The BBC has published two articles in recent weeks regarding a four-year Royal Commission investigating child sexual abuse that includes 85 proposals surrounding institutional abuse. The first BBC article, says ‘the commission was contacted by thousands of victims from both religious and non-religious organizations.’ When you come to understand the nature of child sexual predators, you learn that some will position themselves near children, intentionally. A text book example is Jerry Sandusky, who was a foster father and the adopted dad to six children, the founder of an impoverished boys sports club and a professional coach of young people who was convicted of 45 of 48 counts of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, indecent assault, criminal intent to commit indecent assault, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of minors.
The BBC article implies debates in this council by reporting “the issue of mandatory reporting was one of the most discussed aspects of the inquiry.” And, I don’t doubt that. I am connected to a small group of mothers of sexual abuse survivors, each of us are activists for this cause and although the core of our passions are the same some of our ideas vary widely. Polarized ideas add a great deal of exuberance to debate on the same side of an argument. However, the need to see change, the need to educate and to protect, can sometimes blind us to the consequences of our actions. The lack of tangible changes in our societies is like tinder to the fire in our hearts. That fire down under is felt across the globe.
The report that has been submitted to legislators in Australia recommended that people in institutions who “know, or suspect or should have suspected” a child was being abused should face criminal charges.” This is a far-reaching proposal that could affect many people in a harmful way, in my opinion. Although the spirit of the request speaks to the intolerance of pedophiles, I believe it jumps several steps ahead of solving the problem. “Knowing” can be clouded and confused, many things are ‘suspect’ and what we ‘should have suspected’ is irrelevant when put into context.
Referring again to the Sandusky case, Joe Paterno is a prime example of the point I am making. I am not a sports person, I did not know Mr. Paterno or anyone in his life and it may be unfair of me to speak to his experience but in my mind Joe Paterno was Jerry Sandusky’s scape goat. Jerry used Joe’s faith in him, to protect him from prosecution and social judgment. I realize how offensive my idea may be to some, but I am speaking to the hinge of the issue – belief.
Paterno did not notify police about Mr. McQueary reports because he could not believe that Jerry, his friend and esteemed colleague was a child sexual aggressor. Joe understood assistant coach Mr. Mc Quareay’s words when he told about seeing Jerry raping a young boy in athletic room shower, but I do not believe Joe had the capacity to process that a person he respected, cared about and enjoyed could be a child sexual rapist. It is my contention that Joe’s brain could not digest the information he was given, he was frozen to act because of the way he knew Jerry. Jerry was ‘good.’ Not ‘bad,’ the human mind cannot coalesce the two in the context of sex with minor children. I stand testament to the fact that you CAN have factual knowledge that a loved one has sexualized a child, but defend the guilty one because of the perception that you know them and they are a ‘good’ person. They have proven their goodness to you repeatedly, there is no other way to see them. ‘Good’ is the trademark of the pedophile.
The fact that Sandusky raped a 10-year-old boy in an open school shower proves how confident he was that he would not be reported, punished, or face any consequence. When the risk of being caught is too high, most people change their minds about committing a crime. Jerry acted in confidence, not fear. He did so because he had manipulated confidence, trust, professionalism and a host of other top-notch qualities for decades.
Unfortunately, Joe is not here to give his thoughts on his experience but there are others like me, who can tell about the shock that overwhelms you when you are forced to accept that someone you care about is a pedophile. I am confident in saying that when Joe Paterno was pushed to accept the mounting evidence against Jerry I have every confidence he was paralyzed in guilt, devastation, betrayal, and a host of other volcanic emotions that likely participated in his death.
For the Ausie’s to pass such a powerful law without educating the general public about the nature of pedophilia isn’t solving the problem. People must be taught to trust what they see, and to understand that the people they adore and admire, can be sexually attracted to small children. They must end the concept of stranger danger and teach people to realize pedophiles are our friends and family before taking legal action to jail more innocent people.
Striking at the heart of the Catholic Church, the author of the 2nd article Claudia Allen, tell us that the commission is asking that “Priests who suspect child abuse after hearing confession should report it to the authorities – or face criminal charges”. Later in the article Ms. Allen explains that “Under the law of the Church if a priest breaks the seal (of confession) he is automatically punished with excommunication”. Digging for more information on confession, Wikipedia tells us “Priests may not reveal what they have learned in confession to anyone, even under threat of their own death or the death of others.” Not being Catholic the request seems reasonable, however knowing several devout Catholics, I can appreciate the sacredness of confession, and it saddens me that our diligent focus to protect kids has brought us to the point of violating a sacred duty.
This proposal is thrilling to anyone committed to this cause. More of the 85 points include:
- Creating national laws to stop perpetrators moving between intuitions
- Finding methods to make testifying less traumatic for victims
- Removing ‘good character’ consideration in sentencing and enforcing harsher penalties for repeat offenders
- Expanding grooming laws to include grooming a victim’s relatives or caregivers
Around the globe more and more people are calling for action to be taken, and for women and children to be protected. In India, they are teaching younger children more useable information in order to protect them. Pope Francis has said he has a “zero tolerance” for such behavior and I hope he is willing to act on those words otherwise The Church may be forced to. The fire down under points a bright light on what other countries and global institutions can do to protect children.
Advocate and Author
Annalise grew up in the Midwest but moved to Denver, Colorado more than 20 years ago. Her oldest child is 19, and she has a son in high school as well as two step daughters. Teaching her kids to cook is a family favorite! In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching movies and connecting with friends and family.