Striking a Blow for the Better

A Creole-language radio show breaks the silence surrounding domestic violence in Haitian homes

Many of the women who call in to the radio show are victims of domestic abuse who have only barely begun to comprehend that what they've been experiencing is illegal and not, as they've been taught, a fact of life. "Yes!" exclaims one caller, after Romer has gone over several behaviors that usually escalate into future violence. "That's the way my husband was! If I had only known back at the beginning, maybe I wouldn't be in this situation now."

The calls that Romer can't get to on the air are answered anyway, after being routed to Haitian Support Inc. volunteers who are trained in monthly domestic violence workshops that are open to the public. "I get all kinds of calls after the show," reports Mia Pean, a hotline counselor who used to serve as an intake worker for the Dade County courts. "That's when you realize how much violence there is in the Haitian community. It is hidden, like incest -- you're not supposed to talk about it. In Haiti you have to keep your family together no matter what.

"One of the women who called me two weeks ago was suicidal and I've been calling her back every day," Pean goes on. "At one time this person had a spirit; she wanted to live. She was a victim from her first to her fourth husband. She's still with the last one because he's paying the rent, and she has two teenagers who she doesn't want to leave alone to go to work because they'll wind up like her.

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