|Jesuits, Diocese Asked to Help Sex Abuse Victims
By Genevieve Reilly
October 15, 2009
FAIRFIELD — Standing in the cold rain Thursday at the entrance to the Fairfield University campus, two members of SNAP — Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests — called on the Jesuits and Catholic diocese to seek out and offer help to alleged abuse victims of Douglas Perlitz and the Rev. Eugene J. O'Brien.
Perlitz, 39, is the Fairfield University graduate who is accused of abusing nine boys at a school he ran in Haiti. O'Brien served as principal at Fairfield Prep in the mid-1980s. SNAP said O'Brien reached a settlement with an abuse victim from the Bronx, N.Y., in 1997, but Prep officials continued to say nothing even after that settlement was made public.
Perlitz has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of traveling overseas to engage in sexual conduct with minors and three charges of engaging in illegal sexual conduct with minors. Each charge carries a maximum 30-year prison term.
"We want to raise awareness about O'Brien and Perlitz," SNAP member and abuse victim Jim Hackett said. "We're concerned there might be other victims out there."
On Thursday, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis postponed Perlitz's detention hearing, scheduled for Monday, until Oct. 28 at the request of his lawyers.
William F. Dow III, who with David Grudberg represents Perlitz, said they need more time to address the judge's concerns.
Margolis indicated she would release Perlitz on approximately $5 million bond which must come, in part,
from Connecticut residents. Family members in New Canaan, Colorado and Illinois have raised about $2.3 million. She also wanted additional third-party custodians, besides Anthony and Laura Sirianni, of Fairfield, to watch Perlitz. Anthony Sirianni is a retired lawyer who is wheelchair-bound while battling multiple sclerosis.
"We continue to be impressed with the overwhelming support Doug has received," Dow said.
Other groups, like the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and Voice of the Faithful, a group which advocates for victims sexually abused by clergy, have mounted a letter-writing campaign to prevent Perlitz's release.
Margolis has received numerous e-mails and letters on the issue, including one from Paul Kendrick, a 1972 graduate of the university, who urged the judge not to grant a bond to Perlitz because of the seriousness of the charges. "Please know that I am acutely aware that each of us is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but children have rights, too. Children depend upon caring, concerned and loving adults to protect them from potential harm," Kendrick wrote.
Another SNAP member, Gail Howard, said Perlitz should not be allowed out on bail when he goes before a judge in New Haven next week. "This man should never be in the community," she said.
If let out on bail, Howard and Hackett said they fear Perlitz could flee the country or intimidate witnesses, destroy evidence and molest others.
Howard said their requests to the Jesuits has gone unanswered. But, "anytime there's a news story, at least two or three more victims come forward," Hackett said.
They said they want the Jesuits, both the Bridgeport and New York dioceses, Fairfield Prep and university, and Fordham Prep and university to "use their considerable resources — including Web sites, newsletters, parish bulletins and newspapers — to seek out and offer help to victims of Perlitz and O'Brien."
"We all know what's right here," the SNAP statement said. "It's right for school and church officials to aggressively reach out to others who've been hurt by either man. It's right for school and church officials to actively help police and prosecutors pursue them. And it's not right for school and church officials to duck, dodge and dissemble."
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