ST. PETERSBURG, Florida. – Of all the horrific details that have been included in the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a sentence states: “The main thing is not to help the children, but to prevent ‘scandal.'”
As sex-abuse cases dominate the headlines, a familiar pattern often emerges. If it took place in a large organization, a church, a large university of the state or of a group such as the united states Gymnastics misconduct is often covered, in the hope of saving the setting, reputation, and the money that accompanies it.
Why is the role of institutions as powerful? Because they command an emotion. They inspire loyalty. And they have established ways of doing things that the rev-up when problems surface.
Perhaps most to the point, they often have a community built around them, geographically or otherwise. And if the preservation of that community can be a priority — even over something as seemingly fundamental protection of the youngest among us.
In short, when bad things happen in the settings, the ingredients are already there to make the matters worse.
“We have to stop protecting our rainmakers and we have to hold them to the values that we espouse, not only to move,” said Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women.
Take the case of the USA Gymnastics and doctor Larry Nassar, who abused hundreds of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment, while the service at Michigan State University.
Nassar is now in the service of a decades-long prison sentence for the murder of patients and the possession of child pornography. Victims had reported Nassar ‘ s behavior at the university of employees for years, and said that they were ignored.
“They were not believed and were not protected in the way they needed to be,” says Natalie Rogers, an organizer with the Back of MSU, an alliance of students, staff, faculty and alumni in advocating for greater accountability and transparency.
“Institutional culture here is what silenced them,” Rogers says.
And don’t forget the 2011 sex scandal that, in the grasp of Penn State when it came to light that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky molested dozens of boys? A report claimed that the famous head coach Joe Paterno and other university leaders were made aware of suspicions about Sandusky’s actions, but not take action to stop it.
The much talked about report of the unpacking of the university role, written by FBI Director Louis Freeh, said that the action was not taken and the facts were hidden on Penn State “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
At Ohio State, there is a growing list of more than 100 former students and athletes who say they were groped and otherwise assaulted by Dr. Richard Strauss, a deceased athletic department doctor who worked at the university for almost 20 years. There are questions about whether the Republican USA. Rep. Jim Jordan knew about the abuse when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State in the same time.
“Unfortunately, all too often, we still see organizations like the preservation of the brand and the retention of the money, either by moving the alleged perpetrators of the organisation from one area to another, instead of them to get rid of them, or not act in a way that the protection of the victims,” says Churches.
“The victims and their relatives than feel ashamed,” she says. “They do not believe that the institutions they trusted to care for them.”
Why would that be? Why would it not be a body reflex to give priority to the protection of the people who are most likely to help chart its future? Alan Saltpetre, a lawyer at Arnold & Porter in Chicago, says that there is usually one of the main reasons why abuse is covered.
“It happens because of the weaknesses in the culture of the institution,” says Saltpetre, a crisis-management expert who has written about the Penn State situation.
These shortcomings may be to protect the profit or equity. The Penn State case, he says, is an example of a power-based weakness that is transmitted in a cone of silence and the protection of (it involved money, in the form of alumni support of the football program and the university).
“At Penn State, football was king. It was the place where the money was. Then there was a scandal, no one wanted to whistle. Nobody wanted to challenge Joe Paterno,” Nitric says. “The culture is tolerant of that, and the people looked the other way.”
And the Pennsylvania Catholic cases it appears that over the past week? There is, he suggests, “the motivation was that they wanted the people to remain committed. Instead of having money or power, (they) wanted to keep their people to the church.”
The Pennsylvania grand jury report explained the ways in which the church tried to hide the victims’ stories and costs. “The word ‘secret’ “appears over and over again in the documents that we recovered,” the report said.
“Abuse complaints remained locked in a ‘secret archives,'” it says. “That is not our words, but those of them; the church’s Code of canon Law specifically requires the diocese to maintain such an archive. Only the bishop can be the key. . It is like a script for the hiding of the truth.”
The grand jury found that more than 1000 children were molested or raped by more than 300 “predator priests” in six Pennsylvania dioceses since the 1940’s. It said: a succession of diocesan bishops and other leaders worked to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability by shuffling abusive priests around parishes rather than reporting complaints to the police, leaving hundreds of known offenders to return to the ministry.
Dioceses across the country have paid more than $3 billion in settlements with victims since 1950, according to the bishops’ own studies and news reports. Liability insurance covered some of the benefits, but many dioceses have had to sell key properties to help cover the costs. About a dozen of the United States’ 197 dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection in the face of abuse claims.
James Campbell Quick, a University of Texas professor who has studied sexual harassment in the workplace, says the large institutions often encounter such problems. What is important, he says, is how they are addressed by the guidance.
“Sexual deviance is a part of the human condition,” he says. “The questions are, I think, of how much of a problem is it in a particular setting, and how you can identify and address the problem, or to manage.”
Quickly and other experts who have studied such scandals say that the show must come from one place: the top.
“If the show is set, and is healthy, then the system will be healthy. You should have systems to determine when something is wrong, unhealthy, or maladaptive occurs,” Quick says. “It really is the setting up of an institutional policy that say,” sexual abuse is unacceptable. Sexual harassment is unacceptable.'”
Adds the AAUW Kim Churches: “We must take action, because we must ensure that we create the cultures we want in our society.”
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