I was conversing with a SNAP member who had been abused as an adult and she asked me to mention that it is not just about priests.
When I was working at the diocese, I thought that abuse only took place in isolated events with altar boys, or only when gay priests were tempted by being around boys and teens. I don’t know why I thought that. Looking at it now, it seems pretty narrow-minded. Actually, I don’t think I really thought about the problem that much, except that it happened here and there and that it was wrong and that it was recognized and taken care of by church officials and by the law.
I never really thought about the problem being much bigger than a few bad apples. Never thought about it so much as to think that perhaps there were female victims as well.
And then, when I realized it had happened to me, an adult woman, and then I began to meet other women who had their own stories of abuse masked as relationships with priests, I realized that it was not just children who were abused.
And as I began to talk more with women who had been abused as adults, I began to see more and more men who had been abused as adults come forward and bravely share their stories as well.
Along the way, by attending SNAP conferences and by hearing other people’s stories, I learned that sexual abuse was not just a “thing” that Catholic priests could claim. Other abusers include deacons, nuns, rabbis, pastors, ministers, teachers, principals, school maintenance people, seminarians, scout leaders, Amish leaders, and more. You just have to read the news to hear of more abuse of power and sexual slavery and destruction of souls.
Why? And more importantly, why is our first reaction one of either disbelief or….it’s someone else’s problem and it’s being taken care of? And why do we tend to think of the problem as less than it is? Perhaps because we feel we have so little control over other people’s problems in this huge world of so many needs and problems. Perhaps because we barely feel we can handle our own problems and feel other people should take care of their own problems.
But in the case of someone in a position of power abusing those in their care or those who they have power over, this is a problem that effects everyone.
This affects parents being able to trust teachers and staff members at school and group leaders who spend time with their children. Parents deserve to know if their children are spending time with sex offenders.
Having sex offenders and abusers of power in positions of leadership and trust affects everyone in some way. And as we have seen, it’s not just seen with priests, although it certainly is seen within the Catholic Church.
Society, by giving community and church leaders unquestionable loyalty and by blaming their victims when they have been accused just because of their position, is a dangerous thing to do. In essence, society….that is…you, me and the average person who believes it is someone else’s problem or that someone else should speak up if they need to…..are giving power to evil. Whether or not these people in power are born evil or are driven that way due to having all of the freedom and control and no repercussions, allowing it to continue or blindly believing their innocence just because to not believe them would mean our perfect world would be shattered and our lives a bit uncomfortable…..is no reason to remain ignorant.
It is obvious that the abuse of power is epidemic and that it has been allowed to go on for far too long by a culture that tolerates it. At the very least, we should acknowledge that this abuse exists, that it has no boundaries, and that it is not just isolated events that are someone else’s problem.
It’s not just priests that are abusing.