Opinion: What survivors of clergy sex abuse should know

Pacific Daily News

Joelle Casteix October 1, 2016

Survivors of sexual abuse on Guam are in a very powerful position. That can be a very scary place to be.

The new law protecting sex abuse victims is a watershed moment. Finally, survivors will be able to use the civil courts to seek accountability, justice and healing. Predators hiding in plain sight will be exposed. The public will finally learn the true scope and scale of the cover-up.

But before any of that can happen, victims need to come forward.

As a survivor who used a similar California law for justice, I know firsthand how terrifying the decision can be. As an advocate who has helped hundreds of other survivors, I understand the complex dynamics that many survivors face.

If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse on Guam, here are some important factors to remember:

* You are not hurting the church, your family, or your community by coming forward. By coming forward, you are protecting the child who was hurt so many years ago. You are also protecting children right now. You are making your church a safer place. If anyone tries to tell you that coming forward is wrong or shameful, walk away.

* You don’t have to go public. Brave survivors like Roy Quintanilla, Walter Denton, and Roland Sondia blazed a trail for you. But when it comes to the legal system, crime victims have privacy rights. If you choose to file a lawsuit, you may do so as a John or Jane Doe so that the public, your employer, or your school never needs to know.

* Find your support team. You do not have to go through the decision-making or legal process alone. Talk to a therapist, supportive family and friends, and support groups like Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. Take care of your health. If you struggle with addiction, get help.

* Be patient. The legal system takes time. Some civil window sex abuse cases have been completed in less than two years. Others take more time. Organizations fight long and hard to keep their secrets hidden. Understand that you need to be patient and that things won’t happen overnight.

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