We continue to get inquiries from around the world about last Spring’s Boy Scouts sex abuse trial in Portland. The article from the Guardian in England is an example of how widespread was the interest in that trial.

Significantly, the public is beginning to see the commonalities between child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, child sex abuse in the Mormon Church, child sex abuse in the Boy Scouts– as well as in other "institutions of trust." These commonalities are, among others:

* Child sexual abuse always occurs in secrecy, and secrecy is its soil and fertilizer.

* The hierarchies of these organizations have made diligent efforst to keep their abuse problems quiet– thus the cover-ups, the secret files, the official denials. See the "secrecy" comment above.

* Once the secrets begin to come out– in litigation, usually, and then in the press, the organizations react with bluster, hardball tactics, and stonewalling legal strategies. Worse, they blame the victims or their families, or their lawyers, for the problem.

But what these institutions of trust fail to see from these commonalities is that, as time goes on, victims get stronger and more resolute, and abuse cases don’t get better for these organizations, they get worse. Thus, the tactics above do not solve the problem, they only protract it. They do not understand that the victims come forward and bring litigation for two reasons– each vital and unshakable: first, to secure justice for themselves and accountability for their abusers and the institutions that enabled the abuse; and, second, to prevent child abuse in the future. Both reasons are central to the healing, and both are independently sustaining and motivating for abuse survivors.

And, of course, the survivors are winning this great and long battle: the organizations slowly change their policies, are less likely to transfer abusers around, and start asking what else they can do to prevent abuse. Oh, they won’t admit that any of these things are because of claims or lawsuits, but let’s ask this: Is the Catholic Church, for example, safer for kids than it was 30 years ago? I think the almost universal answer would be "yes." But, then, let’s ask: what is the reason for that change? It’s not because the bishops suddenly got the Holy Spirit; it’s because the bishops got sued, over and over again, by thousands of men and women who decided to stand up and fight, for themselves and for future generations.

This movement by survivors is a great and noble child civil rights movement, and I remain incredibly honored to be able to be part of it.

Kelly Clark

About Kelly Clark

Most centrally, for nearly twenty years, Kelly Clark was a leading advocate for victims of ...