If he were a priest, television, magazine and newspaper stories would be quick to connect the dots between the JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect and the clergy-abuse scandal. So why is no one connecting the dots between the man who claims he abused the 6-year-old girl and the abuse scandal in our nation’s public schools?
Teacher molestation is far more common than clergy abuse. Between 6% and 10% of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.
That’s what a draft report
commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with President
Bush’s 2002 “No Child Left Behind” act found.
Charol Shakeshaft is
The report estimated that 422,000
Not only does the Church get disproportionate blame for its smaller problem, it gets very little credit for its uniquely strict response.
The Church has cracked down on abuse with strict institutional policies and, in addition to compensating victims, has paid out huge sums of money to alleged victims and their lawyers.
There has been no comprehensive internal review of the schools like there has been of priests, reported Jon Dougherty in the 2004 NewsMax.com story that quoted Stein and Shakeshaft. Most of the data on school abuse has been generated as a byproduct of sexual harassment studies. There is no single agency tracking teacher molestation incidents.
“None of these studies — either singly or as a group — answer all of the reasonable questions that parents, students, educators and the public ask about educator sexual misconduct,” said Shakeshaft. “And [the studies] certainly do not provide information at a level of reliability and validity appropriate to the gravity of these offenses.”
Wrote Dougherty: “What is also different about the school cases is the level of secondary media coverage it has — or, in this case, hasn’t — received.” While the media coverage of clergy abuse was nearly “wall-to-wall,” he found just four news stories that mentioned the author of the federal report about the public school problem.
Since so little attention has been paid to non-Catholic sex abuse scandals, it’s important to review what we know and what we don’t know about them.
The Church had no pedophilia scandal. Though it has become media boilerplate to refer to a
“pedophile priest scandal,” the reality is quite different. When the John Jay College of Criminal Justice thoroughly
researched clergy sex abuse for the
Permissiveness, not rules, leads to abuse. Another common misconception that arose out of the saturation coverage of clergy abuse is that rules about sexuality somehow lead to sexual disorders. But the opposite is more likely the case: The Church may have experienced a fraction of the sex-abuse allegations than public schools do because Catholic teaching is clear that sex with children is always abuse and is always wrong. That moral clarity is increasingly rare in the secular world.
For example, the April 17, 2002, issue of USA Today questioned whether molesting children is wrong at all. The article’s title was “Sex Between Adults and Children” (itself a euphemism for child abuse). Under the headline, the paper featured a ballot-like box suggesting possible opinions one might hold on the subject: “Always harmful, usually harmful, sometimes harmful, rarely harmful.” The newspaper’s own answer: “Child’s age and maturity make for gray areas.”
Michael Tracey is the
It was good that the media vigorously pursued the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse problem. Now, we need to find the courage to root out sexual abuse elsewhere.
We owe it to our children to protect them.