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KwaZulu-Natal - Five KwaZulu-Natal girls, including orphans who were abused by a US Peace Corps volunteer, will be given about R240 000 to share – as a form of compensation by the US government and the family of their perpetrator.
This emerged after Jesse Osmun, 31, appeared in the US District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, last week after pleading guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children.
Osmun’s attorney, Richard Meehan, said the money was made up of $20 000 (R160 000) from the Peace Corps and $10 000 (R80 000) to be donated by Osmun’s family.
“We have agreed with the government to create a fund to benefit these specific children and the Peace Corps has graciously agreed to voluntarily contribute,” Meehan said.
“The fund will be administered by a US law firm pro bono under the supervision of the court. It is an attempt by my client and his parents to provide for some services for these children,” he said.
Osmun was on assignment at the Umvoti Aids Centre in Greytown last year when he abused five girls aged between three and five years old.
Two months ago, he pleaded guilty to illicit sexual conduct with children. He faces up to 30 years’ imprisonment in a US federal jail. Osmun will be sentenced on October 10.
Joan Dutton, director of the Umvoti Aids Centre, said she was initially sceptical about the children receiving “blood money”, but she changed her mind after realising the good it could do for their future.
She said that while she had not been told the exact amount, she had been in touch with US investigators who had spoken to her about offering the children compensation.
“I have had discussions with the US government people and I told them that if they did that we would put the money into a fixed deposit account for the girls and when they reach a certain age it would be given to them,” Dutton said.
“There is no point giving them the money now. Most of these children don’t have mothers or fathers and those parents who are around are either sick or are alcoholics.”
Dutton said she had been angry with the Peace Corps for a long time for “sending a paedophile” to her centre.
“My attitude towards them changed, however, when the head of the Peace Corps called me a few weeks back,” she said.
“We had a very good conversation and he was very understanding. When they sent him (Jesse) to us, they had not done their job properly, I told them. After speaking to the Peace Corps directly, I felt cleansed.”
Osmun joined the centre in March last year. In May, a teacher saw him follow three girls into a building.
Later, one of the girls told the teacher she was asked to perform oral sex on Osmun.
Two days later, the centre confronted Osmun over the allegation and asked him to leave. He flew out of South Africa on June 1 last year, and the Peace Corps was informed of the incident on June 7.
It was only on August 4 this year that US investigators confronted Osmun about the allegations. He was later arrested in Connecticut. After pleading guilty two months ago, Osmun appeared in court last week for a pre-sentencing hearing.
Dutton said that the US prosecutors had asked her to write a letter to the judge who will sentence Osmun in October, outlining how they were affected by the abuse.
“I will start by telling them what we do. Children are one of our top priorities. They are children who are so abused and uncared for that they end up here with us,” she said. “He [Osmun] has done enormous damage. Will these children ever be normal again? Will we ever be normal again?
“Anybody who comes as a volunteer to our centre, I now look sideways at them. I don’t trust anybody any more,” Dutton said.
“The children are going for counselling. We have had counselling, but I don’t think it ever wipes it away. This thing will come back to haunt the children and that is my fear.”
Peace Corps volunteers, who are given a living allowance and receive transition funds after they complete 27 months of service, provide hands-on assistance in areas including health education, information technology and environmental preservation.
The Peace Corps has sent more than 200 000 Americans to serve in 139 countries. About 150 of them are in South Africa. - Daily News