It’s high time they end their silence, according to a Micronesian human rights lawyer, who is urging victims of clergy sex abuse in Pohnpei and Chuuk to come forward with their long untold stories.
“The Pohnpei and Chuuk populations are Catholic. Most are religious and conservative. We are influenced by the early missionaries,” said Salomon M. Saimon. “They don’t talk about stories like sex abuse. This outlook is archaic.”
Motivated by the high-profile prosecution of clergy members on Guam, Saimon put out an advertisement in the Pohnpei paper, Kasehlelie Press, calling on “individuals who may have been victims of sex abuse as a minor” while attending local parishes and Catholic schools.
Launching the campaign with assistance from Guam attorney Michael J. Berman, Saimon is attempting to build a list of victims in preparation for an amendment to the FSM law to lift the statute of limitation for sex abuse against minors.
“I am working with the FSM congress right now to come up with a bill for this purpose, similar to what the Guam legislature did,” Saimon said. “I am hoping to hear from sex abuse survivors. We are looking at cases that happened during the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s up to the present.”
Saimon acknowledged, however, that his self-imposed task to seek justice for sex abuse victims won’t be easy. “I can still sense the resistance. It may be hard for people to come forward for fear of reprisal from the church community,” he said. “But like the victims on Guam, this will give them an opportunity to heal.”
The advertised notice targets those who attended the Agriculture and Trade School in Pohnpei, Pohnpei Catholic School (formerly known as Misiohn), Saint Cecelia in Weno, Chuuk, Xavier High School, Weno, Chuuk; and the Catholic parishes in Pohnpei and Chuuk.