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Volunteer a ‘menace to society’

Crime & Courts

KwaZulu-natal - Jesse Osmun, a US Peace Corps volunteer who sexually abused five young KwaZulu-Natal girls, was a “menace to normal society” and should be jailed for the rest of his days.

This is the crux of a letter written by Joan Dutton, head of the Umvoti Aids Centre in Greytown which will be read out in a US court when Osmun is sentenced in October.

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Jesse Osmun, a former Peace Corps volunteer was arrested and charged with sexually abusing children under six while working at a preschool in South Africa in 2010, US officials said.

“I have never met a person who has behaved like Jesse. I feel strongly that Jesse came to the Peace Corps and South Africa with one view in mind: to abuse little girls,” Dutton writes. “This is such a shocking realisation that neither the experienced Peace Corps, nor us, had ever had such thoughts in our minds.”

Osmun was on assignment at the Greytown centre last year when he abused five girls aged, between three and five years old. He was thrown out of the centre and sent back to the US where authorities brought charges against him.

In June this year he pleaded guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children.

American prosecutors have asked Dutton to write a letter – in aggravation of sentence – to the judge who will sentence Osmun, outlining how the centre was affected by the abuse.

In the letter, Dutton gives US authorities a snapshot of the issues facing the local community, saying that in addition to the Aids epidemic, the Umvoti area where the centre is located has a 61 percent unemployment rate, and that 80 percent of people live in rural areas. She said 44 percent of children there were orphans.

“Our greatest task has been our children who are the ones that feel the greatest pain. To this end we have developed a crèche for those little ones [younger than six years] who are infected or affected by the Aids pandemic. This crèche is their safe haven where they are loved, cared for and feel special, as they get little of the essentials that a child’s progress needs in their home environment,” she said.

“The crèche has 52 little ones every day. All are younger than five years old, and are neglected pre-schoolers whom we cherish. None of them wants to go home in the afternoon because at the centre they feel secure, loved and cared for. This is one of our main goals as we nurture these little ones so that they can be given what all children should have, in order for them to grow into valuable members of our society.”

Dutton said that they were shocked when six months after welcoming Osmun into their crèche, he was caught abusing their children.

“Jesse had done his research well as all the children have files, and he singled out those that were most vulnerable who would do anything for a sweet,” she said. “These children have so little, but Jesse has taken the very fundamentals of their lives away. Can they ever grow up as normal people?”

According to an agreement reached at Osmun’s last court hearing on Thursday last week, about R240 000, donated in part by the US government and Osmun’s family, will be paid into a trust account for the children.

However, Dutton says in her letter that it would be difficult to wipe away the pain Osmun caused.

“In my humble opinion, Jesse is a menace to normal society and I hope he is incarcerated so that he can never again abuse little children,” she said. “I feel that he came to the Peace Corps and ultimately to the Umvoti Aids Centre with the express view of carrying on with his shameful crimes. I am still woken at night with frightening nightmares stemming from what Jesse has done.” - Daily News

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