“Explosive” Documentary About Sexual Abuse at School for Deaf

by John McKiggan

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) kicks off in just a few weeks’ time. One of the films premiering at TIFF is Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, a documentary by an Oscar-winning Director Alex Gibney.

The film chronicles the sad and tragic story of a pedophile, Father Lawrence Murphy, who sexually abused as many as 200 deaf children over a period of three decades at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin.

You can watch the trailer for Mea Maxima Culpa on YouTube. If you are in Toronto in September, I encourage you to attend this important film premiere.

Child Abuse Not Just a Catholic Problem

You would have to be trapped on a desert island to not to be aware of the tidal wave of sexual abuse allegations that have been made against Catholic priests around the world.

However, as I have discussed in previous posts, childhood sexual abuse is not just a Catholic problem. It is a problem that can occur anywhere. However, the incidence of childhood sexual abuse becomes even more prevalent in situations of institutional care.

Here in Canada, institutional sexual abuse claims have been filed against hundreds of former Indian Residential Schools, schools for cognitively disabled children, reform schools, schools for the deaf, and other residential care facilities.

All these cases have one thing in common – vulnerable children who were placed into an institution under the care and control of adults who used their power to abuse vulnerable children.

Pedophiles pray on the young and vulnerable. Who could be more vulnerable than a deaf child?

Are Barriers Greater for Deaf Abuse Survivors?

Victims of childhood sexual abuse are often reluctant to disclose what happened to them. Some are not able to talk about their abuse because of their psychological effects of the abuse itself, some fear the stigma attached to being a survivor of childhood abuse.

Sometimes it is difficult for survivors of childhood abuse to find the professional help they need to deal with the effects of their childhood abuse. That is why we complied The Maritime Directory of Services for Survivors of Sexual Abuse.

I think the barriers to disclosure are greater for members of the deaf community. Since a member of my extended family is deaf, I have a personal understanding of some of the unique challenges the deaf community faces. I am not aware of any experts who specialize in counselling abuse survivors who are able to communicate through sign language. Given that, I think the members of the deaf community may find it more difficult to disclose incidents of historical abuse and reach out for help.

I applaud director Gibney’s work, and I look forward to watching Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.

Comments are closed.