Recent media accounts across the country note that, while legions of Catholic priests have been individually targeted in sexual abuse cases, higher-ranking Church officials largely escape close scrutiny in such probes.
When parents enroll their children in youth organizations or religious organizations, they place their trust in the institutions and the adults chosen to lead them. Unfortunately, in a number of youth programs, that trust turned out to be horribly misplaced. One of the leading examples may be the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which has long been accused of covering up sexual abuse of children by adult leaders and volunteers.
In our last post, we discussed an important legal hurdle that often prevents sex abuse victims from pursuing legal action against their abusers and the institutions that allowed abuse to happen. The civil statute of limitations caps the amount of time that victims have to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the harms they suffered. But because sex abuse can be so traumatic (especially when suffered as a child), it often takes decades for victims to come forward about the abuse – well after the statute of limitations has expired.
When one has suffered a psychological trauma, it can take a long time before the victim is ready to talk about it. This is especially true of traumas suffered during the formative years of childhood. Among victims of childhood sexual abuse, for instance, the average age that victims come forward to tell their story is 52 years old. That’s the better part of a lifetime spent holding on to shame and guilt that rightfully belongs to the perpetrator – not the victim.