Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Devil Is In the Details by Peter Reum

I have covered many topics in the years I have written this blog. I have generally steered clear of political topics and religion. I have been acutely aware of the sexual abuse of children and adults for years. The tendency was to ignore these incidents, especially in institutions serving children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Perpetrators ranged from family, to peers, to paid staff.  Incest was the hidden crime, with children  fearing to accuse family members for fear of beatings, intensified sexual abuse, or expulsion from the family into unknown and dreaded alternatives.

The religious institutions and denominations of the world have been traditionally regarded as holy and generally less sinful than the world at large. Exceptions to this expected "best behavior" became scandalous. There was almost a prurient interest when people involved with the ministry or nunnery were exposed for sexual misbehavior every year.

In the last 50+ years, ministers in conservative fundamentalist churches
have been exposed for condemning gay and lesbian Christians who are not "out." At least one conservative Christian in Congress who condemned gay rights was exposed in
every two year session as being someone who is gay or lesbian in the closet, but was publicly condemning of gay and lesbian sexual behavior.

This phenomenon is related to the stigma suffered by childhood sexual abuse victims, and the attempts by victims of childhood sexual abuse to "purge" themselves of the self-hatred they feel after violation. This does not imply that gay and lesbian adults hate themselves for their sexual preference, but that in certain cases, sexual abuse victims may repeat the abuse they experienced themselves.

Perhaps the most disturbing behavior over
the last 50 years has been the disclosure of extensive sexual abuse of children, many of whom were altar boys, by Roman Catholic clergy in several dioceses in the American Roman Catholic Church.

The recent investigation of  the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pennsylvania by the attorney general of Pennsylvania disclosed today was only the latest in a string of extensively investigated and well documented cases of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy. The New York Times published three excellent articles today about the documented sexual abuse of over 1000 Pennsylvania boys and girls over a 40 year period by some 300 Catholic clergy.

What makes the report most disturbing is the investigation's disclosure of clergy and bishops actively colluding to bury the accusations of sexual abuse by Diocese of Pennsylvania  clerical leadership, including
monsignors, bishops, and archbishops. The
grand jury's report indicated that cover up
efforts even extended to Catholic officials in Rome. The grand jury also concluded that possibly up to five abuse victims did not report sexual abuse for every victim who reported the sexual abuse to authorities.

This report is not isolated. There are reports from almost 40 dioceses of sexual abuse of children. The Roman Catholic laypeople of the United States as a group need to speak up for the children who were victimized by clergy.  Direct action could perhaps discourage church leaders from trying to bury accusations of sexual abuse of minors.

The clearest prospect for effectiveness for prevention of childhood abuse by clergy is the education of young children of what sexual abuse is, how not to be fooled by sexual predators, and how to prevent being isolated by potential abusers.

The best remedy for childhood sexual abuse victims is counseling, followed by education. For those children, the first and most important knowledge each child should hear in post sexual abuse therapy is that they are in no way responsible for the abuse they experienced, and that they are heroes for reporting what happened to them. Helping victims to understand the reality that the sexual abuse was a violation that was perpetrated by a sexual predator can reduce the tendency to keep the abuse a secret, thereby inducing toxic shame and self-hatred.

I can personally vouch for the tendency to feel toxic shame and to thereby keep
childhood sexual abuse as an undisclosed
shameful experience rather than disclose it, even to parents, close friends, and other family members. After 30 years, the day I shared the incident with pertinent professionals was the beginning of my personal healing experience.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved