One woman’s decision to share her story at a Samaritan’s Purse gender-based violence training is bringing healing and faith in Christ to a Haitian community. The Samaritan’s Purse program gives a voice to the silent pain that many women have endured and reaches communities with messages of truth, healing, and faith.
The women in Marose, Petit Goave—a neighborhood in Haiti where gender-based violence is all too common—now have an advocate named Berthide Achille. She settles disputes within families and advises them on loving communication without black eyes and broken arms.
But growing up, Berthide didn’t have the hope and smile that she so readily shares with everyone.
“Mine is a life with many stories,” she said with a soft laugh. “But the latter part of my story is with faith and hope through Jesus, and I am sharing it with those around me because now I know how to, thanks to Samaritan’s Purse.”
Gender-based violence impacted Berthide’s life even before she was born. When her mother, Vanise, was 20, a man in the home where she was working as a housekeeper raped her. When Vanise learned she was pregnant, against all advice she chose to keep the baby.
She had a beautiful daughter, Sullivane, but the same fate befell her at age 20 when she was raped on her way to fetch well water. Sullivane returned home crying and injured from the abuse and brutal beating. For weeks nothing could abate her pain, and no one at home or in the neighborhood knew how to help. Then she realized, as her mother did many years before, that she was pregnant.
Berthide watched her sister and mother go through immense pain. She often silently cried in her room wondering why no one ever did anything about it. Then at age 15, Berthide was sent to school in a nearby town, where she was barely rescued from an attempted sexual assault.
“I think I would have committed suicide if he had raped me,” she confessed. “The memories of my sister and mother flooded my mind at that point.”
Berthide never told a soul about the incident and often wept over what the women in her family had been through.
Mobilizing the church to confront the problem
Berthide finally found the words to describe what had happened when she attended her first gender-based violence training with Samaritan’s Purse. She understood what she had felt all along – that the abuse was wrong and that God condemns it.
Samaritan’s Purse developed the gender-based violence education program to provide support for vulnerable women in Haiti. The massive 2010 earthquake intensified violence against women in the country, and the church has been largely uninvolved in creating solutions.
Our program mobilizes local churches and organizes trainings to teach pastors and ministry leaders about gender-based violence, how to confront the problem, and how to counsel men and women involved.
Berthide grew up in a culture that often accepts a husband beating his wife in order to show his masculinity. In contrast, our training uses the example of Jesus leading the church to show how husbands can be gentle, servant leaders in their homes and still remain men worthy of respect.
Our goal is not only to create awareness on the issue in order to prevent more occurrences of abuse and sexual assault but also to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that lives will be transformed.
These teachings on the biblical view of womanhood and manhood were eye-opening for Berthide.
“Jesus gave me hope,” she said. “I understood that He did care.”
For the first time in her life, Berthide found the courage to share her story. In front of everyone at the training, she spoke of the attempted assault on her as well as the rapes of her mother and sister. In that instant, Berthide became a voice for all of the silent fears and sorrow that many had endured over the years.
After she finished sharing, those in attendance stood up and held hands around Berthide, who was now a representative of sisters, mothers, friends, and all the women in the community who had endured gender-based violence. A bond formed then and there over the need to fight this violence in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
Together with a group of 21 women, Berthide is now preaching and reaching out to her community with the love of Jesus. She openly shares her story with hurting families and talks about the hope she has in Christ. As a result, people in the neighborhood are giving up voodoo and satanic worship and being baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.
“I have lost count of how many have come to know Jesus though my ministry,” she said. “My pastor would know though, since he baptizes them all.”
The biblical view on gender is taking root in Marose, Petit Goave, through the efforts of Berthide and other members of the gender-based violence program, and people are embracing a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus.