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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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What about sexual abuse elsewhere? (01/08/2014)
By Frances Edstrom
The Catholic Church in the Diocese of Winona has been ordered by a judge to release the names of priests that the diocese has learned have been accused of sexual abuse. In December, the names of priests “credibly accused” before 2004 were released. Now the order is to release the names of priests accused since 2004, credible or not.

It is a good thing to bring out into the open the instances of sexual abuse by those in authority of their charges — male, female, children, adults. It gives me pause, however, to tar the reputations of people who are accused of a crime, but either do not get the chance to defend themselves against the abuse, or have had charges against them dropped.

Now that the statute of limitations for such abuse cases has been eliminated, we can hope that institutions such as the Catholic Church will be encouraged to make public such “credible” accusations when they occur, to avoid the pain it causes their families to have such accusations aired many years after the accused has died. There are also laws in Minnesota that make it mandatory for many in authority to report cases of abuse when they are made aware of them.

You note I say, “institutions such as the Catholic Church.” Why are other institutions not required to release the names of accused sexual predators? We know that abuse does occur in many other institutions, because of cases of abuse that are revealed to the public, usually when the victim makes the decision to go public. Other denominations of churches, for instance. How many accusations there have been swept under the rug, how many accusers have been disbelieved, dismissed, bought off, or ostracized, as is claimed against the Catholic Church?

State medical boards have systems in place to reprimand licensed health care professionals who engage in sexual relationships with their patients. We recently received a notice from the Minnesota Board of Psychology pertaining to an accusation against a psychologist, not from the Winona area. Her license was suspended, until she completed a “boundaries” course, at which time she could apply for reinstatement.

In a study commissioned by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 2000, it was estimated that as many as “4.5 million students currently in grades K-12 have suffered some form of sexual abuse by an educator, and more than 3 million have experienced sexual touching or assault. This number would include both inappropriate romantic relationships between teachers and upperclassmen, and outright pedophilia.”  

In Pennsylvania, before a law was passed requiring school districts to deal publicly with abusers, a state legislator wrote this: “It’s been called “passing the trash,” the “lemon dance” and the “turkey trot” – allowing bad teachers to move from one school to another…School officials and administrators choose to avoid the unpleasantness of an investigation, the threat of litigation, the cost of prosecution and the embarrassment of public disclosure by simply allowing teachers and others to leave quietly. Sometimes the “deal” includes an agreement not to speak ill of the offender when asked for a reference by another school or district to which the individual has applied for employment.”

Isn’t this what happens here? Haven’t we read of such unfortunate cases in our very own state? Why isn’t the Minnesota Department of Education required to release the names of “credibly accused” educators?

If anything good will come from this recent crusade against the Catholic Church, it would be that the playing field widens to include any and all institutions in which those in authority are allowed to sexually abuse those in their charge without meaningful consequences. Children, especially, should be safe from such predators in the very places that purport to shelter and nurture them — in church, in the doctor’s office, and in school. 


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