With regulation change, thousands of unresolved discrimination complaints now secret

Patriot Ledger

January 24, 2020

By Wheeler Cowperthwaite

As of Friday, pending complaints made to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination are no longer public record. The idea is to make people more comfortable coming forward, but critics say it only protects those accused of wrongdoing.

As Boston University communications professor Maggie Mulvihill sees it, MCAD’s decision on the complaints shows that Massachusetts learned nothing from the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals, in which judges allowed entire lawsuits alleging abuse by priests to be kept secret.

“How many cases were impounded and the judiciary has never been held to account for that?” she said. “Why are we sealing off records that belong to the people?”

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented victims of sexually abusive Catholic priests, said the public release of allegations such as those in the discrimination complaints, as well as the abuser’s name, often results in a “triggering effect” for other victims and can empower them to also come forward.

“Victims often feel alone and isolated and at fault when they’ve been sexually abused,” he said. “When they learn there’s another victim out there, they realize they’re no longer alone and shouldn’t think of themselves as at fault.”

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