Haiti Made Me Do It

An American journalist's claim that her experiences in Haiti led her to seek out violent sex is the latest example of foreigners blaming the country for their personal problems.

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What’s galling is that even as she uses Haiti as a vehicle to write about her post-traumatic stress disorder — I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she’s being honest about having PTSD after two weeks in Haiti — she turns Haitians’ very real suffering into the source of her sexual fetishes. She does this by describing rapes by marauding, “gang-raping monsters” in the tent camps that house homeless earthquake victims.

Rapes at the camps are indeed a tragic reality of postearthquake Haiti, but she paints a picture of Haiti as the site of collective male wilding. Never mind that she’s only talking about the capital, which before the earthquake had some 3 million residents, and not the entire country of 10 million. 

I’m betting that this self-promotion-as-therapy angle will get her a book deal in no time because, after all, there aren’t enough books out there written by white journalists “undone by black people’s tragedies,” as one friend put it. McClelland complains about “the shocking lack of sympathy I got from some industry people I talked to about my breakdown … ” It’s hard to feel sympathy for someone who seems so skilled at placing herself at the center of attention. She writes of covering the Gulf oil disaster: “I was having a weepy little fit because a white oil-spill worker threatened to lynch any black oil-spill worker who hit on me.” 

I believe that McClelland has real problems; I’m just not convinced that they have to do with Haiti or other trouble spots she has covered, as much as they have to do with mental issues she brought with her to Haiti. She says of her agreeably violent, good sport of an ex-boyfriend, Isaac, who punched her during sex: “We’d done this sort of thing before.” I’m betting the other times had nothing to do with Haiti.

She says that a Haitian man who propositioned her for sex 87 times (Really? Did she actually keep count?) finally got her attention when he suggested, “We can do this at gunpoint if that sells it for you.” She writes: “And actually, it did, yeah.” Alas, the gun had no safety lock, so she changed her mind. I wonder if this scenario occurred before, during or after the time she was in the throes of PTSD.

In more than two decades of witnessing and chronicling all manner of violence and sadness in Haiti, I’ve been outraged, frustrated, depressed, traumatized — you name it. I never once felt the need to be the voluntary victim of violent sexual assault as a mental salve or the need to unload all my burdens at Haiti’s feet. When I couldn’t handle things, I went home to the States and decompressed, saw a psychologist. When I felt better, I went back and went about the business of covering Haiti.