Children of Injustice: Finding her voice and telling her story

Dan Ferguson reviews this memoir of child abuse in Duvalier’s Haiti for Peace Arch News.

As Ruth Auguste talks about surviving horrifying abuse as a child in Haiti, her husband, Garry Auguste, listens, his jaw tightening.

He has read his wife’s memoir, “The Children of Injustice” three times, and every time the former police officer has skipped past the part that describes how she was brutalized by her sadistic stepfather.

Ruth told Garry about her life a long time ago, and as much as he loves and respects her for overcoming her childhood, he can’t bring himself to read it again.

Ruth Auguste was born in Port-au-Prince at a time when the Caribbean nation was ruled by the corrupt and violent François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, followed by his equally unpleasant son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, “Baby Doc.”

When Ruth’s biological father didn’t stick around, her mother ended up marrying a member of the Duvalier militia known as the “Tonton Macoutes,” an ultra-violent group who conducted a reign of terror against any perceived threats to the Duvalier regime, killing more than 60,000 people in the process.

Her stepfather was a member of the inner circle of the Tonton Macoutes and liked to remind people of his position by always wearing his blue and khaki uniform, even off-duty.

The man physically battered her mother time after time and sexually assaulted Ruth when she was just six years old and her mother was not present.

“Something so sad that words can’t express it took place within me following my stepfather’s assault,” she writes.

“I suddenly felt that I was no longer the cute and innocent little girl I had been just the day before. I felt somehow tainted, ruined. Like somebody had stolen a secret treasure from me. I knew that my life was never going to be the same again for as long as I lived.”

When her mother tried to divorce her stepfather, the beatings continued while what passed for a court system in Haiti moved with glacial slowness.

“…the Macoutes supported their own, no matter what atrocities one of them committed…” she writes.

Eventually, Ruth says, her mother won their freedom, but didn’t live long to enjoy it.

Ruth was 15 when her mother died of heart failure, leaving the orphaned girl to raise her brothers by herself.

She emigrated to Canada at 17.

In 2008, the adult Ruth co-founded a non-profit organization with her husband, called World Gifters Society, to help abused and impoverished women and children in Haiti.

It’s mission statement is to promote a “peaceful and fair society,” one that works to reduce inequalities between men and women.

“I don’t want to see women and girls go through what I did,” Ruth says.

World Gifters is currently building a shelter for abused and battered women and children in Haiti, and she is hoping her book will help fund the work.

“The Children of Injustice” took three years to write and the first three months were emotional ones.

Sometimes, Ruth would break down in tears as she sat in front of her computer, reliving the events of her childhood.

“A healing process,” she says.

“I had to write it.”

Her husband says getting it all down on paper has helped his wife, making her even stronger and more focussed.

“I am no long voiceless,” she says.

“I can speak.”

“The Children of Injustice” was officially released Monday, Feb. 20 to coincide with Black History Month in Canada.

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