Monthly Archives: February 2016

Spotlight

“Spotlight” won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture. The highly acclaimed film details the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church sex scandal.

Does this matter to abuse victims? I think it does. Here’s why.

To begin with, the film and the attention it has received have heightened public awareness of abuse. Viewers come away with a better understanding that predators can lurk anywhere, even in plain sight and priestly garb.

More than that, “Spotlight” sheds light on a mindset and bureaucratic structure within the church that facilitated abuse.

The highest levels of authority within the Catholic Church enabled abuse by systematically covering-up what may have been thousands of instances. In the vast majority of cases, the church did not defrock predator priests. Instead, it transferred them to new parishes, allowing them continued access to children without so much as warning the new parishes.

And the church failed to report these crimes against children to civil authorities, abandoning and betraying the children under its care.

For all such reasons, the church must be viewed as complicit in the abuse perpetrated.

This is not ancient history. The victims of clergy abuse continue to wrestle with the scars of that abuse today. Many will never obtain justice.

But change comes slowly. The Catholic Church’s Advisory Counsel for the Protection of Minors now teaches that church officials have a moral and ethical duty to report suspected abuse to civil authorities [1]. As recently as September of last year, however, Monsignor Tony Anatrella had argued that reporting was not required by church law.

Hopefully, what victims can take away from “Spotlight” is a recognition that any shame associated with abuse is the predator’s alone…not theirs. Other moviegoers should already know that.

[1] Crux, “Papal Commission: Bishops Must Report Sex Abuse Charges”, 2/15/16, http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/02/15/papal-commission-bishops-must-report-sex-abuse-charges/.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Mirrors

“Girl before a Mirror” by Pablo Picasso (1932), (Fair Use)

In this political season, there is a great deal of emphasis on image. Candidates craft their images with care, choosing just the right setting, just the right music, just the right wording for political ads, campaign photos, and sound bites.

These carefully crafted images are not necessarily a true reflection of the candidate’s character – more like a carnival house of mirrors, with everything distorted.

What about the images abuse victims have of themselves? How accurate are those?

One crucial distinction between the images politicians design for themselves, and those abuse victims carry over from childhood, is that victims do not get to choose their images. In large part, those are crafted by the adults around them.

However, when the mirror is cracked, twisted, and deformed, so is the image reflected in it. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Politics, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Full and Satisfying

Tree decorated for Valentine’s Day, San Diego, CA, Source/Author Johntex (GNU Free Documentation License/CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, CC BY 2.5 Generic)

Can the victims of abuse ever lead full and satisfying lives? That depends, to a large extent, on how we define “full and satisfying”.

There is no question that abuse can kill. Those of us who survive may be left with lifelong physical and emotional scars. Abuse can leave victims struggling with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Abuse can turn sex into a weapon, in the desperate search for love. Abuse can lead to self-medication, with drugs or alcohol.

But that is not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

“…even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.”

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning described his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp. He concluded that human beings strive for purpose, and that – whatever our circumstances – we have the ability to give life meaning through love, work, and suffering.

At first glance, that may not make sense. Oh, most of us would agree that life can be given meaning by romantic love, perhaps brotherly love. After some thought, we might be persuaded that life can be given meaning by work – even tedious or menial work, if done to support the ones we love.

Yet suffering? Not such a stretch as it might seem. We recognize the concept of sacrifice in a noble cause (love of God, love of country, etc.), and sacrifice for the sake of a beloved. Mothers who have lost a child will understand that their grief is, in part, a testament to that child.

How does this relate to abuse victims? Well, we have certainly suffered. That our suffering was not to any purpose makes it all the more cruel. We were innocent victims. Blameless.

And that is the place to start… Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4]. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women