MAJURO, Marshall Islands - She sits on the grass on a warm, windy afternoon, with the Pacific tide rolling gently on the rock-strewn beach behind her.
The placid scene contrasts sharply with the part of her young life she is describing.
Five years ago, when she was 12, she and her younger sister were adopted by a Greenwood, S.C., couple. The sexual abuse by her adoptive father began almost as soon as she moved into his home, she said.
The Sun does not publish the names of alleged victims of sexual abuse.
According to court records, Michael A. Paulin, 48, an accountant and devout churchgoer, is accused of repeatedly fondling both girls and, in one instance, engaging in oral sex with the younger child, now 13.
He was arrested on state charges in April 2002 and charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct in one alleged act of oral sex with the younger girl between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2001. A police report dated June 25, 2002, alleges that Paulin abused her on numerous occasions, beginning in 1998.
Richard Hickson, then an assistant attorney general in the Marshall Islands, said he was contacted by South Carolina authorities about the allegations involving the younger girl after the elder sister had reunited with her family in Majuro. He said he interviewed the elder sister and passed along the information to South Carolina officials.
Hickson said South Carolina officials removed the younger sister from the Paulin home and that she remains in foster care.
Court records in Greenwood County show that the sisters were two of six children adopted by Paulin and his wife, who were married in 1987 and have two biological children. She filed for divorce last year, seeking custody of all the children, after her husband was indicted.
Michael Paulin was indicted in Greenwood County on July 15, 2002, on three felony counts of engaging in criminal sexual misconduct with a minor and committing or attempting a lewd or lascivious act on a child under 16. Those charges are related to the elder sister, now 18.
All of the charges are pending, records show. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Neither Paulin nor his lawyer responded to e-mail and phone requests for comment.
The accusations in the court file contrast with an account of the Paulins and their adoption efforts published in 1999 by The New Catholic Miscellany, a publication of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston. According to the article, the Paulins located the sisters with the assistance of their local pastor, the Rev. Hayden Vaverek, who made contact with a counterpart in the Marshall Islands, Monsignor James Gould.
The Paulins and Vaverek went to Ebeye, carrying food, toys, and school and health supplies to the tiny island, the article said. The trip opened the door to the Paulins' adoption of the sisters.
The Paulins' home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, adopted a sister parish in the islands.
State Board of Accountancy records show that Paulin disclosed on his annual renewal application, filed July 10, 2002, that he had been arrested the previous April on charges of criminal sexual conduct.
"I have not been indicted," Paulin wrote on the application signed under penalty of perjury. He was indicted five days later.
On his 2003 renewal form, Paulin answered no to the question of whether he had been indicted since his last application.
Doris Cubitt, administrator of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, wrote in an Oct. 15 letter to The Sun that agency officials would follow up on Paulin's response.
Sitting with her back to the sea and the setting sun, the elder sister recalled that Paulin told her not to tell anyone what was going on.
She said she finally got away from the Paulins by saying that she wanted to visit her family in the islands and convincing them that she would return to South Carolina. Once in Majuro, she refused to leave. She now lives with her grandmother.
Hickson says the case demonstrates the importance of requiring that all adoptions be carried out in compliance with laws in the Marshall Islands and the United States.
Court records enabled authorities to locate the birth family and investigate the charges. He said he knew of at least one abuse case where the birth family could not be located.
Though the "vast majority of adoptive parents" treat the children well, Hickson said, some fall through the cracks.