Food, shoes, medicine bought for Haitian sex victims
Michael P. Mayko, Staff Writer
Published: 02:51 p.m., Saturday, July 3, 2010
Food, shoes and in some cases, much-needed medicine have been distributed to a group of abandoned Haitian boys who claim they were sexually abused by the founder of a charitable program organized to provide them with food, shelter and an education.
The items were purchased with an initial $2,300 donation raised by Speak Truth To Power, a small Massachusetts-based group that advocates on behalf of individuals sexually abused by the Catholic clergy.
"It's not a lot of money," said Ruth Moore, a coordinator for the project. "I'm not even sure how far it will go. But it does show these boys that someone does care."
Moore said the group has about $300 that will be sent over and is still accepting donations, some of which has come from Fairfield County.
"After watching the video posted on the Connecticut Post's web site taken in the streets of Cap-Haitien, it is painfully obvious that all of us need to do more to help the Haitian people in as many ways as we can," said Moore.
She said her group is putting together small care packages which will include essentials like toothpaste and soap for the boys.
"I would hope our efforts will be an incentive for a major organization to help these boys who were taken off the streets by the program only to be thrown back onto them when their school closed," Moore said. "We are just a small group made up of advocates and victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy."
The boys are among 18 who allege that Douglas Perlitz, an honored Fairfield University graduate, sexually abused them while they were students in his three-phase Project Pierre Toussaint educational program in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city. Money for the program was raised by the Haiti Fund, comprised of wealthy Fairfield and Westchester County Catholics and through donations obtained during Masses celebrated at Fairfield University.
Perlitz has pleaded not guilty to 24 international sex charges and is awaiting an October trial in New Haven federal court.
Before that will happen, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton must rule on a defense motion to dismiss the indictment.
William F. Dow, III and David Grudberg, Perlitz's New Haven-based defense lawyers, have attacked the indictment on jurisdictional grounds claiming the prosecution can't link any of the alleged assaults to conduct that took place in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Krishna Patel and Stephen Reynolds counter that there are several Connecticut links. They point to the program being funded primarily with money from Fairfield County Catholics, Perlitz's travel arrangements being made here and he maintained a residence here.
But it's the plight of the boys who will be brought to New Haven to testify at Perlitz's trial that is the concern of victim advocates.
"A lot of groups are paying attention to this story and what is happening with these boys in Haiti," said Paul Kendrick, a founding member of Voice of the Faithful's Maine chapter which advocates for the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. "These young boys put themselves at risk by coming forward to report the abuse.
"Since then they have seen their school closed and been thrown back onto the streets. Now is not the time to forget them."
Kendrick said he has talked with medical professionals in the U.S. and was advised how important psychological counseling is at this stage.
"A psychotherapist who travels to a place like Haiti and thinks that all he or she is going to need to do is meet with clients in a private office is mistaken," said Kendrick. "First, the children who were abused are going to need structure in their lives. They will need food. They will need a safe place to live. They will need to be enrolled in school."
He said other professionals explained "the same toxic feelings of shame, guilt, self loathing, remorse are evident in all children who have been sexually abused, no matter what culture or country they come from. I guess just meeting some of their basic needs is therapeutic," Kendrick said. "But what do we tell them when the $2,600 is gone?"