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Hallo again to all.

Last week the UK's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and its associated Truth Project published some reports. (Thinking Anglicans has the details and links.) Last week the US edition of Time Magazine published a special report 'These Men Say the Boy Scouts’ Sex Abuse Problem Is Worse Than Anyone Knew'. At the end of 2017, Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published its final reports and concluded its work. One diocese in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada recently commissioned an inquiry by a retired judge to investigate possible sexual abuse of children by clergy in that Canadian province over seven decades.

Religious institutions finally seem to be moving towards addressing the problem that abused children cannot guard themselves and don't have any idea how and where to report abuse.

Some years ago when we encountered the book I Didn't Fall, I Was Pushed: Triumphant Recovery from Clergy Sex Abuse we remember thinking that it was miraculous that the author was able to leverage her faith into recovering from the trauma of being raped by her father's Spiritual Director, a priest. Even as an adult, writing the book about her recovery, she seems never to have considered reporting the abuse to any institution. There was no institution that cared, and, in fact, most institutions seemed more concerned with saving their reputation than with helping victims.

In our research before writing this, we decided to limit our scope to the four countries mentioned above. We learned that if we searched too far, we would encounter reports of child abuse too horrible to contemplate. We weren't ready for that.

We know entirely too many people who were either abused as children or who were close to someone who had been abused. In the world that we would like to think our children inhabit, institutions like the church or Boy Scouts or schools should be a refuge from abuse, a safe place to hide from abusers, and not the source of abuse.

For years we've read reports of children being abused by adults who are part of religious institutions, but rarely have we seen any mention of anyone working to remediate the problem. In Australia there is a National Redress Scheme whereby victims can receive monetary compensation for crimes against them. But there are few, if any, formal programmes intended to reduce the amount of abuse rather than compensate victims. Last year all of the Roman Catholic bishops in Chile offered their resignations over a child sexual abuse scandal, but we haven't found a report that the resignations were accepted or that much has changed in Chile.

We are optimistic that the current round of official government investigations and reports will lead to some sort of action. It might be moving too slowly to notice, but if we re-visit this issue in 5 years we hope to find evidence of progress.

Instantaneous and anonymous global communication (Facebook, Twitter, 4chan, ...) is often blamed for worsening international conflict and hate. It probably does. But there seems to be a bright side here. Half a century ago, when researchers at MIT created an online fake therapist named Eliza, one of the undisputed research findings was that people were more willing to type intimate personal details into the computer than to speak them to a human therapist. A common finding of most of the study commissions we mentioned was that children were usually too timid to report abuse to authorities, or didn't know how to find authorities. Perhaps the same anonymous global communication that nurtures neo-Nazi groups and mass shooters can partially redeem itself by providing a safe means for abused children to report their abuse. As long as they don't accidentally report abuse to neo-Nazis, it will probably help move the world forward.

See you next week. We hope the world will be ever-so-slightly safer by then.

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2 June 2019

A thin blue line
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