Some may think the Diocese of Rockville Centre deserves kudos for releasing a list of clergy accused of sexual abuse. They would be wrong. Some may question why clergy sexual abuse survivors never seem to be satisfied with how the Catholic Church responds to them. They would be misinformed, but I cannot blame them for thinking so. There is a well-oiled public relations machine at work here.…
Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse deserves their chance to heal. This is true whether or not you want to confront your abuser, seek justice in the courts, or share your story with the public. None of that is required to begin the healing process. You won’t be reading about the clergy, scouts leaders, coaches, teachers, counselors, baby sitters, or family members in this piece. I want to speak about hope.
The science is in. We now have reputable, peer-reviewed studies documenting the lifelong consequences of the sexual victimization of a child or adolescent. These include psychologically severe trauma, whether physical trauma was involved, or not. These psychological effects may include PTSD, chronic anxiety and attachment disorders, and chronic depression. Survivors often seek relief in substance abuse, compulsive spending, sex addiction, and other self-destructive behaviors.
Every survivor’s experience is unique, and each of our stories is different. But there is a tragic commonality that unites us all. Today, I want to call out the single most insidious effect of childhood sexual violation, the self-condemning prison of shame. Because shame demands secrecy, it is a paralyzing dead-end road that inevitably leads to all the other destructive results.…
August 22, 2019
In 1970, a predator working at my high school sensed a vulnerability in me and began “grooming” me. He showed me more attention than I was used to, which made me feel special. When he first touched me inappropriately, I froze. He said I let him do it and used the fear and shame I felt to silence me and escalated the abuse throughout my senior year. My graduation ended the ordeal, and I vowed to myself I would carry my secret with me to the grave.
I moved on, or so I thought. But the shame that was used to shut me up didn’t disappear. I pushed it out of my mind, but it ate away at me from the inside like rust corroding an iron structure in a place no one can see. Over the next twenty years, that structure slowly corroded until I crashed and burned. It took forty-five years before I found the inner strength to report the abuse to my former school. Today, I am grateful for years of therapy and 12 Step recovery and count myself among the lucky survivors who can tell their story.
Valentine’s Day, 2019, marked the signing of the Child Victims Act and the culmination of a 15-year David vs. Goliath battle to change New York State’s archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations law for child sexual abuse. With his signature, the Governor gave survivors an opportunity to right a terrible wrong done to them as children.
Before the Child Victims Act, sexual abuse survivors had to seek justice by their 23rd birthday. Otherwise, their abuser was free to abuse still more children with impunity. The average age for an adult to disclose being sexually abused as a child is fifty-two, thirty years too late. Predators and their enablers had only to run out the clock, which they did over and over again.
Today survivors can choose to file a lawsuit or not, but those twenty-three or over on the day the bill was signed, February 14th, must do so before August 14th, 2020. It is a very personal decision, which only the survivor can make. I am a survivor, and here is how I made my decision.
I decided to bring legal action against my high school because my school’s administration did not protect me. They allowed a seasoned sexual predator unfettered access to vulnerable children, including me, and gave him free rein to operate as he wished. As a result, my high school experience did more to cripple me than prepare me to make my mark on the world.
What Will I Gain by Suing my School?
First, I am looking for answers that there is no other way to obtain but in court. Why was he able to do this to me; who else may have suffered the same fate? Second, I believe that telling my story under oath allows me to be seen, heard, and believed by a jury of my peers. Lastly, an outcome in my favor could provide some security in my senior years. My healing has required spending a large amount of money on therapy over the years, and I’m glad I did. It would be nice to get repaid for it and for what I went through for all of those years.
Suing abusers and those who shielded them is not everyone’s cup of tea. No one should feel compelled to file a lawsuit because some window will open and close. But everyone deserves to be heard and believed. If you were sexually abused as a child and have never told anyone, please find someone to confide in. Find help at one of the many caring organizations (www.SafeHorizon.org or www.SNAPnetwork.org) that offer support to survivors of sexual violence. They can help.
The scars of childhood sexual abuse never wholly disappear, as if the damage never happened. Sexual violence stole our childhoods from us. But as adults, we can learn we are survivors despite what we were forced to endure as children. If you are a survivor yourself, you are not alone. If you know a survivor, let them know they are not alone. Everyone deserves to heal.
A point I believe is central to this issue but often overlooked, is that the hierarchical leadership of this morality based institution has for centuries (first discussed in Church records in the fourth century) been complicit in the enabling and covering up of the sexual abuse of children and we are counting on them to fix it.
Do we really believe that powerful men, with the weight of these acts on their consciences and the fear of being exposed influencing their decisions, are the best candidates to wash away this stain on their Church? These are men who have to be wondering, with each new revelation, if this will be what finally brings them down, personally. How can they be entrusted with seeing a clear path forward out of this crisis while constantly looking back over their shoulders for the approaching accountability they dread.
These are men who strive to be Christ-like, not Christ himself, or even saints (yet). Only a complete and un-redacted exposure of all the Information related to the sexual abuse of children (whether by priests, brothers, sisters, deacons, or lay employees of the Church) to law enforcement authorities, including everything that’s been done to protect the Church’s (and by association the individuals in charge) reputation and standing in the community and world, will be cleansing enough for the Church (and it’s leadership) to emerge from this crisis once and for all.
Only then will the piecemeal reforms the Church puts in place, as well-intentioned as they may be, coalesce into any meaningful or lasting change. This is surely the message behind the words “We are only as sick as our secrets.” And doesn’t the Church itself tells us “Confession is good for the soul.”
The world’s highest-ranking bishops met in Rome over the past few days to discuss the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church. There were many moments when it seemed at least some of the Church’s leaders understood that the real issue has been the Church’s lack of transparency. For survivors, it no longer matters what the Bishops, Cardinals or even the Pope say but only what they do that means anything. Ending the secrecy is imperative if there is to be any hope of reversing the steadily growing mistrust of, and diminishing faith in, the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. This is true not only for survivors but also regular parishioners who grow weary of the steady stream of sickening revelations.
Ending clergy sex abuse of minors today and in the future is essential, and the Church has made significant progress in preventing more crimes against children from being committed. However, the actual abuse is not the only crime that requires justice. The calculated way these crimes were covered up and the perpetrators were shielded enabled further crimes to be committed and additional children to be harmed.
What was known about those crimes, when it was known and by whom? What was done with any allegations at the time? How were the victims who came forward to report abuse treated?…
November 6th, Election Day 2018, is nearly upon us. Many politicians, pundits, and ordinary people are saying this could be the most crucial election in our lifetimes. It’s impossible to gauge if that will turn out to be the case, but there is a lot on the line this year, for everyone.
An issue that gets far less political attention than one would expect, considering the recent surge in media coverage, is the reform of statutes of limitations (“SOL”) for sex crimes against minors. There has been an intentional avoidance of this issue that politicians and voters have been unwilling to confront for too long. Empirical evidence tells us why current laws are outdated and work against public safety — actually endangering children today and into the future. It is an issue that can and should be addressed at the polling place this November.
In a civilized society, agreeing on the steps needed to protect children from sexual predators should not be difficult.
We are at a pivotal moment in our society and our culture. One with the potential for a leap forward and escape from the gravitational prison of the long-entrenched ruling class. This old guard fights tooth and nail against this moment because they fear the change it will bring will be their demise. It need not be. But their tactic of clinging to the status quo and hiding in denial about the world which is evolving beyond and without them will be. Progress is only a threat to those who try and defy it.
A substantial segment of society is being (and has been throughout history) denied the same access to justice as the rest, completely ignoring the obvious truth that if justice is not available to everyone equally, there is no justice.
In our current spectacle, Republicans and other Kavanaugh supporters refuse to take off their blinders. The only injustice they see or will admit to in public is that one of their own privileged sons, born to rule and nurtured along the way to reach this point where he can repay his benefactors, is being challenged and not allowed to ascend to his lofty place….
The recent Pennsylvania grand jury report that covers six of the eight Catholic dioceses in the State of Pennsylvania names 301 “Predator priests” and over 1000 victims. The jurors themselves state that in their belief, they have not identified even half of the actual number of victims.
All around the globe for the past half-century, wherever an investigation of the Catholic Church has been undertaken, the same pattern of sexual abuse and cover-up is exposed, and the lengths that the Church’s hierarchy will go to to protect their own reputation and financial holdings is revealed, yet again….
NY Republican Senators need to take a good hard look at whose bidding they are doing and whether or not they want to be associated with an institution more corrupt than even they are.
It didn’t start with the Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s exposure of Cardinal Law’s reign of horror in 2002 but ever since we’ve seen a ceaseless tide of revelations of Catholic priests sexually abusing children and Catholic Bishops covering it up. The scandal is so widespread that it’s safe to say that any diocese not dealing with a scandal at this point is probably only a “yet.”…
. . . was born 101 years ago, today, on July 17th, 1917, in New York City. He only got to walk this earth for 81 of those years, due to his love of golf. Well, not exactly. But he did die in a hospital recovery room after successful knee replacement surgery but unsuccessful patient care afterward. Although I’m sure this affected most areas of his life, especially any that required mobility, his stated reason for the operation was so he could play golf with less pain. Unfortunately, he never got to play another terrestrial round of golf to test that out. This November will complete our 20th year without him.
Everyone who knew him would say they could see parts of Phil Toale in his children, whether a physical resemblance or a corny sense of humor and gregarious nature. I know I can easily see my father in the facial expressions and mannerisms of both my siblings. And much to the chagrin of others, when any two of us are together (beware if it’s all three!) there results in an inevitable attempt to out-wit each other with the most clever puns, in Dad’s honor, of course….