High Profile a License to Abuse
Status Empowers Pedophiles, Expert Testifies
By Terri Saunders
February 23, 2006
CORNWALL -- The more respected a person is in society the more likely he is to believe he can get away with hurting a child, an expert told the inquiry into the handling of child sex abuse allegations here.
"The more status they have, the more they can get away with it," Peter Jaffe, a professor at the University of Western Ontario told the inquiry.
That can be especially true with officials within the church, said Jaffe, an expert in child sexual abuse and institutional response.
"Churches have had a profound influence on our communities historically, and when it comes to abuse with a church organization, there is no (professional standards group) to report to," he said yesterday.
NO COMPLAINT SYSTEM
"It's not like the Pope is there taking complaints," he added. "(There is no significant) system to deal with complaints."
Jaffe also said victims who report abuse at the hands of a member of the clergy are often treated as dishonest. He said churches and schools were often joint organizations, lending themselves to even a higher sense of importance within a community.
"When they combined, they were extremely powerful," he said.
The independent judicial commission is investigating how various public institutions responded to claims that prominent citizens of the blue-collar city of 46,000 had been abusing children over the course of several decades.
After an investigation known as Project Truth, police laid 114 sex abuse charges against 15 prominent citizens -- including a lawyer, doctor, bus driver, an organist and three Roman Catholic priests. But only three cases made it to court and one man pleaded guilty. Police said they found no evidence of a pedophile ring.
Jaffe said both adult survivors and child victims of abuse often struggle with the familial implications of reporting abuse by a priest or another member of the very church to which his or her family belongs.
"I remember talking with a 35-year-old man who had been abused by a priest and I asked him why he didn't tell anyone about the abuse," said Jaffe.
"He said his parents were very involved in the church, it was an important part of their lives. He didn't want to disappoint them and he didn't want to take that away from them."
Jaffe said the refusal of a community as a whole to talk about child sexual abuse can often be viewed as an invitation to pedophiles.
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