By JasmineHughes, Your Black World
Marita Rademeyer, a South African psychologist, said South African studies show only 1 in 9 reported cases of child abuse go to court, and the rare times when convictions are made, sentences rarely approach the 30 years that a peace corps volunteer now faces in the U.S.
Rademeyer said many cases are never reported because victims feel ashamed, or have no one they can trust to tell, but this time things were different. Several little girls living in a rural South African town have come forward and helped stop an international sex predator.
U.S. investigators say Jesse Osmun confessed that while volunteering with the Peace Corps, he for months sexually molested at least five girls at a South African shelter for AIDS orphans and other children, none of whom were older than 6.
Before coming to South Africa, where he started work at the shelter in March 2010, Osmun volunteered at an orphanage in Kenya, where the director said he caused no problems. On paper he has donated a lot of his time to the betterment of many less fortunate people, but his do-gooder identity may have just been a cover to hide his sinister side.
“They were frightened. They were brave to tell. They did something very important,” said Samkele Mhlongo, a Greytown police translator who helped an American investigator interview two of the victims from the Umvoti AIDS Centre where Osmun volunteered.
Mhlongo said the children, shown pictures of Osmun, said they described being instructed by him to perform oral sex, and afterward being given candy and warnings not to tell anyone what had happened. Mhlongo also reported that Osmun showed the children child pornography stored on his computer.
According to an investigator’s affidavit submitted to the Connecticut court that will try Osmun, a teacher saw Osmun follow three girls into a building at Umvoti on May 24. The teacher followed after a few minutes, and saw Osmun with his back to her, one of the girls near him. Osmun appeared startled and zipped up his pants. A girl later told the teacher about being asked to perform oral sex.
Two days after this incident, Osmun informed Peace Corps he wanted to end his service several months short of the usual two years. During that same time, according to the affidavit, Osmun was confronted by an Umvoti manager. At this point, no one told Peace Corps of the molestation concerns.
Osmun flew out of South Africa June 1, and it wasn’t until the 7th that Umvoti informed Peace Corps of its concerns, U.S. investigators said. Peace Corps immediately sent its own investigator to Greytown, and South African police were informed. On Aug. 4, U.S. investigators said, they confronted Osmun in Connecticut and obtained his written confession.
Joan van Niekerk of Childline South Africa, which campaigns against child abuse said, “cases can take years to come to court – during which evidence is lost, contaminated … and the longer the case takes the more likely the acquittal.”
According to the Peace Corps, every applicant undergoes a criminal background check and is “screened for suitability,” but clearly more needs to be done.
Liz Hughes, director of South African programs for the international aid agency Save the Children, said “such screening is only the first step. Organizations helping children must recognize that people who want to hurt children will be drawn to their shelters and schools, and must train staff to recognize danger signals. Children must also feel confident that when they report abuse, they will be taken seriously.”