Things That Matter

Deaf Students At A Catholic School In Argentina Are Telling Their Story Of Abuse And Neglect By Priests

Justice may soon be on the horizon for as many as 20 victims who say they were sexually abused, including cases of rape, between 2004 and 2016. Priests Nicola Corradi, 83, Horacio Corbacho, 59 and a former gardener Armando Gomez, 49, are all facing charges of sexually abusing deaf children in their care. The shocking case has sent shock waves through Argentina’s society and the Catholic church. The terrible acts occurred at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, a Catholic school for deaf children that was founded in 1995 and in which Corradi headed until his arrest in November 2016.

People in Argentina are looking for answers and are asking how this horrendous crime could have happened?

Credit: @revistasemana / Twitter

The two priests and gardener appeared in court Monday to face their long-awaited charges of sexual abuse. The three men face prison sentences of up to 20 years in some cases, up to 50 years in others. The trial, which is expected to last two months, will hear testimony from 13 victims who suffered negligence and abuse between the ages of four and 17, relating to 43 offenses.

News of the abuse at the school broke at the end of 2016 and created a huge scandal. The scandal grew when it became clear that Rev. Corradi was behind the charges. It has been reported that Corradi was accused of similar allegations at the Antonio Próvolo institute in Verona, Italy. Pope Francis, an Argentine, has since been notified that Corradi was behind both allegations but has yet to comment publicly despite on the matter despite his close affiliation. 

There has already been one sentencing in wake of the scandal. Jorge Bordón, an institute employee, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year on charges of rape, sexual touching, and corrupting minors.

One of the victims has spoken up about his emotions going into the trial and his search for justice. 

Credit: @news1130 / Twitter

Ezequiel Villalonga,18, is one of the victims of the pedophile priests, says that he was preyed upon at the school as a minor. Villalonga is deaf which makes the case even more heartbreaking. Now, he’s getting the chance to tell his story as the trial goes to court.

“I think that everything in the Church is fake. Everything they made us read, recite, the way (they said) people should live,” Villalonga told the AP in sign language right before the start of the priests’ trial on Monday. “I think they lie and that they’re demonic.”

Villalonga was sent to the school when he was 4 years old after his mother found out her son was deaf when he was only seven months old. For many of those years at Provo, he was only allowed to go home on weekends and spent the majority of his days there inside a massive building with little to no contact. Despite the school’s specialized mission in helping deaf children, he didn’t teach him how to speak during his time there. It was until he was an adult he learned sign language. 

“Life there was terrible. We didn’t learn anything, we couldn’t speak to each other because we didn’t know sign language,” he said. “We would write without knowing what it said, and when we asked other classmates, no one understood anything.”

Things haven’t been easier for his mom, Natalia, who says her family has had to pause their lives due to the case and the horrors that have happened to her son. 

“I am super-nervous, anxious and I hope for justice; that this ends soon so my son can move on to a new stage because this is very hard,” said Natalia Villalonga told the Washington Post.

While the trial is just getting started, the trauma and disbelief for many of the young victims have gone on for too long.

Credit: @Crux / Twitter

Paola Gonzalez’s daughter, Milagros, who is now 16 years old, had been one of those 20 abused while attending the Institute. Gonzalez was shocked and angry when she found out what had happened to her daughter at what she considered at one point, a prestigious institution. 

“You should have seen her little body when she went into (the Provolo). She was so small,” Gonzalez told the AP. “I don’t understand, I can’t imagine such evil. How could they do so much harm to such a fragile creature?” 

READ: A Brazilian Gang Leader Thought He Could Use A ‘Scooby-Doo’ Tactic To Escape Prison

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ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

Things That Matter

ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

According to the Texas Tribune, the key witness in the ongoing sexual assault investigation at an ICE detention center has been deported. She was previously being held at a Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas.

While the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General initially forbid ICE from deporting her, the office apparently reversed their decision on Monday. According to reports, the office determined that “further interviews could be done over the phone”.

via Getty Images

According to previous reports, the unidentified 35-year-old woman alleged that guards had “forcibly kissed” her and touched her on the private parts.

Documents, which were extensively reported on by ProPublica, described the harassment as a “pattern and practice” at this particular detention center.

The woman also alleges that the guards would attempt to extort sexual favors from her and other detainees when they were returning from the medical unit back to her barrack. One guard allegedly told her that he would help get her released “if she behaved”.

The unnamed woman reported the harrasment to her lawyers who then filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The DHS then opened an investigation into the ICE Detention Center in El Paso.

The FBI has, since then, interviewed the woman extensively. According to documents, the woman gave investigators a tour of the facility where she showed them where the alleged harassment took place–in what were identified as security camera “blind spots”.

According to her, the guard told her that if she reported him, “No one would believe her”.

via Getty Images

Since the woman made these accusations, at least two other women at the same detention center came forward with similar claims. One of these women has already been deported.

According to previous reports, the unnamed woman accusing ICE officials of sexual assault was being held at the El Paso detention center for a drug-related crime and illegally entering the country. She claims she initially fled Mexico after a cartel member sexually assaulted and threatened her.

While ICE says that they have “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody”, the reality is much bleaker.

According to the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, ICE has had 14,700 complaints filed against them between 2010 and 2016 alleging sexual and/or physical abuse.

In the most recent statistics available, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault in 2018. Forty-eight of those were substantiated by the agency and 29 were still pending an investigation. According to Freedom for Immigrants, only a fraction of these complaints are investigated by the Office of Inspector General.

The woman’s lawyer, Linda Corchado, has not been shy about expressing her displeasure over her client’s deportation.

“[The government] allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”

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Daisy Coleman, The High School Sexual Assault Survivor Featured In A Netflix Documentary, Has Died By Suicide

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Daisy Coleman, The High School Sexual Assault Survivor Featured In A Netflix Documentary, Has Died By Suicide

Netflix

In 2016, Netflix debuted the heartwrenching documentary Audrie & Daisy a film that examined the tragic experiences of two high school students. Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman were two teens at the time of their sexual assaults. Both women were subjected to cyberbullying and abuse after their assaults and forced to heal with little support. But soon after her assault, Audrie Pott was driven to suicide by hanging.

The film showed that Coleman also struggled with suicide ideation after the assault.

Four years after the film’s debut, Coleman (who had become a sexual assault victim advocate) has died by suicide.

In a post to her Facebook page on Tuesday, Coleman’s mother shared the news: “My daughter Catherine Daisy Coleman committed suicide tonight,” Melinda Coleman wrote. “If you saw crazy messages and posts it was because I called the police to check on her. She was my best friend and amazing daughter. I think she had to make it seem like I could live without her. I can’t. I wish I could have taken the pain from her! She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone.”

At the time of her assault, Coleman was 14 years old. She was sexually assaulted by a high schooler named Matthew Barnett and was dumped outside of her home wearing only a T-shirt in the dead of winter. The documentary film said Coleman had been left behind in sub-freezing temperatures and that her hair had stuck to the ground.

Barnett was eventually subjected to a felony sexual assault charge for what he did to Coleman but the charge was later dropped.

After, Coleman became a target for bullying.

Filmmakers followed Coleman for two years watching the ways in which Coleman and members of her family were subjected to the trauma of her assault.

“I definitely feel like people have certain views and perceptions about me and about cases like this because they’re uneducated,” then-19-year-old Coleman told People in a 2017 interview. “That’s exactly why I’m going out and trying to educate people on what’s going on in our society.”

Speaking about her experience, Coleman said that she didn’t hold any animosity against her attacker. “I honestly don’t have any vindictive feelings toward him,” Coleman told People. “I feel like all of that negativity that he put onto me was passed down to him at one point, so I felt the need to stop that kind of transaction of negativity and hate… I went through a lot of years of self-loathing and asking myself, Why me? So much ‘woe is me’… I just decided one day that I was done being negative about it. I needed to forgive myself for what happened.”

In 2017, Coleman worked to help others from being subjected to sexual violence for the national campaign SafeBAE — Safe Before Anyone Else.

If you or someone you know might be considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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