“Up to 170 victims of convicted pedophile Douglas Perlitz are eligible to share in the $60 million settlement approved in an interim order issued [June 5, 2019] in federal court in Connecticut,” said a press release by Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC, the law firm representing the victims in the class-action settlement. According to the release, the $60 million will be paid by Fairfield University and five other defendants that supported Perlitz’s endeavors including the Society of Jesus of New England, the Order of Malta, the Haiti Fund, Reverend Paul Carrier, S.J., a former director of Campus Ministry at the University; and Hope Carter, a member of the Haiti Fund’s board of directors.
Since January, the number of victims eligible for compensation from the $60 million pool has risen from 133 to 150. This rise in numbers occurred because “individual lawsuits filed by victims were converted to a class-action lawsuit and settlement,” allowing “others who may have been assaulted by Perlitz and seek compensation,” according to the press release. Of the 170 victims, 150 are currently eligible for compensation while 20 are still pending.
The 170 victims were students at Perlitz’s school, Project Pierre Toussaint in Cap-Haïtien, which continued to operate under the support of the defendants. Perlitz, a Fairfield alum who will be imprisoned until 2026, faced allegations of sexual assault starting in 2007 and plead guilty in 2010. Said the press release, “The lawsuits allege that Perlitz frequently flew back to Fairfield, Connecticut, to raise money for PPT. From 1999 to 2008, donors gave millions to support Perlitz’s activities with PPT. Perlitz used portions of these funds to groom his minor victims and to provide them with gifts or money in exchange for sexual acts.”
It was not only the defendants’ monetary support that perpetuated the abuse, but also their failure to oversee what Perlitz did with their funds. “The Haiti Fund and Fairfield University knew that Perlitz used substantial portions of these funds to finance his frequent trips to, and extended stays in, Haiti. The Haiti Fund and Fairfield University, operated by the New England Jesuit Order, failed to institute generally accepted safeguards – or any safeguards – to prevent the abuses which occurred.”
As for the University’s involvement, Fairfield University provided most of the funds along with the Order of Malta, and also conducted fundraisers for PPT. Students were encouraged to contact Carrier in order to volunteer at PPT. Other university staff members also paid visits to PPT during the time of the abuse. According to an amended complaint from January 25 issued, the University had enough access that the institution “knew or should have known that Perlitz was traveling to Haiti to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors in Haiti,” and they “knowingly benefitted [sp] financially from PPT by touting their involvement in PPT as a basis for fund-raising activities.” The University had no hand in managing the school, nor were they directly involved in the abuse.
“We are grateful that this process is in its final stages and will provide closure for these brave young men,” said Paul Hanly Jr., a Simmons Hanly Conroy shareholder and co-lead counsel on the case with Mitchell Garabedian as quoted in the press release by the firm. “The settlement will allow the survivors to move beyond these horrors, enable them to receive whatever counseling and aid they require, and move on with their lives as best they can.”
No, Attorney Hanly, the $60 million settlement will not allow the child sexual abuse survivors in Haiti “to receive whatever counseling and aid” they so desperately need.
I and others who know the plight of the victims in Haiti literally begged you to make provisions in this multi million dollar settlement for the establishment of a community counseling center in Cap Haitien, Haiti to a) bring education and awareness about child sexual abuse to the community, a community that has been devastated by a serial child molester and b) to make available professional, experienced and culturally competent mental health treatment for victims of child sexual abuse, their families and community members.
Making these provisions available in Haiti, Attorney Hanly, is akin to bringing in a new vaccine to treat an epidemic.
As evidenced by the distribution of the previous $12 million settlement to the first group of Perlitz victims, with no provisions made for professional mental health treatment and vocational training, many of the victims engaged in reckless spending, were cheated out of their money, were lured into suspicious business deals, and some are now bankrupt.
In addition, we begged you to make available one option and one option only in the distribution of the settlement funds – a portion of the funds upfront, with the remainder distributed as monthly lifetime income with survivor benefits.
Funds would be deposited into bank accounts on the first of each month.
By depositing tens of millions of dollars into uninsured bank accounts in Haiti, you placed targets on the backs of the victims, making them susceptible to all sorts of financial schemes and malfeasance.
Officials at Fairfield University and the Jesuit Northeast Province are equally to blame in the mishandling of the distribution of the funds.
It is important that the settlement money not be looked upon grudgingly by Fairfield University and the Jesuits as “payoffs,” but rather as a resource to assist and enable the terribly wounded victims to move forward with their lives in healthy, productive and meaningful ways.
Fairfield University ‘72