Overarching Question: As citizens, to what extent can we help bring about the changes needed to better support the social and legal recognition of the victims and survivors of sexual violence?
Summary: In recent years, various attempts worldwide have been made to reveal and repair the damage caused by child sexual abuse at the hands of clerics. Ranging from journalism (e.g., the 2002 Boston Globe investigation) to scientific studies and commissions of inquiry, these measures have helped make the phenomenon of victimization more visible. Efforts undertaken in the United States (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania), Ireland, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands have allowed us to better understand victimization, its impact and the corrective measures implemented in the community to foster healing and restoration. The first full-scale study on sexual victimization was commissioned in 2002. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2004, 2006) collected data on the allegations made by 10,667 individuals against 4,392 clerics. The study found that 4.3% of Catholic clergy in the USA were the object of allegations of sexual misconduct against minors. Similarly, a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania amassed evidence against 300 priests accused of child sexual abuse. Both inquiries helped pinpoint when the allegations were reported to religious authorities and thus reveal the silence and prolonged inaction on the part of various institutions. In Australia, the 2017 report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse showed how protecting the Church and its leaders took precedence over the protection of children.