Anorak News | Mac McClelland’s Haiti Rape Becomes A Satire

Mac McClelland’s Haiti Rape Becomes A Satire

by | 5th, July 2011

WHEN she was in Haiti to report on life after the earthquake, Mother Jones writer Mac McClelland spent time with Sybille, a woman who alleged she’d been raped.

The alleged victim and the journalist went to the hospital. McClellend alleges that the surgeon who performed reconstructive surgery on the woman told her she was a slut and had had it coming. Back in the car, Sybille saw one of the men who had, allegedly, raped her. Sybille went into “a full paroxysm – wailing and flailing in terror, screaming with her eyes rolling in abject terror”. This was McClellenad’s first day in Haiti. She wrote, reporting for Good:

Last September, the first time I went to Haiti, I spent my first day out accompanying a rape victim we’ll call Sybille to the hospital. The way her five attackers had maimed her in addition to sexually violating her was unspeakable. The way the surgeon who was going to try to reconstruct the damage yelled at her, telling her she’d got what was coming to her because she was a slut, was unconscionable. And the way Sybille went into a full paroxysm when we were on the way back to the post-quake tarp city she lived in was the worst thing I ever saw in my life. We were sitting in traffic and saw one of her rapists, and she started just SCREEEAMING a few inches away from my face, her eyes wide and rolling in abject terror.

Rape is rife in Haiti.

Rates of sexual and domestic violence against women and girls in Haiti are among the highest in the world. In the days after the earthquake, a Swiss doctor, Olivier Hagon, told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps that he treated a young girl, no older than 12, for vaginal tears after she had been pulled out from under the rubble and then raped by her rescuer.McClelland, 31 and unmarried, was affected, Deeply. She developed post-traumatic stress. She became obsessed with rape. She crabbed violent sex. She wanted to experience it. She told a therapist, who advised trying it out with someone she trusted.

Rape pre-dates the earthquake survivors living in camps:

Rape has always carried a certain level of impunity in Haiti. Even the concept of rape is often limited to young victims.

”The adult women, they don’t consider it rape,” Jeanty said. “There is this mentality that if you’re not a virgin, it’s not a rape.”

By Haitian law, rape is considered a crime against honor — a squandering of virginity that can often be settled with a payment to the victim’s family.

So. McClelland had experienced rape at second hand  in a place where rape is far from uncommon. McClelland, 31 and unmarried, was affected, Deeply. She developed post-traumatic stress. She became obsessed with rape. She craved violent sex. She wanted to experience it. She told a therapist, who advised trying it out with someone she trusted. So. She did. And she wrote about it:

When I got out from under him and started to scramble away, he simply caught me by a leg or an upper arm or my hair and dragged me back. By the time he pinned me by my neck with one forearm so I was forced to use both hands to free up space between his elbow and my windpipe, I’d largely exhausted myself. And just like that, I’d lost. It’s what I was looking for, of course. But my body – my hard-fighting, adrenaline-drenched body – reacted by exploding into terrible panic. The comforting but debilitating blanket of tension that’d for weeks been wrapped around my chest solidified into a brick. Then the weight of his body, and of the inevitability of my defeat, descended on my ribcage. My worn-out muscles went so taut that they ached. I stopped breathing.”


“I did not enjoy it in the way a person getting screwed normally would. But as it became clear that I could endure it, I started to take deeper breaths. And my mind stayed there, stayed present even when it became painful, even when he suddenly smothered me with a pillow, not to asphyxiate me but so that he didn’t break my jaw when he drew his elbow back and slammed his fist into my face. Two, three, four times. My body felt devastated but relieved; I’d lost, but survived. After he climbed off me, he gathered me up in his arms. I broke into a thousand pieces on his chest, sobbing so hard that my ribs felt like they were coming loose.”

Is it rape if you know it is coming and have booked the rapist and can make it stop at any time?

We can debate that.

One thing, however, is certain: McClelland is now famous. She is on ABC. She says:

“I was not crazy. It was a way for me to deal in sort of a simulated, but controlled situation. I could say stop’ at any time. But it was still awful, and the body doesn’t understand when it’s in a fight.”

That point is valid. When this writer was being waterboarded for a story, he reacted as a prisoner would. He panicked.

McClelland will take a lot of flack for her rape story. But what her rape story really achieves is to give the media a chance to write about the media.

Marjorie Valbrun takes up the challenge of talking about McClelland in Slate:

McClelland, who covered Haiti for Mother Jones, has provided us with yet another clichéd, egocentric article about documenting unimaginably terrible things experienced by powerless, broken, poor people who are victimized on a regular basis. But here’s the rub, we get a mere few lines about the pain experienced by a Haitian rape victim named “Sybille” but a long screed about McClelland’s pain, albeit with the provocative spin of needing violent sex to cure her of all that ails her. Sybille’s violent rape feeds McClelland’s need to feel victimized.

And in turn that feeds Valbrun’s column.

The thing about modern journalism is that the same organ can contain disparate views. There are no facts and ideas. There is just debate. In the same organ as Valbrun expresses her view, Debra J. Dickerson writes:

I don’t really buy the therapist’s role in all this. Too pat. I also think it’s questionable to have set up that scene without forewarning Isaac of the gruesomeness she had planned, and him viciously punching her in the face, pillow or no, made me both recoil and roll my eyes. I just don’t buy the scene she describes, let alone that it was necessary, except as art; there it succeeds with flying colors.

Yep, the rape of a black, poor woman in Haiti is now art.

It is art because the commentariat say so.

And so it is that story of abject human misery in Haiti becomes a satire on us and the way we live now…


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Posted: 5th, July 2011 | In: Key Posts, Reviews Comments (3) | TrackBack | Permalink