Victims who came forward deserve a place in history

The following was sent to USA TODAY and also to the JP Gazette in response to an article in the Sept. 21 Gazette about preserving the St. Andrew’s Church sex abuse history:

I believe that the sexual abuse crisis should have been on USA TODAY’s list of “Top 25 Headlines That Shaped History” during the past 25 years published on Sept. 14.

As an attorney, over the last 13 years I have represented approximately 350 victims of clergy sexual abuse. Because of the emotional strength of some victims of clergy sexual abuse, such as the victims of Father John J. Geoghan in Jamaica Plain, to come forward and reveal to the world horrible acts of sexual abuse by clergy, the world is now a safer place for children. The evidence shows that thousands of children were sexually molested by hundreds of priests for more than 50 years while revered supervisors of those sexually abusive priests knowingly allowed that sexual abuse to take place.

The emotional strength of the victims of clergy sexual abuse allowed those victims to persevere and force into daylight decades of records showing supervisors knew that some priests sexually abused young children and that those supervisors used their authority to keep the abusive acts secret and to keep the pedophile priests in ministry where the pedophile priests continued to abuse children. The stories of the victims and the records they forced into public view generated large headlines, nationally and internationally.

Those stories caused changes in the laws of many states and allowed thousands to bring their cases to civil courts of justice in the United States and internationally. Parents are more cautious about whom they let have contact with their children. Assumptions about whom it was safe to allow to have unsupervised contact with children were proven wrong. As a result of these stories, men who served as priests were no longer viewed with blinders. In short, these true stories caused shocking world headlines for years, enormous social and legal change, vivid memories of pain and pride that many individuals will never forget and an immediate and everlasting impact on all of us in the world.

The victims who have come forward have given emotional strength and a voice to all who have been victims of sexual abuse. The victims who have come forward have given some victims the ability to at least partly heal.

It should be noted that victims are still coming forward, and they should be proud for doing so. Once again, the world is now a safer place for children because of this major continuing story.

Mitchell Garabedian

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