Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alaska Catholic Sex Abuse Case Settled For $50 Million

According to the coverage of this civil case settlement the deal is final yet.

The settlement with the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus is the largest one yet against a Catholic religious order, said Anchorage lawyer Ken Roosa, who called it "a great day" for the 110 victims.

"These are people who were altar boys and altar servers and altar girls," Roosa said. "These are people who tried to tell their story and in many instances were beaten or told to shut up and told, 'How can you say such things about a man of God?"'

The settlement does not require the order to admit fault, Roosa said. None of the priests was ever criminally charged.

Reactions which either denied the abuse or blamed the victims is what is costing the Catholic church this money. If every report had been immediately treated as report of a serious crime there would no need for a settlement. Yet the mistreatment of victims -- which enables abusers and rapists -- is by no means unique to this church or any church.

Many of those outside the church choose to respond to reports of abuse and rape with similar denial or dismissiveness. If these people aren't members of a large organization they likely aren't at risk of paying any direct price for their part in protecting sexual abusers and rapists.

They either don't know or don't care that when favored sex offenders are protected they will continue committing their crimes, possibly with a feeling that their criminal behavior has been blessed by others.

I've heard some who regularly attack victims say that the only people responsible for rape and abuse are the perpetrators and those who lie about being victims, but this selection of who is and isn't to blame has an ugly side. It protects rapists.

This list equates convicted rapists with all those who report rape or abuse unless or until there is a conviction. This is magnified with the misuse of "innocent until proven guilty" which demands that everyone assume the charges are false unless there is a conviction.

It's no surprise then that some of these people want the same punishment given to false reports of rape that would be given to a rapist. What is telling about these people is that the level of proof they need to label a case a hoax, and an alleged victim worthy of this punishment, is far lower than the level of proof needed to call someone accused of rape guilty of a crime.

The list of those responsible either must be everyone who contributes to rape and abuse or it needs to be only those who commit rape and abuse. Blaming false reporters for ignoring reports or assuming they are false is a pathetic excuse.

Often lack of action on a report, or incompetent action which lets perpetrators off the hook, is mislabeled by observers as proof that the report was false which then justifies dismissing the next report. And then that's used as further justification.

Of course the people who help keep this denial loop going strong will refuse to frame their actions as supportive of rape and abuse. They will claim they are merely opposed to the possibility of false allegations. The credibility of this excuse falls apart when they fail to support full criminal investigations or when they call criminal investigations futile.

When they claim that there can be no determination of criminality without witnesses they are either revealing their lack of knowledge or their desire to spread disinformation.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:12 AM   0 comments links to this post


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