Jeb Barrett: 'Spotlight' — a call to action
By Jeb Barrett
March 26, 2016
|Actor Mark Ruffalo reacts in the audience after "Spotlight" won the award for best picture at the Oscars on Feb. 28 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.|
Photo by Chris Pizzello
I was elated when the award-winning movie "Spotlight" receive the Best Picture Oscar. This movie faithfully exposes one of the most heinous crimes — the sexual violation of thousands of children by Catholic clerics and the widespread cover-up of these crimes by Catholic officials.
The film shows, in a moving and suspenseful way, what the investigative team at Boston Globe did: uncover the systematic concealing of abuse by secretly moving predator priests without warning congregations, communities, or civil authorities. As a society, we have naively trusted institutions that exercise illicit influence over police departments, courts and legislatures — something that needs to end wherever it still exists. Thanks to brave survivors in Boston, and now throughout the world, coming forward with the support of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and others, we know this is a worldwide problem, a pervasive crime against humanity.
Some say that I am so passionate and vocal about this issue because of serial abuse and molestation I suffered as a youngster by authority figures. However, my concerns today are not about my own pain. I'm worried about the tens of thousands of victims who have never had chance that I've had to expose their perpetrators and the corrupt institutions and unhealthy cultures that protects pedophiles, hebephiles and ephebophiles, rather than our most vulnerable.
When my sister and I saw "Spotlight" in Denver, we felt very much connected with the unfolding drama, the common experience of "lucky ones" like myself who have found the understanding and support needed to face childhood trauma. (I connected intimately with the movie because, through my volunteer work with SNAP, I know so many of the key figures portrayed in the movie.) The great tragedy is that tens of thousands, lacking a safe place to share their pain, are no longer with us, having sought relief, comfort and escape in drugs, alcohol and suicide. This is a reality we can no longer deny and ignore.
I know that many go to movies for entertainment, diversion and distraction from things they think they can do nothing about. This is not that kind of movie. It is a factual window into a systematic corruption and cover-up that should engage our consciences, and prod us into action against institutions with a well-documented history of sexual abuse of defenseless boys and girls, as well as vulnerable adults. It's not only in Boston or the Catholic Church. The range of organizations and institutions in which abuses and cover-ups can be found is dreadfully broad.
As a society, knowing what we now know, I believe that we have a responsibility to demand change and transparency from those who promise it. We also have a duty to demand justice for those denied justice. The "lucky ones" who have survived need their day in court to expose serial perpetrators, gag-order settlements and the pervasive silence by purportedly responsible officials. As every child groomed, molested and raped by a relative, a teacher, a coach, priest, minister or other person with power and authority over them has said or thought, "Why don't the grownups do something about it. Why don't they stop this and protect kids?" That is the question each of us needs to answer. That's a question for every elected official, every law enforcement officer, every responsible grown up.
In 2006, Colorado lawmakers removed the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual assault. However, our state still has an archaic, predatory-friendly civil statute of limitations. In several states, legislators have opened a "window," temporarily suspending the civil statute so that courageous victims could use litigation to shine a "spotlight" on those who commit or conceal heinous crimes against children. That needs to happen here — sooner, not later — so the proven American justice system can enable more child molesters — and their complicit colleagues or employers — to be revealed and punished.