10 Years After the Catholic Church Scandal Broke, There’s Still Plenty of Room for Improvement

It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church first broke. As revelation after horrifying revelation became known, we learned that more than 10,000 boys had been sexually abused between 1960 and 2002. Most disturbing of all, we learned that authority figures in the church had turned their heads, allowing abuse to continue for years and for priests to go unpunished. In many cases, they were simply reassigned to new churches, where they continued to prey on young boys.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Thomas G. Plante – author of "Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012" discussed what we've learned since this scandal first broke. There are the basic facts, such as the rampant cover-ups and staggering numbers of victims. But beyond these newsworthy discoveries, I think we have learned much, much more. It's an education that was, tragically enough, necessary, as adults become aware of just how unsafe the world can be for innocent children.

Acknowledging that sexual abuse exists on such a widespread basis is something that is only now beginning to take place. During a recent meeting, a man who heard me speak about the topic said sexual abuse wasn't something that affected him or that he was interested in, because he didn't know anyone who had been sexually abused. I told him that unfortunately, he was probably wrong — he just didn't know anyone who had admitted it to him.

Recent headlines, led by the Penn State scandal but certainly not ending there, have opened parents' eyes to the fact that sexual abuse is going on every day, claiming about 100 victims an hour. As a society, we have finally reached a point of being able to acknowledge that this is a problem, and it's one that isn't going to go away without bringing it out into the open and discussing it. We have to stop being uncomfortable talking about it. On the contrary, we have to demand that people talk about it and, when it occurs, we have to demand justice.

The Catholic Church scandal was just the beginning, and we know that sexual abuse isn't limited to the church. Many states have enacted tougher laws, including requiring any adults who work with children to go through training programs to identify the signs of sexual abuse. We have learned that those who are supposed to take care of our children don't always protect them, and as adults – parents or not – it is our duty to step up and defend the rights and safety of every child out there.

That's the only way this will truly ever change.

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