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Do Myths About Child Abuse Explain The Church Sex Abuse Scandals?

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I read an interesting story comparing myths and facts about child sexual abuse. The author points to research which suggests one reason why the Catholic Church has had such difficulty coming to terms with the reality of sexual abuse by it’s priests:

Males are less likely to believe victims complaints – particularly when sexual abuse is involved. Female respondents were more likely to believe victims who speak up. Males were more likely to believe children who made allegations of physical abuse. Men were not so likely to believe allegations of sexual abuse.

This is an interesting finding that needs more investigation. It could explain why it was so difficult to convince predominantly male law enforcement of the pervasive nature of this problem in our society and why it was so hard for the male leadership of the church to believe that their male colleagues were abusing children.

I have represented hundreds of victims of childhood sexual abuse and dozens of victims of priest sexual abuse. In most of those cases I was not convinced that the “male leadership of the church” did not believe the victim. On the contrary, the allegations were believed but the sexual offender was simply shuffled off to a different parish to continue his predations.

However I agree wholeheartedly with one of the authors conclusions:

None of us is immune to making assumptions. It is important to note, however, that these perceptions can and do influence treatment, investigations and community responses. Raising our awareness about these perceptions can help us be open to dealing with the situations that arise before us with integrity, compassion and empathy.

When we do that, we open the door to those who are suffering in our midst to speak up and tell us about their pain. That is the beginning of healing.

Take a look at the rest of the story here.

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