Day One in Haiti
January 13, 2010
[See all the articles in this five-part series: Day
Four, and Day
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of diary entries written
by Fairfield alumnus Paul Kendrick ‘72, who is currently spending a week
in Haiti. Kendrick is an advocate for sex abuse victims and member of
the organization Voice of the Faithful, 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 – For me, it was a highly emotional day. Here I was,
sitting in a small office at Justinian Hospital, face to face with two
of the many former students who have reported to law enforcement officials
that they were sexually abused by Douglas Perlitz, former executive director
of Project Pierre Toussaint and Fairfield University alumnus.
Also in the room was Margaret, a compassionate and loving Haitian social
worker who has devoted her time and energy to helping the boys by being
available to listen to their problems and Cyrus Sibert, a Haitian journalist
who first broke the story about the allegations of abuse against Perlitz
in late 2007. Margaret was previously employed as the social worker at
the Project’s daytime “drop-in” center.
|Paul Kendrick '72 speaks with one of the
boys who reported that he was sexually abused by Doug Perlitz in 2007,
when he was a 14-year-old student at Project Pierre Toussaint. They
met in the Justinien Hospital office (Cap Haitien, Haiti) of a former
social worker at the Project's drop-in center.
I had decided before traveling to Haiti that I want the boys who have
reported their abuse to know that there are tens of thousands of abuse
survivors, along with their supporters, advocates and caring and concerned
people in the United States and elsewhere who support and encourage their
efforts to bring these charges before the U.S. judicial system. Further,
I want to know from people here in Haiti what they think it would take
to resurrect the Project and reopen the school.
As a long time advocate for priest abuse victims in the Church, I have
watched time and time again as Catholic parishioners have rallied to the
support and defense of a popular and well-liked priest with no regard
for the well being of the alleged victim(s) and no consideration of the
evidence being presented. The same situation occurred in this case, as
many prominent and influential Fairfield County Catholics abandoned the
alleged victims, insinuated that the boys were lying and lobbied financial
donors in such a way that funds dried up and the Project was forced to
It broke my heart to listen to the boys tell me their stories. It’s difficult
to remain calm when an innocent child has been forced to endure such horrific
trauma. The disgusting details of their abuse would cause most people
to turn away. As in most child sex abuse cases, the boys were groomed
by a cunning, manipulative and charismatic child molester. One of the
boys told me that Doug told him that he was like a father to the boy.
When I began to speak to the boys, my voice cracked and I had to take
a moment to compose myself. I told them that what happened to them should
never happen to any child. I told them that it was not their fault. I
thanked them for having the courage to report their abuse to law enforcement
officials. I thanked them for helping to protect other children.
How can we help you, I asked?
These kids are the poorest of the poor. Cyrus showed me the roof that
they sleep on each night behind a church. They have no blankets or pillows.
There’s nothing for them to eat when they awake in the morning. There’s
no place for them to take a shower. They are always hungry.
I hadn’t thought of it when Cyrus mentioned to me that, sadly, the boys
who attended the school have received one very clear message: report child
abuse and you will have no school or drop-in center to go to, you will
have no place to sleep, no food to eat, many people will attack you for
causing problems and some will even threaten you.
It was a great privilege and honor to be with the two boys, Cyrus and
In 2002, an Ursuline nun from Waterville, Maine wrote the Stations of
the Cross for child abuse victims. She said in part: “The sexual abuse
of a child is a non-erasable fact. It affects the healthy lives of young
and old, rich and poor, successful and not successful.”
And I also remember well the words of former Superior General, Peter-Hans
Kolvenbach, S.J. who said, ”When the heart is touched by direct experience,
the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent
suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity
which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.”