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#635: Abused girl may have slipped through cracks (fwd)
Published Saturday, October 2, 1999, in the Miami Herald
Abused girl may have slipped through cracks
By AJOWA NZINGA IFATEYO and MANOLO BARCO
Police can't find Willy Pompee, a 20-year-old man who allegedly
sexually abused a 12-year-old Haitian girl for three years while she
served as a family housekeeper. Pembroke Pines police went to Pompee's
home to serve a warrant for his arrest, said spokeswoman Maryann
Flanagan. Police knocked on the door of 17228 SW 13th St., and found no
one home, Flanagan said. She declined to speculate on whether he may
have fled. She said she doesn't know what Pompee is charged with in the
warrant, which was issued on Thursday. Meanwhile, members of South
Florida's Haitian community said they fear the girl is what is known in
Haiti as a restavec, an impoverished child that a wealthy family takes
in and uses as an indentured servant in exchange for food, clothing,
and sometimes an education. Often, young girls are also used as sex
slaves for the males in the house.
A protest was planned Sunday in front of the Pompee home in Pembroke
Pines or at the family's Miami business. ``As a community we are
outraged, absolutely outraged, that this is still happening,'' Leonie
Hermantin, executive director of the Haitian American Foundation in
Miami, said Friday. ``This is something that is being fought in
Haiti.'' The 12-year-old girl lived in the Pembroke Pines home of Marie
and Willy Pompee and their four children at the 13th Street address. The
lot is 11,478 square feet in size and the home is 4,089 square feet.
Willy Pompee, whose son allegedly abused the girl, is believed to be a
clothing manufacturer who regularly travels between Miami and Haiti.
TALE OF SERVITUDE
The girl told police that she had to clean the house late into the
night, sleep on the floor and eat in the garage. She said she was
threatened with being sent back to Haiti if she complained.
She said Pompee's older son Willy Junior would force her to have sex
while the other kids were in the pool. She said she told Marie Pompee
about the abuse but was called a ``whore'' and a ``slut.'' Several
people who came into contact with the girl said they tried to report her
allegations of abuse to a state abuse hotline. But a spokeswoman at
Florida Abuse Registry in Tallahassee, which operates the Florida abuse
hotline (1-800 96-ABUSE), said she did not believe that hotline
operators got the calls. Cecka Green, a spokeswoman for the Department
of Children and Family, which operates the hotline, acknowledged that
the hotline has been overwhelmed since July.
Callers can wait up to 30 minutes during peak hours -- 10 a.m. to 6
p.m. weekdays -- for a call to be answered, she said. Calls have
increased tenfold in the past two months. That's when the Kayla McKean
Act, named for a child killed by her father on Thanksgiving Day, went
into effect. It requires law enforcement personnel, judges,
teachers and medical personnel to report suspected abuse. Before the
law, the hotline office, housed in a building in Tallahassee with 104
staffers, received an average of 800 to 900 calls Monday through
Friday, Green said. Now that number is between 1,200 and 1,350 calls.
DCF expects to hire 10 more staffers for the hotline and may buy
software that would allow them to call back anyone who could not get
through to the hotline. ``Officials are meeting as we speak to improve
services,'' Green said. ``We are making changes to make it better.''