It is a sad reality that some of the most trusted institutions and individuals in our communities have not done enough to protect children from abuse. The trust-based relationships between church and parishioner, troop leader and scout, coach and student, doctor and patient all leave children vulnerable. Abusers are adept at manipulating trust. They prey on that trust, confusing children and parents alike. Silence becomes the easiest path for everyone, allowing abuse to continue.
As leaders in a faith community, priests have great power. Parents historically entrusted them with their children for religious instruction. The church was a place for children to seek friendship and grace. It also created an environment that enabled ongoing, unchallenged sexual abuse. Others in positions of power such as coaches, teachers and other church leaders also abused children entrusted to them.
In California, cases of abuse have been raised in all 11 Catholic Diocese. Several of these Dioceses have created victim compensation funds in an effort to heal and move beyond the allegations of systemic abuse.
The Mormon church has also been embroiled in cases of sexual abuse. As in the Catholic church, Mormon leaders have greater access and broader authority over vulnerable children. When parents and children grant church leaders greater latitude, their trust is easily betrayed.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has structure and hierarchy that can hide abuse. Many boys have enjoyed the scouting experience, learning new skills and building relationships with older boy scouts and leaders. Abusers take advantage of the bond that forms between scouts and leaders. Because scouting activities are away from parents and guardians, there are plenty of opportunities for abuse. We can help, but you must act now to hold the BSA responsible
. Claims filed before November 16, 2020
will be considered as part of the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy process.
Young athletes are particularly vulnerable to abuse by adults. Coaches, physical therapists, doctors and trainers all have unusually free access to the children. These authority figures can easily blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. As recent cases have shown, abuse can be at an enormous scale, right under the watchful eyes of parents.
The evil of child sexual abuse extends beyond individual abusers to institutions and leaders who enable abusers and cover-up their abuse. Institutional enablement and cover-up takes many forms. It may be a bishop who reassigns a known pedophile priest to a new parish with unsuspecting children and parents, a church leader who refuses to report child sexual abuse to civil authorities, scout executives who conceal a boy scout leader’s perversion file or other acts of enablement and cover-up. The greater the institution’s reliance on its holy, pure, or wholesome image, the greater the risk of cover-up. Why? Because some misguided institutional leaders faced with evidence of child sexual abuse tragically react by covering-up the abuse to protect the “good name” of the institution; they prioritize institutional image over child safety. This shields abusers from accountability and provides predators access to new and unsuspecting victims.