Tune in to Hawaii’s KGMB (CBS) Tuesday at 7:20am (Hawaii Standard Time). I’ll be live on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, talking about Hawaii’s civil window for victims of abuse and abuse prevention.
You can watch the livestream here.
(FYI – Hawaii does not have Daylight Savings Time)
If someone had told me two years ago that a man like Pope Francis would be elected in 2013, I would have been skeptical. After almost 10 years of Benedict—a man with the public persona of a porcupine and pastoral nature of a curmudgeon on a bad day—who could believe that a new pope could so quickly throw off the shackles of academia and theology and become a man of the people?
But Francis did just that. And by doing so, he has enlivened the faithful and captured the attention of an adoring world.
He inspired the Catholic faithful, who have yearned for an approachable man who understands the plight of the poor and the trials of the common man.
He’s utilized great PR, capitalizing on well-managed social media and engineering photo-ops that go viral instantly.
He’s attempted to tone down some of the divisive (and sometimes hateful rhetoric) of many bishops who solely focus on gay issues and abortion.
He’s even changed the tunes of many of the bishops and cardinals, who considered their offices a “no-limit credit card” for luxury goods, fine homes and travel. (Newark Archbishop Myers didn’t get the memo, apparently).
But we have also learned something else: An institutional reformer will only go so far.
When it comes to the sex abuse crisis—the crisis that has become a thematic undercurrent behind every action and reaction within Vatican walls, the pope has become absorbed into the institutional church.
The Vatican is a set of laws, a body of people, a patchwork of personalities, a tradition, a political system and a delicate institution—an institution that immediately rallies around itself whenever allegations of cover-up knock on the front door of St. Peters. To blow the whistle or change the rhetoric of this argument would upend decades of messaging, destroy careers, open up the Holy See to legal liability, and become a tacit admission that the Vatican knew about abuse and did nothing.
Francis can’t and won’t expose his predecessors and his colleagues. He is a part of the system now, and the system’s number one goal is to keep the system alive. (The first rule of Fight Club …)
So I expect that there will be some apologies with carefully chosen victims. His “commission” may have a meeting or two (we don’t even know who is on the commission or what their ultimate goal is) and publish a report written by a lower-level member of the curia with deep understanding of Canon and civil law. He will continue to play the victim in the crisis, instead of acknowledging crimes that have hurt millions worldwide.
And the system will continue.
Fortunately, robust civil laws, a fed-up faithful, and an empowered victims’ movement be right there behind him.
One of the chapters of my upcoming book deals with what I call Institutional Rot, that is, why “good” people do and say bad things in the name of the institution and how children are caught in the crossfire. For an institutional culture to have this kind of crisis, the direction—or I should say, misdirection—has to come from the top.
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at a hypothetical:
Auto Company X is the leading automaker in the United States. For more than 100 years, Company X’s cars have been a part of American’s lives and a well-loved and trusted brand. But civil lawsuits filed by victims have unearthed the fact that Company X has knowingly been making and selling defective cars that veer off the road and kill people.
Hundreds of victims sue the company. In the process of the litigation, it’s discovered that many of the corporate officers knew about the defects and did nothing. Instead of being fired, the executives are allowed to keep their jobs.
The news gets worse and worse. In some areas of the country, anywhere from one in ten to one in 20 cars were killing people. While many of the cars were taken off the road, the company refuses to disclose how many cars still on the road have the potential to kill. In some cases, Company X took their emblems off of certain killer cars and now claims that they are no longer responsible for what those cars do.
Although the lawsuits continue and one executive was convicted, the company insists the crisis is over. The convicted executive, who covered up for the defects and allowed killer cars to stay on the road, keeps his cushy job.
In an interview, a newly-promoted president of the company says, “The crisis is over.” Despite the tens of thousands of people who were injured or killed by his cars, he says that “drunk drivers kill far more people than Company X’s cars.” He goes on to say that no one has looked into auto accidents more than Company X and that they are being “unfairly targeted.” In fact, he calls his predecessor, who knew about the defective cars for decades, a “true reformer.”
All the while, victims of defective cars are still coming forward and executives are still fighting in the courts to make sure that the public never knows how many defective cars are or were on the road.
We’d never tolerate that from an auto company. Why do we tolerate it from a religious leader?
A perfect example? Pope Francis’ interview today with Italian daily Corriere della Serra.
From the translated text:
Corriere della Serra: The scandals that rocked the life of the Church are fortunately in the past. A public appeal was made to you, on the delicate theme of the abuse of minors, published by (the Italian newspaper) Il Foglio and signed by Besancon and Scruton, among others, that you would raise your voice and make it heard against the fanaticisms and the bad conscience of the secularized world that hardly respects infancy.
Pope Francis: I want to say two things. The cases of abuses are terrible because they leave extremely deep wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and he cleared a path. The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of the violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuses take place in the family environment and around it. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked.
Here’s the problem: Francis is not addressing the problem. In business ethics circles, this kind of response (or lack thereof) is called “Organizational Failure.” What’s organizational failure? It’s when, in a crisis, an organization’s leader does not take responsibility, does not show contrition, does not display true action to ensure it never happens again, and does nothing to rebuild trust or punish wrong-doers.
Instead, Francis says the problem is over, does not apologize, does not talk about Bishops who are law-breakers right now, does not try to make amends, deflects blame, and plays the victim. And unfortunately for many Catholics and apologists, that’s okay.
It should never be okay.
The sexual abuse of teens by powerful adults (teachers, coaches, priests, family members) is a trauma double whammy: teens damaged by the abuse AND they are often blamed for the abuse by community members who say that the teen wanted it, was a slut, or should have known better.
What these people don’t understand—but predators do—are the intricacies of a teenager’s brain.
I’m not talking about hormones here. I’m talking about the physical, mental and emotional maturation of the white matter between a kid’s ears.
In his book Brainstorm, Daniel J. Siegel talks about why teenagers act the way they do. Without getting into the meat of the book (which is a must read for teens and parents), there was one specific point he made (among many) that shows why predators who target teens are far more likely to use alcohol to groom their victims.
According to Siegel’s studies, the teenage brain is subject to much greater dopamine releases than either children or adults. That is, they get much greater pleasure and a much bigger “rush” from alcohol, drugs, or dangerous behavior (sex, fast driving, BMX racing, etc.). So the euphoria a teen feels after drinking is much more intense than what an adult feels. Therefore, it’s harder to resist … or stop.
Siegel takes it a step further. In the studies he cites, teens are also far more susceptible to addiction, because their brains’ “pleasure receptacles” haven’t developed enough to help the brain engage in self-control.
Put those together with a powerful and influential adult, and you have trouble. Predators who target teens know: a) teens are more likely to accept alcohol, b) they are more likely to drink to intoxication and addiction, c) they get a rush from the excitement of breaking the rules and feel “adult,” d) they know it’s wrong and are unlikely to tell a parent if something happens to them while they are drunk (especially if the teen is a boy who was abused by a man), and most importantly,
e) the teen is likely to be blamed for the abuse (“You were drunk! What did you THINK would happen?”).
How do you prevent this from happening you your teen? It’s easy: TALK ABOUT IT. Be blunt. Show them what you have read and ask them what they think about it. Ask them what they have seen. Ask their opinion … and value it. Tell your teen that if an adult tries to give them alcohol “in secret,” (it’s illegal, and) that adult has serious issues and must be reported. Tell your teen that if something like that happens, they can tell you safely. Tell your teen that if they know of something that has happened or if something happened to them, they shouldn’t be scared or ashamed.
Come to your teen from a place of conversation, not one of lecturing or shaming. Don’t talk about “your time” as a teen—ask them about theirs. It may take a couple of days of innocent questions, but if they think you are really interested in what they have to say, they will come around. And don’t be embarrassed or discouraged.
There is a lot more to talk to you teen about when it comes to alcohol … but this is a good start.
And starting the conversation is the first and most important part, right?
I’ll cover this and other issues with teens far more in-depth … but you’ll have to buy the upcoming book.
I’ll be in Honolulu next week to talk about child sex abuse, the Hawaii civil window, victims rights and abuse prevention. If you are in the area, I hope you can join us.
Here are the details. The event is free and open to the public.
The Unspeakable Crime: Childhood Sexual Abuse Panel
When: March 13, 2014 7-9 PM
Where: Harris United Methodist Church, 20 N. Vineyard, Honolulu
Sponsored by Rainbow Family 808.com
Rainbow Family 808.com, is proud to announce their First Support Group Meeting. It will address Childhood Sexual Abuse in our midst. This timely Panel focuses on the two-year window for Childhood Sexual Abuse which ends in April 2014. Families need to understand the harm this ‘unspeakable’ crime does to their children.
Joelle Casteix is the leading national “in the trenches” expert on the prevention and exposure of child sex abuse and cover-up, especially within institutions such as the Catholic Church. A former journalist, educator, and public relations professional, Joelle has taken her own experience as a victim of child sex crimes and devoted her career to exposing abuse, advocating on behalf of survivors, and spreading abuse prevention strategies for parents and communities.
Attorney Jeff Anderson is widely recognized as a pioneer in sexual abuse litigation and a champion of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In nearly four decades as a litigator Jeff has represented thousands of clients and has tried over two hundred and fifty jury trials to verdict. Known for his optimism, energy and compassion for clients, Jeff is credited with being instrumental in exposing the large scale cover-up of pedophile priests in the early 1980′s. As one of the first trial lawyers in America to publicly and aggressively initiate lawsuits against sexual predators—and the institutions that conceal and protect them—Jeff’s efforts have obtained justice for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Attorney Mark Gallagher is a local attorney who has helped survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and is considered an expert with over 20 years of experience in the Personal Injury Field. He has successfully litigated personal injury cases on Oahu, the Big Island, Kauai, Maui and the federal court.
Other speakers TBD
Rainbow Family 808.com is honored to share with families ways to protect their children. We can’t protect our children if we don’t know the markers that signal the need for our awareness and attention. Please join us for this important panel.
Contact: Carolyn Martinez Golojuch, MSW – President, Rainbow Family 808.com
808 779-9078 firstname.lastname@example.org
Crozier priest Father Jerry Funcheon, who is the subject of the first lawsuit filed under Hawaii’s civil window, is back in the news – this time because Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis church officials “forgot” to put him on a website that lists abusive clerics. Church documents show that Funcheon may have abused up to 50 boys.
NBC Minneapolis affiliate KARE posted this story yesterday, which chronicles much of Funcheon’s past, including the cover up of his actions by men like Fr. Kevin McDonough, the embattled former Vicar General of the Archdiocese. McDonough has been implicated in the cover up of numerous cases of abuse in Minnesota. He is also the brother of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
Funcheon was a chaplain at Honolulu’s Damien Memorial School in the early 1980s.
It’s like having a public swimming pool without a life preserver …
A story out of St. Paul, MN, is a latest example of why so-called “Safe Environment” programs create a false sense of security and may even protect child predators.
The predator in this case was Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a now-convicted child offender who is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for abusing the children of a parish employee. The victims have now filed civil suits, exposing that Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis church officials actually knew soon after Wehmeyer’s ordination in 2001 that he was a threat to kids. They cite police reports from 2004 and 2008 involving Wehmeyer and boys.
The mother of the boys has pursued the civil suit because church knew Wehmeyer was a risk and did nothing, both boys are in intensive (and expensive) counseling, and the parish where she is working has cut her hours.
But here’s the clincher:
From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
The mother said part of her job at Blessed Sacrament was to administer the parish’s Protection of Children and Youth Initiative, including doing background checks on volunteers. She said she allowed her boys to go camping with Wehmeyer and hang out with him because she hoped at least one of them would take an interest in becoming a priest. (emphasis mine)
As would be expected, the Archdiocese is fighting back, saying that the abuse was all the fault of the mother. They say that she should have done more to protect the boys from the priest.
Before everyone piles on about how the mother “should have known better,” we need to look at the reality of child sex abuse in institutions:
- Her Archbishop (her “spiritual father”) told her that her boys were safe,
- Her Archbishop told her there were no predators in ministry,
- Her Archbishop was also her boss, and
- She administered the safety program and assumed that Wehmeyer had never been arrested or suspected of abuse.
And then there is this reality: Most predators are never arrested, never caught, and, therefore, never in fingerprint databases.
The Protection of Children and Youth Initiative and other programs like it are a good FIRST step. But in this case, they are nothing more than a safety net for predators. Parents must not fall into a malaise of implied protection.
What should parents do? Well, the first things are education, using your gut, and being vigilant. A healthy distrust of the “safety” of institutions is another good step.
*This is the first in a series of posts on Resources for Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse*
Finding a good therapist and getting help can be the best decisions a survivor makes. But the process can also be maddening.
Referrals from Family and Friends
Before launching an online search using the links below, ask around. Getting therapy does not carry the stigma it used to, and you will be amazed at the wonderful recommendations you can get from family and friends. If your brother went to a great therapist, give that therapist a call and ask him/her for a recommendation. (You didn’t want to share your Legos with your brother when you were kids, and you certainly don’t want to share a therapist with him now). Therapists know their colleagues very well, and will be sure to point you to a great clinician who does good work.
Remember: The best therapist in the world may not be the best therapist for you. Before you can benefit from therapy, you need to like how your therapist works, work well with him/her, and—most importantly—feel comfortable.
Take Advantage of Low-Cost Options
Many workplaces offer benefits such as free, confidential, short-term counseling through third-party vendors (EAP, etc.). Talk to your HR department or supervisor to see if they offer the benefit and if you qualify. Your workplace pays for this benefit, so they want you to use it.
States like Hawaii offer low-cost (and sometimes free) counseling through various state-run and nonprofit social services programs. Research your state and county to see if there are services available. If you don’t have access to a computer at home, go to your local library. Research assistants there are experts in finding low-cost services for library patrons.
Finally, many churches help members find counseling or offer services themselves. NOTE: If you were abused in an institutional setting, like a church, it may not be a good idea to get counseling from the same or similar organization. Also, if the institution where you were abused offers you free counseling, be very careful and be sure that your privacy and legal rights are protected. Remember: anyone who offers you free counseling can instantly take that therapy away. So, be sure to protect yourself.
Therapist Search Tools
The American Psychological Association has a search site to help you find a therapist in your area that focuses on victims of child sexual abuse.
The HelpPro Therapist Finder also provides information on therapists in your area.
Kinds of Therapy
Many survivors have found great healing from therapists who use EMDR.
From the EMDR Institute:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference.
Click here to learn more about EMDR or to find a therapist and discuss whether or not it can work for you, click here.
Some survivors have had great success by focusing on brain health. Integrative psychiatric care at places such as the Amen Clinic address brain health, personal care, nutrition and brain science to help survivor address how abuse has physically and psychologically affected their brain function.
NLP—Neuro-linguistic Programming—and Timeline Therapy have also been helpful for many survivors to release anger, anxiety and trauma. Click here to find an NLP practitioner or to learn more about NLP and Timeline Therapy.
This is just a thumbnail sketch of the options that are available to you. So, take your time, do some research, and find a therapist who can help you heal.
All links are just suggestions and do not imply endorsements. I have not received any compensation for including any of the links above (if only …). If you have tried a successful therapy, feel free to let me know and I can include it here.
Coming up—Part Two: Crime victims and legal rights
Fox11 news coverage of yesterday’s press conference:
Los Angeles Local News | FOX 11 LA KTTV
I knew I wasn’t crazy to propose a book on child safety.
I am very proud of how the completed proposal for THE WELL-ARMORED CHILD: HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER FROM ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION has turned out. I received help from some extraordinary folks, who pushed me to go further and create a book that will—I believe—change lives. Fortunately, other people think so, too.
As more news breaks, you’ll read about it here first.
If you would like more information or want to review the completed proposal, feel free to contact me.
Yesterday’s big settlement announcement raised a question for me: What about the wives?
One of the perpetrators who was a part of the settlement, Michael Nocita, has now been sued by four different women for sexual abuse. He was removed from ministry and laicized. The Archdiocese has paid out big money to his victims.
It’s also been reported that he is married.
Anton Smario, a former brother who admitted that he was often nude in front of young girls in the Native Alaskan villages where he taught religion classes, remained married after he was exposed in lawsuits and admitted his actions.
Thomas Hodgman—the man who admitted to abusing me and at least two other girls—is married with children. He also still hangs out on busses with girls (albeit not minor girls. This time).
I can’t help but wonder: What do the wives think? Do they not take their husband’s crimes seriously because the victims were girls?
“Straw men” would say that these women may believe that they are married “for better or for worse.” I tend to think that even the Pope would bless the divorce of any woman who discovered she was married to a child molester.
But there are other things to think about: if these women have children, how can they—in good conscience—allow those children to have friends over to the house? How can they be sure that their husbands are not still abusing?
It makes the prevention imperative even more important.
This just arrived in my inbox
February 18, 2014
Sexual Abuse Survivors Settle with Los Angeles Archdiocese
Archdiocese used therapy scam to defraud victims of civil rights
Cardinal, Bishop thwarted police, helped criminal priest escape US
What: At a news conference Wednesday sexual abuse survivors and their attorneys, Anthony DeMarco and Jeff Anderson will:
- Announce a landmark, $13m settlement on behalf of 17 survivors who were sexually abused by five different perpetrators in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including Fr. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera.
- Discuss how the Archdiocese paid for survivor’s therapy but did not inform survivors of their legal rights to sue, as required by law.
- Demonstrate and discuss how an international conspiracy between Cardinal Roger Mahony and a Mexican bishop allowed a child-raping priest to be dumped in LA’s Spanish-speaking neighborhoods and how Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry defrauded survivors by misleading the police in the case of Fr. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera.
- Play excerpts from Cardinal Mahony’s video deposition taken in 2013 where he claims he and his deputies “did nothing wrong” in handling cases of child sexual abuse. Copies of the sworn testimony excerpts will be available for press.
WHEN: Wednesday February 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM PST
WHERE: Westin Bonaventure Hotel – Palos Verde Room
404 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
WHO: Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Anthony DeMarco along with several sexual abuse survivors, including survivors abused by the five perpetrators named in this settlement.
- Documents and additional information will be posted to our website www.abusedinsocal.com under “Case Resources.”
- Spanish speaking interpreters will be available.
A big question I get from parents is: How can I keep my child safe?
While I have a book on the subject coming out soon, there is one thing we can all do right now to make our kids safer:
Go with your gut.
If you are in a situation and things seem odd, they probably are. If you have to be talked into taking yourself or your child places that make you feel “hinky” or uncomfortable, go with that gut feeling that tells you to stay away. Never rationalize yourself or your child into danger.
As the commercials say: Most of your immune system lives in your gut. When it tries to tell you something, listen.
Maybe it’s trying to protect you from more than germs.
Bishops are very quick divert attention from their role in the cover-up of sex abuse by pointing fingers at public schools, where there is another, very real child sex abuse crisis.
But why haven’t the bishops helped to publicly fund or support any legislation that helps victims in public schools? Why haven’t they spoken out against the unions, who have put millions of dollars into defeating legislation that would protect children in public schools?
And why do they try and divide the victims’ movement by pitting survivors against each other?
It’s simple: they don’t care about stopping abuse. It’s just lip service. They only care about silencing victims—all victims, no matter the abuser. The bishops will do everything to keep the lid on sex abuse in public schools, because once you start peeling the layers of the onion …
Speakers will include John L. Allen, Jr., Associate Editor for Catholic news at The Boston Globe and founder of the Vatican beat for National Catholic Reporter, and Fr. Thomas Reese, NCR’s Senior Analyst and author of The Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.
I did an MSNBC interview with Reese last month and he is a great advocate for truth.
The event will be at Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, Connecticut. For more information and to register, click here.
How about some GOOD news out of a state legislature?
Hawaii State Legislature has TWO ground-breaking, victim-friendly bills that have just passed committee.
Why the legislative attention? The current Hawaii Civil Window, which closes in April, has opened lawmakers’ eyes to the problem of child sex abuse and cover-up across the state. Fortunately, these same eyes also see that two years are simply not enough time for many victims. Since the window opened in 2012, approximately 30 men and women have come forward to seek justice—but we are only really at the genesis of exposing the cover-up. Once that process begins, the real social and cultural change starts …
You can’t put a time limit on healing and you can’t instantly change a cultural stigma on abuse.
Here are the two bills:
SB 2687 – Sponsored by Senator Maile Shimabukuro (the sponsor of the original window) and Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland – If passed, this law would give victims of child sexual abuse up until the age of 55 to use the civil courts to seek justice and accountability.
HB 2034 – Sponsored by the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus – If passed, this law removed the criminal and civil statutes of limitations on first and second degree sexual assault and the continuous assault of a minor under 14.
Thank you to hero survivors like Andre Bisquera, who continue to work for victims’ rights (even with a newborn at home!)
According to the Riverside Press Enterprise, two victims of convicted priest Alejandro “Alex” Castillo settled their sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits against the Diocese of San Bernardino for $3.8 million.
In a statement, the diocese called Castillo’s acts “sinful and unlawful.”
They also added this:
The diocese acknowledges and deeply regrets the sinful and unlawful actions of Castillo, while noting it took immediate action to remove him from ministry and notify police as soon as the allegations … were known.
Why do I have doubts? Hopefully, a third outstanding lawsuit will expose the truth.