Bernier never sought professional help when dealing with the abuse, she said. Instead, she turned to her faith.
“I started meditating, and praying a lot and just taking a good look at myself; learning to love myself each and every day and being accountable for my actions and for my thoughts,” she said. “It’s also about connecting to the source. These kinds of things won’t live in your mind—the violence, the abuse—those kinds of things can’t live in the same place when you’re connected.”
“Haitian woman, like many women from Caribbean and African American communities, have strong ties to their spiritual community,” English, said. “A good way to raise awareness about domestic violence may be through public health campaigns supported by faith-based organizations.”
She argues that some abusers often use their faith to manipulate victims, by quoting scriptures out of context.
“I believe survivors and faith-based leaders play a significant role in raising awareness about domestic violence in communities of color,” she said. “Many cultures and [ethnic groups], including Haitians regard their spiritual leaders in high esteem.
“Survivors and faith-based leaders should educate and raise awareness about the pain, devastation and unspeakable emotional and mental harm caused by domestic violence. Perpetrators must also be warned about possible consequences of being charged and convicted of domestic violence, such as the revocation of a driver’s license, possible jail time, or job loss.”
Malorie Moise, who serves as a case manager with Inter-borough Developmental and Consultation Center (IDCC) is helping to do just that with the DoVe initiative, in collaboration with Beraca Baptist Church and the Haitian-American Caucus (HAC) in Canarsie.
IDCC’s mission is to provide domestic violence services in a trauma informed community that is welcoming, de-stigmatizing and not re-traumatizing. By collaborating with non-traditional and expanded community supports like the faith-based community, they are reaching a larger scope of audience by providing culturally competent and sensitive services to survivors.
“We thought to put together a one-day training for church leaders, community faith leaders and people of faith so they can be trained on how to deal with individuals who are experiencing trauma as well as domestic violence,” Moise said. “In most instances, individuals tend to trust their clergy and see them as the gateway to information.”
Quite often victims are dissuaded from talking about intimate partner violence because they are met with unsupportive or victim-blaming language. Bernier believes the Diaspora must be actively engaged in participating in dialogue that supports victims.
“The Diaspora plays a big role because here, the gender roles aren’t so rigid,” Bernier said. “We can be outspoken. We have women here who hold positions of power and can and will be heard.
“We as a Diaspora must be actively engaged in participating in dialogue that supports victims, changes the language, and clearly identifies what abuse and violent behavior against woman looks like. And that way, we can begin to support those who speak up without shaming them.”