Thursday, March 28, 2002

Sex abuse


Suffer the little children

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        Forgive me, Father, but I am having unkind thoughts.

        Why did it take a court order for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to cooperate with authorities? Prosecutors demanded the records after church officials admitted they have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct involving “fewer than five” priests. Does that mean four? Or one?

        Why is this a guessing game?

        After all these years?

        After all these priests?

        After all these children?

        In a letter about the pedophile priests, Pope John Paul II wrote, “a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic sacrifice.”

        How about children who have been living in the dark shadows for years?

        Victims of abuse suffer from depression, anxiety, sexual behavior problems and guilt. Some have trouble sleeping. Or eating.

        “It's especially tough on a kid when the abuser is someone in authority,” says Patricia Myers, clinical director of social services at Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children. “They feel as though it must be their fault.”

        Dr. Robert Shapiro, Mayerson Center's medical director, says, “One of the first things we do is help the kids disclose the abuser. It's the first step to healing.”

        And, of course, prevention begins with identifying sex offenders — and stopping them. “We work very hard to help the child feel safe enough to do that,” Dr. Shapiro says.

Kid friendly

        He has been treating abused children for more than 16 years, and Patricia Myers has been working in this field for 25 years. Referrals have come from neighbors, teachers, doctors, family members and police officers. How many children have been referred to you by the Catholic church? They look at each other.

        “None,” says Ms. Myers.

        “Not one. Zero,” says Dr. Shapiro.

        The archdiocese has said repeatedly that the predators have been counseled, “surrounded with a net of support and restriction.” Were victims of these abusers provided with a similar net? Were they made to feel safe?

        "It's very hard for children to talk about abuse,” Ms. Myers says, “especially in a police station or an office.” The center is “kid-friendly” in every possible way, beginning with the warm colors and furniture and extending to the expert staff.

        The Mayerson Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is a terrific community asset, bringing together doctors, social workers, prosecutors and police officers to fight and prevent child abuse. Help is available there simply by calling 636-SAFE.

        At a service Tuesday, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said, “it's hard to be a priest,” and he told the Enquirer's Richelle Thompson that “these matters are repugnant. They're repugnant to think about, they're repugnant to talk about, and they're repugnant to deal with. And I don't like it. It makes me feel creepy.”

        Forgive me for saying so, Father. But it's not about you.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393. She can be heard at noon on Fridays on WVXU (91.7 FM).

       



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