Warning: This article contains some graphic language and content that may be upsetting.
Editor’s Note – This is the second in a five part series of diary entries written by Fairfield alumnus Paul Kendrick ‘72, who is currently spending a 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 – Forty percent of the Haitian population is under 15 years old. Kids are everywhere. In the early morning, one can see them in multitudes as they walk to school all dressed up in their crisp uniforms. They hold hands and giggle with each other. They walk on streets full of pot holes, many of which are strewn with garbage.
On a previous visit to Port Margot, located north of Cap-Haitien, I was standing in the town square at 6:00 a.m. when a little boy came walking by in his checkered brown school uniform. He was walking backwards, staring at me, obviously infatuated by the color of my skin. He was so intent upon looking at me that he didn’t pay attention to where he was going and the poor little guy tripped over himself and fell. When I went to help, he quickly got up and ran away as fast as he could.
I am reporting that more former Project Pierre Toussaint students came to speak with me today. I listened quietly as they told me what Doug Perlitz did to their bodies and souls. In yesterday’s diary, I referred to the two boys I spoke with on Monday as “alleged” victims. I did that to be politically correct, to satisfy Doug’s supporters who believe that people like me are on some kind of a “witch hunt.”
No more. I know for sure that these kids were sexually assaulted and raped by Doug. The trial, if there is one, will only serve to put everything on the record. I have to believe that Doug is already in the process of trying to strike a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. He really has no choice. The boys need to be constantly reassured that Doug will not come back to hurt them.
On October 6, 2000, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, spoke at Santa Clara University about faith and justice in Jesuit higher education. He said in part, “Students must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage it constructively. They should learn to perceive, think, judge, choose, and act for the rights of others, especially the disadvantaged and the oppressed.”
Here’s a bit of the “gritty reality” that I am immersed in this week in Haiti. I hope you will engage yourself in this simple exercise so you will better understand how it has been for me to be in the presence of the innocent suffering of Doug’s former students.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine that your child is being brought to the headmaster’s residence at the boarding school your child attends. i want you to envision the headmaster leading your child to his bedroom. The headmaster turns on the TV and begins playing a pornographic movie. The headmaster excuses himself, goes off to take a shower and then reappears in the bedroom with no clothes on. Your child is confused, not understanding what is happening. The headmaster senses this, so he rubs his hand on your child’s arm, gently saying that everything is OK. He suggests that your child take a shower. While your child is showering he can hear the headmaster urinating in the toilet. Your child says, “What are you doing?” “Don’t worry,” says the headmaster, “everything is OK.”
When your child returns to the bedroom after showering, the headmaster is still naked. He tells your child it will be OK if your child sleeps with him in the bed. Your child is beside himself, but he does not dare to say no. He knows of others who have been treated badly by the headmaster when they did not do as he asked. Sometime later, your child is awakened as he feels the headmaster’s body close to his. Your child jumps up when he feels the headmaster’s ejaculation on his body. “What are you doing?” he yells at the headmaster. “Don’t worry, everything will be ok,” he tells your child. Your frightened child freezes up and does not move.
If, instead of describing the sexual abuse of a child in such detail, I described the harms and injuries inflicted on children as a result of a drunk driver crashing head on into their school bus, you would say, “Oh, my God, how are the children?” If I described the gritty reality of their injuries in gory detail, you would say, “Oh, my God, how can I help?” If I showed you photos of their bloodied bodies you would say, “Oh my God, we must hold the other driver responsible and accountable for what he has done to these kids.”
But when I tell you the disgusting things that a popular, charismatic and much admired person has inflicted upon vulnerable children who are among the poorest of the poor – kids who have no home to go to – kids who have no money to pay for school – kids who have nothing to eat – kids who have no one to tuck them in at night – kids who have no one to tell them how loved they are – kids who don’t like themselves – kids who look away in shame when they talk about their abuse – you will quickly say the victims are lying, that they just want money. You will defend Doug at all costs.
I can tell you for sure that the children in Haiti who were sexually molested need our love, compassion and understanding. We need to show them we care.
Jesus said to the disbelievers, “Come and see.”