On Monday, I returned to my local cinema to watch Spotlight which was about how the Boston Globe researched and published the scandal of clerical child sexual abuse and how the Catholic Church hierarchy shovelled suspect and accused paedophiles out of parishes where they had become lightning rods to other parishes where they continued the abuse of children.
The problem with exposing this atrocious abuse was that the establishment, the church, politicians, the courts, public officials and influential people stood in the way of getting this truth revealed.
The tenacity of the Spotlight investigative journalism team was not only laudable and commendable, after they published their findings and that included hundreds of articles, they were awarded The 2003 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service. The winning work appears on the page linked.
Protecting the church from the abused
There many facets to the story, from the fact that the longest established human organisation of political and religious influence was more concerned about its reputation at the expense of kids who were corrupted, abused, robbed of their innocence, defiled and worse.
The idea that at least 6% of priests could be involved in child sexual abuse was not only shocking and alarming, it was blindingly unconscionable that the church was ready to save the perpetrators and pay for the silence of the victims. Anyone who tried to expose this criminality faced the onslaught of condemnation, ostracism and every kind of reputational assassination by direct or indirect agents of the church.
A 7-year old’s experience
I needed to watch this film because of my own experience of abuse, I was hardly 7 when I was called into the toilet by a relation and asked to do things I did not understand, and the lifelong effect of that experience on me is lasting even if I am not defined by the experience.
Blog - My Sex Post (2007)
What is more saddening is that some people who were trusted by my parents to care for us took sexual favours off us and there did not seem to be anywhere for us to find redress or healing, we were bruised, hurt and damaged by a loss of innocence and childhood.
Maybe, if I had the opportunity to talk to my 7-year old self again, I would have immediately run to my parents to report these violations despite the terror I felt from my abusers, the need to be heard, sympathised with and protected by my parents.
What the abused are up against
Then, back to Spotlight, the abused children faced even more insurmountable challenges, groomed by respected and respectable stalwarts of religion in their communities, where especially from deprived circumstances mothers were either naïve or conniving in allowing these men to access their children and abuse them, the children were caught in a vortex of wrongs stacked against them in all aspects of life.
Despite near and far relations, servants not a few, getting their way with me, I sometimes feel I was spared the vicissitudes of fortune that other abused children experienced from the clergy, in orphanages, in borstal and prisons, in the hands of evil paedophiles who stopped at nothing until they had murdered their quarry.
As the film ended, and the postscripts came on screen about the many places where clerical child sexual abuse had been confirmed, screen after screen revealed a city and somewhere amongst those names was Akure, Nigeria.
I wept for the many like me
I have always been of the opinion that despite the exhaustive exposé of these abuses in the West, we have not begun to unearth with any seriousness this clerical criminality in Africa, South America or Asia.
This along with many unreported defilements and rapes of minors, the atrocity of child marriages – girls given to the enterprise of sexual predators who have found the veneer of religion and customs to support their propensity to incurable paedophilia in the institution of marriage are things we still fail to address with the singlemindedness of saving the child from all harm.
I watched the credits of Spotlight sobbing almost uncontrollably because I knew from the depictions that many children never got to tell their stories, some committed suicide, most lives were irretrievably damaged, very few found the platform to relentlessly go after the people who abused them against all odds.
The damage is hardly understood
Nothing can ever restore the innocence of a child so abused, no restitution can fully recompense for the way society has acquiesced to allowing abuse to go on unchecked and no punishment can fully atone for the sexual abuse of minors, yet we must acknowledge these sexual predators exist amongst us, no matter how highly placed and that they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
We all owe the children a duty to be ready to protect, ready to listen and ready to understand what they face when approached, groomed and abused. It must not be mentioned amongst us again that children are sexual fodder for people who will be protected from any sanction and essentially granted the immunity for the impunity to lasciviously prey on helpless kids.
Shine the Spotlight on all abuse and refuse for it to continue a minute longer.