Op-Ed Contributor – A Troubled Silence
By RICHARD B. GARTNER June 7, 2012
THE revelation this week of alleged widespread child abuse at the elite Horace Mann School in New York City, most of it occurring during the 1970s and ’80s, is only the most recent instance of men coming forward, many years after the fact, with horrific stories of sexual molesting from their childhood.
Most of those accused of the abuse in the Horace Mann case are dead, but under New York State law, if alive they would most likely be safe from justice. The state’s statute of limitations on child abuse is five years from the victim’s 18th birthday. After age 23, the victim has no recourse.
Yet young adults, particularly men, who suffer the aftereffects of abuse are rarely in an emotional state to bring charges. Given what we now know about why it takes victims so long to come forward, the law needs to be changed.
Many people cast a skeptical eye on those who wait so long to reveal instances of child abuse, particularly when it happened to them as teenagers. They assume that accusers are making it up, blaming what were at most minor incidents for their troubles.
But in my decades of experience working with abuse victims, I have found that men spend years putting their emotions in a deep freeze or masking post-traumatic reactions with self-defeating behaviors like compulsive gambling and substance abuse. Eventually, they are forced by internal or external events to find treatment….
Finally, since boyhood abuse was not part of the public conversation until recently, many boys and men assumed their experiences were repulsive and aberrant. And a man who has not talked about it might feel it would be humiliating to first disclose it in middle age or later. Needless to say, the decades spent trying to bury the memories rarely work….
Things may be changing, thanks, in part, to the recent spate of abuse revelations. Many older victims have gained the courage to come forward. In my own practice, I received almost as many calls from sexually abused men in December and January, soon after allegations surfaced about abuse by the former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as I usually get in a year. With Mr. Sandusky’s trial set to begin next week, I expect to get even more calls.
But more needs to be done. Every year since 2005, Margaret M. Markey, a New York State assemblywoman, has introduced a bill to extend the statute of limitations for five more years, a modest increase; it would also create a one-year window for adults up to age 53 to bring charges against alleged abusers. The bill has passed the Assembly four times but has consistently been blocked from coming to the floor of the Senate, largely thanks to fierce lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church….
Richard B. Gartner is a psychologist and psychoanalyst and the author of “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse.”
Jury breaks without verdict in Philadelphia church abuse case
June 7, 2012 PHILADELPHIA (Reuters)
A Philadelphia jury ended its fifth day of deliberations on Thursday without reaching a verdict in the child sex abuse trial of a Roman Catholic monsignor, the highest-ranking U.S. clergyman to stand trial in the church’s wide-ranging pedophilia scandal. Monsignor William Lynn, who supervised hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese for 12 years as secretary of the clergy, is accused of conspiracy and child endangerment. If convicted on all charges, he faces the possibility of 21 years in prison….
Prosecutors say Lynn, 61, covered up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.
Lynn’s motive was to avoid scandal and any potential loss of money for the church, they argued. His job was to supervise 800 priests, which included investigating sex abuse claims, from 1992 to 2004.
The defense said Lynn tried to handle documented cases of pedophile priests, making a list in 1994 of 35 accused predators and writing memos to suggest treatment and suspensions. He was hampered because he could only make recommendations to the head of the archdiocese, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88, the defense said….
The Philadelphia jury also is deliberating the fate of the Reverend James Brennan, 48, who is charged with child endangerment and the attempted rape of a 14-year-old child in 1996.