It was the same every night. The list of names was posted on the bedroom door of Rev. Richard Dashbach. The kid at the top of the list knew it was his turn to share the lower bunk bed with an older priest and another elementary school girl.
Dashbach was idolized in the remote outskirts of East Timor, where he lived, primarily because of his role in helping save lives during the bloody struggle for the independence of a small country. I did. So the girls never talked about the abuse they suffered. They said they were worried that they would be expelled from an 84-year-old shelter in Pennsylvania, which was established decades ago for abused women, orphans, and other poor children. ..
The horror of what they happened in a closed room over the years is now unfolding in court-the first priestly sex case in a country that is more Catholic than anywhere else except the Vatican. .. The trial was postponed last month due to the blockade of the coronavirus, but will resume in May.
According to S Jurídico Social, a group of human rights lawyers representing women, at least 15 women have come forward. The Associated Press spoke with one-third of the whistleblowers, each recalling their experiences in vivid detail. They have not been identified due to the risk of retaliation.
They said AP Daschbach would sit in a chair in the middle of a room with a little girl every night, surrounded by a circle of children and staff before going to bed, praying for hymns and singing.
“The way he determines who is sitting on his lap depends on the list he has at the door,” said one accusator. “And that meant you were the little girl you intended to go with him.”
Later in his room, they told Dashbach to take off his white boxer shorts and T-shirt, then undress the girl, give him a deodorant, caress him, and gently guide him to touch him. It was. Then they said they would often have oral sex. One whistleblower also claimed she had been raped.
He sometimes asked the children under the bunk bed to relocate with one or two other sleeping on the mattress above, and abuse sometimes occurred during the afternoon nap. They said.
Daschbach faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He and his lawyer refused to be interviewed by AP.
The church dismissed Daschbach in 2018 and said he confessed that he was sexually abusing his child. However, he maintains strong political ties, and is still treated like a rock star by many, especially at the Topu Honis shelter, which means “guide to life.”
Former President Shanana Gusmao attended the opening ceremony of the trial in February. A month ago, an independent hero visited Dashbach on his birthday, handed a cake to a former priest, and lifted a glass of wine on his lips as the camera flashed.
Daschbach’s lawyers have not published their legal strategy and the proceedings have been closed. However, the documents that AP saw show that he claims to be a victim of the plot.
But in January, the former priest seemed to be preparing his supporters for the worst. He told a local reporter that this was his message to the children remaining in the orphanage. I will be detained for the rest of my life so I will never see you again, but I still remember you. You have to be happy there. “
Dashbach, the son of a steel worker in Pittsburgh, began his religious studies as a teenager. In 1964, he was ordained by the Society of the Divine Words in Chicago, the largest congregation of missionaries in the Catholic Church, and served by approximately 6,000 priests and brothers in more than 80 countries.
When he arrived in Southeast Asia a few years later, the country now known as East Timor was under Portuguese control. Its colonial rule continued until 1975, when the country was almost immediately invaded by neighboring Indonesia. After 24 years of bloody struggle for independence, fighting, famine and hunger killed as many as 200,000 people, a quarter of the population.
Dashbach opened a shelter in 1992 and gained a reputation during the conflict. He often told visitors about protecting women and children living in and around Top Honis, protecting them in caves, and leading spear-armed ragtag groups to stop attackers.
The story of a charismatic priest who rings a bell on his ankle, participates in traditional dance, speaks the local language fluently, and blends Catholicism with local customs and animist beliefs extends far beyond East Timor. I did.
Foreign donors, tourists and aid workers who hiked a steep, narrow jungle path to the village of Kutet for three hours met an old man’s priest. Many of TopuHonis’ photos taken by visitors and posted online show a young girl pulling a small shoulder against Daschbach’s side, on her lap, or on her arm.
Some visitors who stayed in the mountains for weeks or months were impressed by the fact that they sent tens of thousands of dollars to help shelters and pay college scholarships.
Jan McColl, who helped fund TopuHonis, was devastated after she and another longtime Australian donor, Tony Hamilton, flew to East Timor and asked Daschbach if he was a pedophile. He said.
“He said,’Yes, that’s me, and that’s always the case,” McCall said, adding that he responded calmly while continuing to eat lunch. “So we got up and left the table. We were completely upset.”
Hamilton said the exchange was jarring and surreal and had a hard time understanding it while continuing to help some of the children. He and McCall filed an affidavit.
“In some crazy way, I think he realizes that what he did is a crime,” he said. “But he somehow harmonizes it with the good he has achieved.”
The global clergy sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church for over 20 years has led to billions of dollars in reconciliation and the establishment of new programs aimed at preventing further abuse. However, experts have seen more and more casualties in developing countries such as Haiti, Kenya and Bangladesh. There, priests and missionaries assigned by religious orders often operate with little or no supervision. Even if caught, you rarely face the consequences. For some, the idea of imprisoning a priest, regardless of crime, seems profane.
Many East Timor supporters argue that the accusation against Dashbach is a lie and is part of a larger plan to take over other property, including shelters and seaside boarding schools. After the trial began, dozens of predominantly women and children were waiting outside the courtroom, lamenting a former priest saying goodbye to them from the car.
“Law enforcement needs to see which is better. Should one be omitted or many’s futures eliminated?” Local resident Antonio Moro said if Dashbach was gone. He said he was worried that hundreds of children would lose their chances of living a better life.
When the accusation was leveled three years ago, the Vatican acted to promptly investigate and dismiss the priest, but the local archdiocese was more tolerant.
It agreed to put him under house arrest in an informal home in a church residence in the town of Mariana. However, Dashbach was relatively easy to move around, taking a ferry to Oecusse’s outpost overnight, returning to the children’s homes, and infuriating the whistleblowers and their families. Despite being stripped of his priesthood, local media reported that he continued the mass while he was there.
Marco Sprizzi of Monsignor, Vatican ambassador to East Timor, emphasized that Dashbach should not be allowed to be among the children, but said that the church could do little now.
“When he is delocked … he is no longer a priest. He is no longer part of the priesthood,” he said. “And, of course, the children’s home did not belong to his religious congregation from the beginning. He did it himself, and it was his own name.”
Zack Hinner, secretary-general of the U.S.-based Network of Priest Abuse Victims (SNAP), said the church had a moral responsibility to do more and should have brought Dashbach back to the United States. ..
“We are afraid of vulnerable children he may still have access to,” he said.
However, Dashbach still has strong support within the faction of the local church.
At the end of last year, Archbishop Dili dismissed the chairman of the church’s Justice and Peace Commission, nominated victims, and prosecutors, police, and NGOs investigating the charges sexually abused the whistleblowers themselves. Following the release of the report suggesting that, he publicly apologized. By conducting forensic examinations. The report also alleged trafficking, referring to seven whistleblowers who were moved to safe homes.
Former donors and whistleblowers resented that the report endangered the lives of previously mentioned people. Violent threats have been made against those who oppose Dashbach.
The former priest faces 14 child sexual abuses, 1 child pornography and 1 domestic violence. He has also been sought in the United States for three wire fraud charges involving one of the California-based donors.Interpol Red notification Published internationally for his arrest.
The whistleblower who spoke to the AP explained systematic abuse and improper behavior, including Daschbach regularly monitoring the girl’s shower. They said all the children were undressed and stood together around a large concrete basin outside. A naked monk shampooed her hair from girl to girl and watered her private areas. Some girls said they didn’t want to wear underwear because they took pictures naked while playing in the rain.
His whistleblowers said they were hopeful when they arrived at the shelter. For the first time, they focused on clean clothes, playing time, and school, along with many others. Most importantly, they had food. The diet was basic but stable.
The worship and respect for white American missionaries was very imperative, whistleblowers said they undoubtedly did whatever he wanted.
One recalled that he was still distraught after his father’s death and first arrived at the shelter, saying that the same night the priest raped her. She said she kept doing so so often while he was there.
She said he locked the door and pulled the curtain, and told her they had to be careful and no one could know. She said he usually chose a young child, but for people like her who were approaching puberty, Dashbach paid attention.
“He will pull out and say,’I have to quit, or you’ll get pregnant,'” she said.
Now the accusers say that someone who looks so kind and selfless is having a hard time dealing with the way they can ask them to do what they feel is so wrong.
“When I was being abused, I was like,’Is this like a payment?'” Said one accusator. “That’s what I was calculating in my head …” This must be the price I have to pay to be part of this. You know, like those shiny little dresses these girls are wearing in church. It’s not free. This is the price tag. “
The Associated Press reporter Raimundos Oki contributed to this report from East Timor.
Contact AP’s Global Investigative Team at [email protected]