Editor’s Note – This is the third in a five part series of diary entries written by Fairfield alumnus Paul Kendrick ‘72, who spent last week in Haiti. Kendrick is a long time advocate for sex abuse victims and a co-founder of Voice of the Faithful in Maine, which formed in response to the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases. He had visited Project Pierre Touissant, which was run by fellow Fairfield alumnus Doug Perlitz ‘92 in 2003. Last year, Perlitz was indicted by a Bridgeport grand jury on ten counts of abusing Haitian children. His trial is scheduled to start in April.
Cap-Haitien, Haiti – As Wednesday dawned, I was hoping to be able to see Jean (name changed to protect him from harm) one more time before he raced back to Port-au-Prince to be with his family.
Jean (he is Haitian) was a highly regarded former senior staff member at Project Pierre Toussaint. It took him almost two days to drive to Cap-Haitian from Port-au-Prince due to flooded roads (heavy rains) and two flat tires. He was finally able to meet with Cyrus Sibert (local journalist) and me in the late afternoon on Tuesday. Sensing he was hungry, we went several doors down to La Kay, a local restaurant across the street from the sea walled harbor area.
Jean had traveled to Cap Haitian to meet with me about Perlitz’s abuse of children and the possibilities of reopening the school. Jean and I had met one other time in Haiti.
We were just beginning our meal when the ground began to tremble. Dishes didn’t fall off the table, or anything like that, but the tremor was certainly noticeable. Within ten minutes or so, Haitian radio was reporting large amounts of damage in Port-au-Prince which is located 85 miles south of Cap-Haitian. Soon after, a man came running into the restaurant shouting that the news stations were reporting that a tsunami was about to happen on the north coast where we were located (within in an hour, the tsunami alarm was called off).
Jean’s face was ashen. He was already on his cell phone trying to contact his wife and two children (one and five-years-old) who he had left back in Port-au-Prince. His cell phone wasn’t working, so we headed to higher ground and went to an apartment in the inner city to try one of the other cell phone networks. Nothing seemed to work so Jean disappeared into the heavy rain where he eventually made brief contact with a family member. His family was OK. When the first shock hit, his wife and two kids had run out of their home. Then came the aftershock which caused the walls to fall sideways and the roof to collapse right before their eyes. They were brought to Jean’s wife’s mother’s house in a nearby town.
Later, as we sat in a hotel lobby, I told Jean that I knew he was preoccupied with concerns about his family and we could discuss the Project at another time. His family was safe, he said, “So let’s talk now.” And so we did for the next two hours.
Jean had worked at the Project for many years. He was more than capable of running the day-to-day operations at the village (the boarding school). Doug relied on Jean’s unique abilities.
Then, one day several years ago, a teacher at the school told Jean that some of the students were reporting that Doug was touching them inappropriately. The kids had been afraid to come directly to Jean, because they feared that Jean, by virtue of his position at the school, would defend Doug and not believe them. Jean spoke at length with the students and then invited Doug to lunch at the same hotel we were at.
Jean told Doug what he had learned and wanted Doug to immediately stop abusing the children. In Jean’s mind, if Doug would stop harming the kids and the school could stay open, than Jean would be satisfied that he had done what’s best for the boys. I asked Jean what Doug’s reaction was to being confronted about abusing children. He said, “Doug only wanted to know the names of the children who reported that they were being abused.”
“Who told you this?” asked Doug.
Jean went on to say that in the coming weeks and months, Doug began to act differently towards Jean, often criticizing his work and even suggesting that Jean take some time off to decide if he wanted to remain working at the Project. All of a sudden, Jean’s work performance was unacceptable.
Jean told me that for the next three years, Father Paul Carrier refused to speak to him. Carrier’s behavior was so bizarre, Jean said, that when Jean answered Doug’s cell phone, Carrier would say nothing until Doug came on the line. During the silence Jean would say into the phone, “Hello, is this you, Father Paul? Hello, Hello.” Eerily, Carrier said nothing.
According to Jean, Carrier and Doug spoke on the phone several times each day and Carrier traveled to Haiti on a monthly basis. Jean told me that Carrier and Perlitz vacationed together in the Bahamas. He told me about the time that Carrier, Perlitz and an employee of the school went to Cormier Plage (a small hotel located on the beach 8 miles from the inner city) for the weekend. The employee stayed in one room and Perlitz and Carrier stayed in a second room.
It wouldn’t be much longer before Jean, exhausted from Doug’s constant criticism and suggestions that he find other work, resigned his position. A few years later, and at Doug’s urging, Jean returned to monitor the school while Doug went on a long planned sabbatical. Jean remained until the school was forced to close.
Jean visited the Fairfield, Connecticut area a few times to speak at Haiti Fund fundraisers. On one trip, sometime in late 2005 or early 2006, Jean told me that he confided in a woman who still teaches at Tomlinson school in Fairfield. He told her that Doug was sexually abusing students (she is a close friend of Jean and Tom Tisdale, both of whom are defending Doug’s innocence). Jean asked the teacher to keep this information confidential because he feared the school would be forced to close.
The teacher has not yet returned my call.
The teacher is a mandated reporter. Jean stuck his neck out to protect children by confronting Doug and demanding that he stop the abuse.
And then there’s Jessica Lozier, one of the signers of the letter that disgruntled former board members and Perlitz supporters sent in August 2008 to donors in which the signers disparaged the current board’s decision to fire Perlitz. I learned that during the same 2008-2009 period that there was a warrant for Doug’s arrest in Haiti, Lozier would withdraw money from Doug’s bank account in Cap-Haitien to pay the bus fare for several boys to travel to Santo Domingo to meet with Doug. Some boys would return later in the day. Others would stay with Doug in his hotel room and be sexually molested by him.
I told Jean how sorry I was for the miserable, sick and despicable manner in which he was treated by Perlitz and Carrier in the aftermath of his confrontation with Doug. Jean had trouble finding another job in Cap-Hatien, so he eventually moved his family to Port-au-Prince.
I called former Haiti Fund board member Hope Carter today, introduced myself and asked her to help me help the boys in Haiti. Click. She hung up on me. I wanted to ask Carter if she is bank rolling Doug’s legal defense. As I looked into the sad and troubled faces of the boys who were abused by Perlitz, I couldn’t help but ask myself what kind of people are former Haiti Fund board members such as Tom Tisdale, Fairfield alumnus and area chairperson of the Order of Malta, Madeline and Philip Lacovara, and of course, Father Paul Carrier, Jesuit priest and former Fairfield University campus ministry director. What kind of people are they that they could so easily turn their backs on children who are homeless, hungry, frightened and raped. “Who is their God?” I must ask myself.
I will be talking more in my final two “diaries” about what it will take for the Fairfield University community to reopen the school and drop-in center and I will share with you my vision of what can be accomplished for the children by engaging in a “konbit’ with the Haitian people. .
In Haitian Creole, a konbit is a traditional Haitian method of working together to till your friends’ fields as well as your own – a cooperative effort. In this way, we want to always show our respect for and friendship with the people of Haiti.
If anyone would like to contact me, please call me at 207 838 1319 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.