Deetman Commission via BishopAccountability.org
3. Nature and scale of sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands
What was the nature and the scale of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in the period from 1945 to 2010? What forms did the abuse take? How often did sexual abuse occur and where? How many minors were victims?
The Commission of Inquiry received around 2,000 reports and notifications between March and December 2010, of which 1,795 related to sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church. They included reports made directly to the Commission and reports that were passed on to it by Help & Justice (with the permission of the notifier), the media and the Samson Commission. However, this is not a sufficient number to draw any conclusions about the scale and nature of the sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church, since the figures could be distorted as a result of over- or under-reporting.
The Commission of Inquiry therefore had to find other ways of giving a scientifically sound estimate of the scale and nature of the sexual abuse. It therefore prepared a questionnaire and sent it to a selection of the notifiers and a sample population of 34,234 Dutch nationals aged 40 or older. It also consulted information from Kaski, a centre of expertise on religion and society at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute.
The Commission of Inquiry has exercised a certain caution in interpreting the data from the survey, which was conducted by TNS NIPO, because it covers a period stretching back 65 years, the memory is fallible and views differ about what constitutes sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse of minors in the Netherlands
According to the survey, one in ten Dutch persons have been subjected against their will to sexual advances from an adult who is not a member of their family before they were 18 (9.7% of the sample of 34,234 Dutch nationals aged 40 years and older). The perpetrator’s background was not further specified. The number of Dutch people in the survey that were raised as Roman Catholic is slightly higher than those who were not raised as Roman Catholic. Numerous other factors (such as socioeconomic status and cultural differences) could also have played a role. This survey covered sexual abuse in the widest sense of the term: forms of inappropriate behaviour towards minors of every degree of seriousness.
Sexual abuse of minors in institutions
The Commission of Inquiry investigated how great the risk of unwanted sexual contact with children was in institutions (boarding schools, private schools, seminaries, children’s homes). It emerged that the risk was twice as high as the national average, but with no significant difference between Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic institutions.
Children in residential institutions of education were vulnerable because there was greater opportunity for (unnoticed) inappropriate behaviour on a daily basis and no parents were present. Parents were also often not sufficiently aware of the situation in the institution where their child was staying. If their child told them that they had been sexually abused, it was sometimes difficult for parents to weigh that information and they often gave the benefit of the doubt to the adults to whom they had entrusted the raising and education of their child and whose authority they did not wish to undermine. Parents knew far more about what their children at day schools were experiencing since they saw their children every day. Consequently, complaints by parents to superiors or school directors prompted a reaction far more quickly.
Sexual abuse of minors by perpetrators working in the Roman Catholic Church
The study focused on perpetrators working in the Roman Catholic Church. Of the Dutch nationals aged 40 years or older, between one in a 100 (0.9%) and one in 300 (0.3%) have experienced unwanted sexual advances before the age of 18 from a perpetrator working in the Roman Catholic Church.
An educated estimate of the scale of sexual abuse of minors by perpetrators working in the
Roman Catholic Church
The number of victims that grew up as Roman Catholic, spent part of their youth in a Roman Catholic institution and reported being sexually abused by an offender working in the Roman Catholic Church before the age of 18 during the period between 1945 and 1981 is approximately 10,000 to 20,000. Their experiences ranged from very mild to severe.
The total number of persons that have reported sexual abuse by perpetrators working in the Roman Catholic Church in the period 1945 to 1981 comes to several tens of thousands. It can be assumed that several thousands of these victims suffered serious abuse.
Number of perpetrators within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Commission of Inquiry received 1,795 reports of sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church. These reports contain information about possible perpetrators. At the beginning of 2011 the Commission of Inquiry drew up a list of them. Inquiries made with dioceses, orders and congregations revealed that a number of perpetrators mentioned by name by the notifiers were not known to the relevant dioceses, orders or congregations. In a number of cases, it was also found that two or more of the names mentioned actually referred to one and the same person, usually because names, particularly religious given names, had been misspelled or corrupted. Information was received from every diocese and from 65 orders and congregations, including 18 congregations of female religious. Two congregations of sisters said that the names supplied (there were three names) provided too little to go on to answer the accompanying questions. No response was received from one congregation of sisters, which was asked about one name.
A total of roughly 800 names of perpetrators mentioned in the reports could be traced to individuals who work or worked in dioceses, orders and congregations. At least 105 of those 800 persons are known to be still living. It is not known how many of these individuals are still in their jobs. The relevant bishops and superiors have been informed of this finding by the Commission of Inquiry.