Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
By David Clohessy
Ralph Cipriano, a blogger who once wrote for a Catholic publication, writes often about the case of Billy Doe of Philadelphia. His abusers have been criminally convicted.
Cipriano believes that experienced and unbiased professionals, including police, prosecutors, judges, jurors and civil attorneys, all got this case completely wrong and he, Cipriano, got it all right.
Few people understand the abuse and cover up crisis better than Carolyn Disco. She is the survivor support chairman of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful and a few years ago, was chosen as the “Catholic Layperson of the Year” award at the SNAP annual conference. She’s also one of the kindest, tireless and most fair-minded people I know.
Carolyn has risen to the defense of the victim in this case, “Billy Doe.” We are grateful for her insights.
The bottom line: Justice has been done, and the apparent listing of lies by Cipriano is misleading and inaccurate as a measure of the truth of the case. I attach very significant research by a retired FBI expert that I believe compellingly rebuts Cipriano’s methods and conclusions:
“In almost every case involving compliant child victims that I have evaluated, true victims have had to distort varying aspects of their victimization in statements to parents, investigators, therapists, physicians, attorneys, and the court. Each subsequent statement often requires increasing deceptions to defend the previous ones. What are the long-term emotional and psychological consequences for child victims who are exposed to prevention and awareness programs that seem to deny the reality of their victimization or who must distort, misrepresent, and lie about what actually happened to them in order to have it accepted as ‘real’ victimization?”
“The available evidence suggests that children rarely lie about sexual victimization, if a lie is defined as a statement deliberately and maliciously intended to deceive. If children in these cases do lie, it may be because factors such as shame or embarrassment over the nature of the victimization increase the likelihood that they misrepresent the sexual activity.”
Source: Compliant Child Victims: Confronting an Uncomfortable Reality by Kenneth Lanning
REBUTTAL to “Catholic Guilt? The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy Behind a Lurid Rape Case” by Ralph Cipriano, Newsweek magazine
On its face, Ralph Cipriano’s research is a compelling catalog of lies by Billy Doe. The details are many, and the facts straightforward about various versions of what happened. Yes, Doe told countless lies, but Cipriano’s interpretation is deeply flawed.
This case is a monumental tragedy, because the bottom line is that Doe also told the truth. It’s a question of genuine understanding of the inner world of victims’ motivations. The research is there, but so few recognize its patterns.
I attended a conference on abuse at Cardozo Law School in NYC in 2003 at which Kenneth Lanning, an FBI expert on abuse investigations, provided the necessary background on the counterintuitive responses of compliant child/ adolescent victims: they lie for a reason.
Kenneth Lanning wrote: "In my experience, the primary reason compliant child victims furnish these false and misleading details about their victimization is their correct recognition that society does not understand or accept the reality of their victimization. This happens so often that distorted and varying details in such cases are almost corroboration for the validity of the victimization."
Lanning’s extensive CV places him among the top experts on the subject. His startling paper deserves full quotes because it nails this case conclusively. He is the premier law enforcement source on the behavioral dynamics of the sexual victimization of children.
Doe claims the abuse began at 10 and 11, and various other younger ages. More likely, it began when he was 14 or so, when his mother noted a behavioral change. Doe rightly assumed that his actual victimization would more readily be accepted if he indicates an earlier age. Can’t you hear people saying or inferring, “he was 14 and should have known better?”
Note well this quote: “The typical adolescent, especially a boy, is easily sexually aroused, sexually curious, sexually inexperienced, and somewhat rebellious. All these traits combine to make the adolescent one of the easiest victims of sexual seduction.
It takes almost nothing to get an adolescent boy sexually aroused. An adolescent boy with emotional and sexual needs is simply no match for an experienced 50-year-old man with an organized plan… Yet, adult offenders who seduce them, and the society that judges them, continue to claim that these victims "consented."
"The result is a victim who feels responsible for what happened and embarrassed about his actions… Once a victim is seduced, each successive sexual incident becomes easier and quicker. … Eventually the child victim may even take the initiative in the seduction.”
Embellishing the story became a way of assuaging the sense of guilt and embarrassment Doe wrongly took upon himself.
Lanning stresses the minor CANNOT consent, period. His vulnerability was rightly sensed and manipulated by the grooming perpetrators. The internal dislocation was terrifying.
Lanning again: “The idea that child victims could simply behave like human beings and respond to the attention and affection of offenders by voluntarily and repeatedly returning to an offender's home is a troubling one. For example, it confuses us to see the victims in child pornography giggling or laughing.”
“…but children who are seduced and actively participate in their victimization, however, often feel guilty and blame themselves because they did not do what they were "supposed" to do. These seduced and, therefore, compliant victims may sometimes feel a need to describe their victimization in more socially acceptable but inaccurate ways that relieve them of this guilt.