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All the way to the top

It doesn’t surprise me that the Roman Catholic child sex abuse crimes and cover-ups go all the way up to the Pope. That seems to be how child sex abuse works in so many dysfunctional families, communities, and institutions. The entire community (or family, or institution) folds in on itself to cover and protect its most powerful members, even if that means throwing its most vulnerable members to the wolves. The more sinful the secret, the more taboo the transgression, the more likely it is that the abuser will garner protection from the people both above and below him in his institution’s hierarchy. The people above him will protect him because they’re protecting the reputation of the institution (or the reputation of the family or the community), and the people below him will protect him because they need to stay in the good graces of the institution’s more powerful members.

Child sexual abuse victims tend to lack power, and rank pretty low on the hierarchy of credibility. It’s easier to silence such a child by calling him a liar than it is to make a pedophile stop abusing children.

I used to have a friend who spent several years of his childhood in the Alfred Reformatory, under the control of the Christian Brothers. He told me some chilling stories.

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” I asked.

“I did.” he replied. “Most people already knew.”

I think about that sometimes. An institution full of kids being physically and sexually abused, while their families and communities pretended not to know. I think about that same scenario playing itself out in communities and churches and residential schools and families across the country and around the world.

I don’t know how we let things get this bad, but I agree with Milan about what needs to be done about it.

7 comments to All the way to the top

  • XUP

    I am blown away at how pervasive the sexual abuse of children is — not only the church, but the residential schools and almost every other organization that involves children; all the people I know who were abused in some way as children; all the child pornographers they keep rounding up on an almost daily basis. What the hell? What’s wrong with all these so-called adults?

  • I think it’s always been there, it was only in the 80’s that anyone thought to study the psychological impact on victims and how the justice system was completely incapable of protecting victims as it was set up. I only found out in the past year that there isn’t a statute of limitations on reporting child abuse (we’re so over shadowed by American media and there the statute of limitations is 2 years). That law was changed in 1988!

    Child porn has always been there but I do think the internet and digital makes the sharing of it much easier.

  • “Most people already knew” gets at the heart of it. An open secret.

    >It’s easier to silence such a child by calling him a liar than it is to make a pedophile stop abusing children.

    If people can talk freely and call people on this behavior and be heard, rather than called imaginative or shushed, that’s a start.

    There’s people like Detective Leaver, (heard her on CBC) and Circles of Support and Accountability to keep pedophiles steady.

    Not an easy issue nor solution.

  • Em

    The sad thing is, even if a person gets to the criminal justice system for the abuse, the “punishment” rarely fits the crime. I don’t think anything really ends there for the victim or the offender.

  • This is unbelievable and heartbreaking.
    I just finished reading The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre which is an excellent recounting of the cover-ups in the church. It’s fiction, but it’s not. It doesn’t describe the abuse, it’s about the cover-up. Well worth reading.
    It’s all just impossible to understand.

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