Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland spent time Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, writing pieces on the devastation, conditions and road to recovery there. She produces several widely read pieces including her articles, “Aftershocks: Welcome to Haiti’s Reconstruction Hell” and “In Search of Progress in Haiti.” However, it is not her reporting but rather a personal essay that is getting Mac McClelland backlash.

In an essay for GOOD titled, “I’m Gonna Need You to Fight Me On This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD” McClelland writes that after seeing Haitian women being rape in the tent cities holding refugees, she became traumatized and then decided to heal by having violent sex

McClelland couldn’t shake the image of woman who had been raped at gunpoint and mutilated, reports ABC News. When she accompanied her to the hospital and the woman saw her attackers she went into a full paroxysm — wailing, flailing” in terror. It was an event that proved too much for McClelland to process, as she began to develop the classic symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder — crying spells, flashbacks, insomnia, even certain smells made her gag.

Source

According to McClelland, therapy did not get her closer to better. She writes:

“It’s okay to cry,” said Meredith Broome, a brilliant Bay Area therapist who specializes in trauma, during one of our phone sessions that summer. 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.

“Everyone’s going to think I’m not tough enough to do my job.”

“You don’t know what Anderson Cooper does when he goes home at night.”

Deciding that she wanted to stage her own rape to get the memories of the Haitian rape victims out of her head, McClelland asked an ex-boyfriend to have violent sex with her. She writes:

As soon as we were making out, my violent feelings started welling up. “I’m gonna need you to fight me

McClelland Photo Credit: Women's Media Center

on this,” I said.
 
We’d done this sort of thing before. But at dinner I’d told him, voice shaking, about my PTSD. This time, the fight would be rougher and the stakes higher. And so he paused. “Okay,” he said. “I love you, okay?” I said, I know, okay. And with that he was on me, forcing my arms to my sides, then pinning them over my head, sliding a hand up under my shirt when I couldn’t stop him. 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….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….In a few months, I’d feel ready to go back to Haiti.
 

Perhaps, McClelland’s most fierce critics have been her fellow female journalists, especially other foreign correspondents who have reported in Haiti before and since the quake. In an open letter to Jezebel, 36 women journalists (including in full disclosure my friend and former colleague Allyn Gaestel, freelance reporter, CNN, Los Angeles Times) who have reported in Haiti responded to McClelland’s GOOD piece. The letter states:

In writing about a country filled with guns, “ugly chaos” and “gang-raping monsters who prowl the flimsy encampments,” she paints Haiti as a heart-of-darkness dystopia, which serves only to highlight her own personal bravery for having gone there in the first place. She makes use of stereotypes about Haiti that would be better left in an earlier century: the savage men consumed by their own lust, the omnipresent violence and chaos, the danger encoded in a black republic’s DNA…While we are glad that Ms. McClelland has achieved a sort of peace within, we would encourage her, next time, not to make Haiti a casualty of the process.

Speaking to Ms. Magazine, McClelland responded to the criticism of her piece saying:

It’s not an article, it’s an essay. I wrote a cover story [for Mother Jones]–that was my Haiti coverage. This was not my Haiti coverage; this was about me. In terms of the depiction of Haiti, none of those other journalists are denying that Haiti has a serious, serious rape problem. There are a lot of guns in Haiti–that is also true. And that’s pretty much the only thing I say about Haiti, other than my personal experience there with a couple of unfortunate and predatory men.

What do you think of McCleland’s essay on Haiti and her choice of treatment to get over her trauma? Are her critics being “too PC” or do they have a point? Share your thoughts Clutchettes and gents!

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  • Kay

    I feel like she has tried to capitalize off of another woman’s trauma for personal gain. Her experiences read as disingenuous. These feelings were subsequently increased after reading this article.
    http://www.essence.com/2011/07/09/edwidge-danticat-speaks-on-mac-mcclelland/

    Just deplorable.

  • How cute. Lets forget about the actual victims in Haiti and focus on this idiot! Typical!

  • Alexandra

    I dont even know where to start. I think this woman is nuts! WTF!
    And what of the rape victims? Does she even care? No, seems like cares about herself. Not buying her rough sex excuse either. Amazing how some people will make everything about themselves, even rape of others. Wow.