Sophie Gregoire’s parents are from Haiti, and her father, Jean Philippe De Jonge, was an ardent student of the culture of Haiti, so deeply rooted in Haitian culture and heritage that he was able to speak French for years. “Haiti has become a refuge, home, and sanctuary for me since I arrived here,” Sophie Gregoire said in her memoir, “The Haiti I Know in My Own Words.”
It didn’t take long for Philippe Gregoire to give his daughter a home. He got her a room on the third floor of his apartment building in the neighborhood of Port-au-Prince in 2006. It was his daughter Sophie who first asked him to move in, and he agreed. When she was ready to move in, Philippe Gregoire told her that he needed to pay off his son’s student debt and they would start moving into the apartment together.
But Sophie didn’t realize that it wasn’t the financial issues, but the cultural ones that were holding her back. According to a 2003 Reuters report, Gregoire had a daughter who lived with him for a time, and his daughter’s boyfriend began stalking her, but she didn’t feel it was a problem: “After a while, I knew we had to get rid of it.” Instead, they decided to “get rid of the boyfriend” by having the girl live with him, so people wouldn’t question her relationship.
“The girl who was living with the boyfriend was still coming home every weekend, so that was an inconvenience,” Philippe Gregoire said in the same report. That didn’t stop Sophie from moving in with him, but they had to get together monthly to discuss a way out. As the report noted, “Gregoire had no idea what he was doing but eventually realized he needed help.”
After a while, a friend of hers suggested that Gregoire get psychiatric help from the government. They tried to find a psychiatrist specializing in mental health services, but all the psychiatrists they encountered were either retired or working for companies that would not take on his request. “The government didn’t like the idea of the psychiatrist working with a company that wasn’t Haitian owned or owned by Haitian people,” says Marc Vian, professor and chair of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, who served as counsel to Philippe Gregoire in his relationship with Sophie’s mother.
“They said, ‘We have to keep the company,”‘ he recalls.