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Survivors’ hope: All needed to end abuse

If anyone is under the impression that the Catholic church stands alone in its reputation for sexual abuse, cover-ups, and repeat offenses, they are mistaken.

Unfortunately, no one is immune.

It is not exclusive to a specific group, and it impacts people from all ages and backgrounds. Because it affects us all, it’s time we recognize the devastation it causes and take steps to help end the insanity.

The Hope of Survivors is an international organization fighting to end clergy sexual abuse. As victim support coordinator, we are contacted by men and women from around the world in every religious and faith community who were abused by their spiritual leaders.

They come to us because the very place they should have been safe, caused grave damage, and the very person they should have been able to trust, caused great devastation.

A recent case in Pennsylvania reveals three Franciscan friars accused of allowing Stephen Baker to continue his teaching position in a Roman Catholic high school, while having knowledge of his previous acts of sexual crimes against children.

He taught religion and volunteered as an athletic trainer, according to the article. Abusing children is a horrific act that can leave a lifetime of scars. The added element of an abusive spiritual leader creates an even more traumatic outcome.

Clergy are among a group described as “helping professionals” for obvious reasons. By their very nature, people seek spiritual leaders for answers, for consolation, for guidance.

They are given personal and private information that they receive simply because of their title, their sacred trusted title. The vulnerability level among those they serve, particularly with young people, is high.

Spiritual leaders are well aware of their ability to manipulate every person they encounter. Being master manipulators may be one reason they are often relocated or rehired after committing a sex crime.

It is not surprising then, that recidivism rates are high among the predators we encounter at The Hope of Survivors. Most always, spiritual leaders abuse more than one person.

The Catholic church became infamous for shuffling its sexual offending priests around, relocating them where they were able to strike again. The damage is revealed in the recent award-winning movie, “Spotlight.”

Repeat offenses is sadly proven in this case as well.

“More than 90 students have settled lawsuits for more than $8 million claiming Baker molested them, mostly while acting as a sports trainer.”

Because clergy abuse impacts every religious and faith organization around the globe, we must join together to help end the devastation.

Working with victims, I hear the groans of the excruciating pain of the pursuit and betrayal. I hear the cries of hopelessness when the church chooses to keep an abuser in a position of leadership, leaving the victim to dwell in the darkness of their abuse, and putting other vulnerable souls at risk.

While the church has made some changes to provide protection from sex offenders, there is still a lot of work to do to end all clergy abuse and prevent repeat offenses. Will you help stop the insanity?

Mary Jo Noworyta

Victim Support Coordinator

The Hope of Survivors

West Seneca, N.Y.

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