Haitian Culture children are here to save face for their parents and politeness sometimes has the blurry lines of heteronomy. Meaning, Haitian parents many times have the mentality of forcing their children onto an adult because the norm is to appease adults even if the child's comparability is sacrificed. A child does not have the right to speak up for themselves and say I don't want to kiss so and so on the cheek. I don't know so and so and kissing strangers makes me feel awkward. If a Haitian child were to speak those words to his or her parents whether in front of or behind the stranger's back the child should expect a thorough tongue-lashing if s/he is lucky. At worse there will be some type of physical assault from pinching to slapping. In Haitian Culture children do not own their bodies. Their bodies belong to their parents and their parents frequently misuse it to save face.
Once after a Kingdom Hall service with my mother, I had to be about 11 or 12 there was a Sister my mother was engaging in conversation with. I didn't really know her. In fact I was going to this Kingdom Hall location for the majority of my life and I had no interest in the religion or the people who were devout followers or presented themselves as devout followers. The Sister was ogling me, sizing me up and telling my mother how much I have grown. Uncomfortably, I gave her a weak smirk as to say thanks but let's keep this examination short. Then out of nowhere this woman grabbed my breast. In the middle of a public space this woman I did NOT know from a can of paint put her hand on my young breast in front of my mother. Humiliated was an understatement. I felt so violated. But that wasn't what irked me. It was the fact my Haitian mother was there and saw what happened and didn't at least thoroughly, clearly and concisely let the Sister know that touching me was a violation that she didn't take lightly. Instead my mother smiled that fraudulent Haitian adult smile of faking the funk and acted like nothing happened. When we left I was obviously angered. When I brought up to my mother the fact that she didn't say anything to the Sister and that she should have, my mother dismissed it as it was “No big deal.” I couldn't conquer her opinion of “No big deal.” So to me it felt like a defeat that my own Haitian mother felt that this behavior was tolerable.
In Haitian Culture shaming is creatively sowed into the social structure. Legit, if someone is "San wont" THAT is shamed because having shame is normalized. When speaking of rape, there is a good chance the victim will be shamed by their family and village before the actual perpetrator will face accountability especially if the perpetrator is male and if he is of status. The victim will be asked what did SHE do to cause the perpetrator to rape her instead of rallying behind her against the perpetrator. Again, saving face is heavily embedded in Haitian Culture which stems from fragility. The reason why fragility and hypersensitivity to any critiques on Haitian people, culture, history etc exists is due to the negative press Haiti has gotten ever since 1804 when the tiny island became the first Black nation to overthrow their European oppressor France which was deemed to be the U.S. Military of its time.
We see this same victim shaming structure when it comes to outsiders violating Haitian women and girls like the UN peacekeepers soldiers who have over a 100 rape allegations by native Haitian women. Some of these women have given birth to UN peacekeepers solider's children whether by choice or by force. Abortion is illegal in Haiti so their isn't much of an option to terminate a pregnancy safely and to come back to a village with the stigmatization of 'rape victim' makes it almost impossible for women rape victims to continue their lives. They either face ostrasization. Their male counterparts no longer have interest in them or view them as 'ruined goods' (In Haitian Culture there is a high value on virginity and purity. Rape is seen as the opposite of pure). And the women treat them as nuisances, something to stay away from all the while gossiping about what might have happened during the rape. This fuels the cycle in Haitian culture of keeping rape a secret and keeping rape reports significantly low if they're being accurately documented and preserved in the first place.
AJ+ video The UN In Haiti:
For child victims this reality isn't much of a difference. Because rape isn't seen as an act of non-consensual sex. The victim isn't believed to be without shame and therefore guiltless. In a large majority of minds, the victim had played a part in their rape even if the victim is a child. It isn't a surprised to hear well that girl acts 'fast.' Well what was she doing hanging out with those teenage boys? Oh he must be gay, why else would a man rape him? When a victim hears that from his or her secure support system s/he will not speak up. S/he will take her assault to the grave not because s/he doesn't want justice but because s/he doesn't want to be re-victimized by ignorant comments or ostrasized as if s/he has an airborne disease. And in a country as tiny as Haiti, news travel fast and in every city negative news travels faster than positive news so sharing his or her story of being raped could become the village's gossip for the next few weeks. Let's also not forget rape kits are hardly heard of in Haiti and with a corrupt government seeking justices is laughable in a situation that's no laughing matter.
So where does this leave 72% of Haitian Girls? Victimized. To stop the cycle of rape culture we must address not only the rapist and those who support them but the systems that allow rape to occur. Above I mention certain Haitian practices in Haitian Culture that perpetuates rape. People who partake in these customs are not necessarily rapist or rape supporters. They are people who engage in activities that they sincerely believed was innocent but with further insight we see the errors that these practices leave for the possibility of sexual assault. To become the best we can, we need to be able to take new information with an open mind and a flexible structure. To save our girls we need to be able to look at the hard truths and change the circumstances that give leeway for our girls to become victims. In the words of Nas, “Read more, learn more, change the globe.” Click HERE to watch my interview with public access television discussing Rape culture in Haitian Culture and the resources available for victims.
If you Missed Last Week's Blog: Why Are Black Girls Missing? click HERE.
Have you checked out the book trailer for MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN CHILD coming this summer in hard copy? Today we're at part 29. I discuss the birth of my cousin and the toxicity in my family. Click HERE to watch.
Follow: vieis_me Instagram page for snippets from Tuesday's livestreams at 8pm eastern on Facebook Page Author Vie Ciné where we discuss whatever you want to. No subject is off topic from sexual trauma, mental health, celebrities, politics etc.
Miss the last livestream click HERE to watch snippets.
Follow: MEMOIRSOFAFORGOTTENCHILD Instagram page for exclusive reads from and updates for MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN CHILD.
I'll leave you with a personal quote of mine, "It's imperative that these acts of wrongdoings do not continue unchecked for it is our children who pay the highest cost." - Vie Ciné
As Iyanla Vanzant says, "I am not my sister's keep, I am my sister."
New Subscribers will get a FREE ebook titled 10 Tips To Detect A Pedophile.
It's a MUST READ for parents and caregivers!
Purchase MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN CHILD now on Amazon Kindle: HERE or in the STORE page.
Be Blessed. Be Enlightened. Be Loved. ✌🏿