South Florida, as was the rest of the world, was stunned at last week’s Pennsylvania grand jury report that over 1,000 young boys and girls were found to have been sexual abused by over 300 Catholic priests over a period of several decades.
Yet despite these despicable acts against the youth, many of whom placed their trust in these priests, when this newspaper sought the reaction of several South Floridians only two bemoaned the impact of the abuse on the children. Most, tried being analytical, giving reasons for the priests’ despicable behavior.
Relatively subdued reaction
One also expected the reaction to the news of these abuses would have been much more vehement across the main-stream television networks, but, instead, the reactions were relatively subdued.
So was the delayed reaction by the head of the world’s Catholic Church, Pope Francis 1. Condemning the priests alleged to be guilty of these sexual reprobate acts on children isn’t enough. The Church, led by the Pope, must take more profound measures to stop these abuses which have plagued the Catholic Church for centuries.
Goes beyond the Catholic Church
But sexual abuse of children goes way beyond priests in the Catholic Church. Sexual abuse against children has become akin to an epidemic, involving pastors in other churches, and men of various walks of life.
In Jamaica, some months ago the news was laden with reports of sexual abuse by senior pastors in several prominent churches. During the tenure of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller she persistently spoke and sought action against sexual abuse of young children within and outside the home, Some of these abuses escalated into the criminal death of several young people, especially young girls, and almost daily Jamaican papers issued Ananda Alerts related to missing young girls and boys.
Although the current Jamaican government, and private organizations, including the Female Development World Organization and its “Nuh guh Deh” campaign conducted and led by South Florida’s Lavern Deer, have been more active in trying to curb child sexual abuse, the problem still persists. While one notes that the published Ananda Alerts of missing children have been less frequent, one cannot attest this to less children having gone missing, or a policy decision to reduce publication of these reports.
Here in the US, there are frequent reports of young boys and girls being trafficked from poor foreign nations. Mostly, these young people are being distributed throughout the country like slaves and forced into lives of prostitution, dancers in nude clubs, or participating in other forms of nefarious behaviors.
Normally victims trusted abusers
It’s difficulty, despite explanation attempted by psychologists and other behavior specialists, why grown, adult men, find young girls and boys, some little older than infants, sexually appealing. Compounding the despicable nature of this deplorable abuse is that in many circumstances the abused child victim trusted the abuser.
Priests and pastors in Church’s are usually impeccably trusted by members of their congregation. Parents, assuming these “men of God” are trustworthy, moral leaders, normally never associate them with sexual deviousness in turning their kids to them for moral guidance. But it seems that priests and pastors, and other sexual abusers, have an uncanny way of depicting the most vulnerable youth, pre-teens and teens, and use this vulnerability as a spring-board for sexual abuse.
Another unfortunate impact of these incidents of abuse is that they often leave permanent emotional and psychological scars on many of the young victims.
The fact is thousands of children in the US, the Caribbean, and globally, are victims of sexual abuse. As, the scourge of poverty makes more vulnerable children turn to adult men for assistance, this assistance becomes a corollary to sexual abuse.
Can never be justified
Sexual abuse can never be justified. It can’t be justified by priests who cannot withstand the temptations of the flesh after they took oaths of celibacy. It can’t be justified by men who take the youth into their houses to provided them with room and board. It can’t be justified by men who assist poor mothers to provide food and shelter for their children. Sexual abuse of children can never be justified.
As a community, more is needed publicly and privately, by churches and secular organizations. to eliminate and prevent child sexual abuse. The frequency and wantonness of reports of incidences of child sexual abuse by people children trust in the community – priests, pastors, teachers, coaches, mentors, relatives, employers, place every child, even your own in potential danger. As a community, there’s a collective responsibility to ensure this scourge is removed.