This week the media have been reporting on the commissioned report in Australia that investigated an epidemic of child abuse dating back decades. The commission identified 4,444 victims of abuse most of those suspected of abuse were Catholic priests and religious brothers.
The commission has urged the Australia’s Roman Catholic leadership to press Rome to end mandatory celibacy for priests.
My feeling on this are that again governments and the media do not understand the nature of abusers or the crime of abuse itself. Priests being celibate is not the problem or the driving force behind individuals who carry out childhood abuse.
According to Dr Elly Hanson, clinical psychologist and advisor to CEOP, “most child abusers are not only sexually interested in children. Children are often targeted for sexual abuse simply because they are usually more vulnerable than adults.”
Just why some men abuse children is the question that everyone wants answers to. Unfortunately, it is such a complex issue with no simple answers to. I also believe that governments want to label and categorise the people who commit these crime without ever putting any strategy in place to prevent and treat those who do commit these horrendous crimes.
There are in fact no simple answers as to why someone commits child abuse because when you are dealing with people, we are all different and different circumstances result in different outcomes. However, there are some common threads when investigating those who have committed abuse and some priests can be identified with sharing some but not all of the traits of those who abuse children.
For example, some research found that about half of the men who sexually abused children were in a stable relationship with many abusers continuing to maintain a sexual relationship with their partners so priests who are celibate are not any more likely to abuse than other men;
Some hold positions of power and influence within their communities. They can in fact have suffered abuse of some form when they were children and as a result seek to find feelings of power and control over others and their sexual interest in the child is second to the need for control and power over the child. Again, priests being celibate will not make any difference to this driving force.
Despite what many people think, most sexual abuse of children is carried out by someone they know, including relatives and family friends. When looking at the statistics on child abuse you will see that over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew with 80% of preparators being a parent. So again, celibacy for priest is not the big issues here.
I am not for one-minute minimising the damage the catholic institutions have done and continue to do to our children. But looking in the wrong direction only avoids actually putting in place measures that will address the underlying causes of abuse and help support the millions of victims across the globe.
The issues of child abuse needs more than soundbites and shocking headiness. We need real discussions and commitment to services that victims need to help them recover. We also need real discussions and services to help those who abuse and a culture that allows for those individuals who have inappropriate desires to come forward and receive treatment.
Paula, 16th December 2017