All these headline news of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.  I was reading about the issue of Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls.

When we hear about these issues of rape, abuse, and violence against women, the media usually turns them into individually stories of “Are the children telling the truth?”  The epidemic of rape in American culture quickly shifts to a very surface level look at a huge crisis.

According to an organization called RAIIN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network):

  • Someone in the United States is raped, every 2 minutes
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
  • 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.
  • 9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.
  • 60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police


But, what is the root of the issue that causes abusers to go after children and women?

I was part of an extensive 3 day workshop with an organization called Generation 5.  It is a grassroots organization located in Oakland that focuses on changing the root causes of child sexual abuse.  They focus on holding those who abuse accountable, while also focusing on the social norms systematic institutions that perpetuate a culture of violence and rape towards young people.  Sustainable justice for ending sexual abuse can temporarily be solved by throwing people in prison, but once released, chances are they will go after others.

I was watching Oprah a few weeks ago, as she sat with four admitted child sex offenders.  Oprah Winfrey was a survivor of child sexual abuse and rape, and hosted a courageous and daring show that showed insight into the minds of men who abuse young children.  The men all mutually agreed that when they went after young girls, it was a psychological draw.  They can’t control their lustful thoughts of children, no matter how hard they tried to get them out of their head.  A couple of the men admitted that when caught and locked up, they came out continuing to abuse.

This type of uncontrollable feelings towards abusers and their victims are much more complex than the ideology of a sick individual.  The numbers tell it all, it is a wave that has become common culture.  I personally believe that people don’t come out of the womb trying to hurt people, they are a product of trauma and society.  This can turn into a dangerous individual that does end up damaging others.

Violence, authority, blame, power, silence, shame, and guilt… The concepts that continue a cycle of abuse that leaves survivors and victims voiceless.

Generation 5 states in their mission statement:

“We are living in a broader social context that teaches power-over relations, private ownership (parents/family) of children, a dismissal of children’s accounts (legal), mixed messages and little education about human sexuality (it is bad, shame based, and it is used to sell us everything from cars to deodorant), and the ongoing mixing of sex and violence. We are not taught to address pain and trauma deeply, but rather mask symptoms or blame the individual for their distress. Child sexual abuse is about having power over another person and using that power sexually. The norms that allow for this behavior are sadly, ever-present in our society.”

On Oprah, the four sex offenders were all actively seeking help.  They were making progress through intense therapy with professionals and being kept away from children.

According  to Generation 5 the goals of Transformative Justice as a response to child sexual abuse are:

  • Survivor safety, healing and agency
  • Offender accountability and transformation
  • Community response and accountability
  • Transformation of the community and social conditions that create and perpetuate child sexual abuse, i.e. systems of oppression, exploitation, domination, and State violence.

To me this is hope for the future.  Looking deeper within the problem to advocate more sustainable change.

I am not making excuses for people who abuse.  I just feel it is important to hold those 100% responsible for their actions, but real change starts with taking those steps away from a culture that focuses on problems skin deep.  I know it’s a little controversial, feel free to tell me what you think.