The Institutions That Hurt You


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Sometimes, it’s the things we consider impossible that are most possible. Child sexual abuse is one of those things that is so devastating to think about that many prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist at all. IT DOES.

Case in point: Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, may have been sexually abusing children since 1919. Just look at the stories unearthed by the Los Angeles Times, including information about how the Boy Scouts amassed at least 1,900 files and 3,000 case summaries of sexual abuse ranging from 1947 to 2005. These files, coined the “perversion files,” were used internally. What did the Scouts do with the information? They surely didn’t tell the police; typically, they didn’t do anything at all. Instead, when push came to shove, it appears as if they allowed the molesters to depart easily and quietly, allowing them to reappear in another troop or state; allowing them to continue to emotionally, sexually and spiritually abuse the young boys who the Boy Scouts were supposed to build up, not tear down.

Inaction is permission. When we don’t look — when we deny, as a society — we let the abuse grow, we let it wound. It’s unthinkable. When institutions entrusted with protecting children look the other way, they protect the abuser instead of the abused. And yet it happened. And if it happened to you, it can happen again.

PSYCHE of a Predator

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Those that sexually abuse children are not “a few bad apples.” They are predators, and they pick their place to prey purposefully. Many of these predators follow a lifelong pattern of abuse. Many of them are supported by the institutions that they choose, many of which have years or even decades-long histories of covering up child sexual abuse.

In the Catholic Church the vow of celibacy may take a reverse effect, fostering a secrecy that in turn fosters and permits negligence, denial and the covering up of child sexual abuse.

In private schools, where abuse is likely occurring in astounding, unrecorded numbers, the schools have a vested interest in keeping the abuse hidden to preserve their reputation. Of course this is unacceptable and an issue we are willing to confront.

How Bad It Can Get

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Child sexual abuse is perhaps the most secretive topic in the world. We pretend it doesn’t exist. That only hurts the child. Because of the secrecy, the vast majority of child sexual abuse cases are never reported, meaning all estimates of child sexual abuse are likely small fractions of what’s truly going on.


Around 20 percent of sexually abused children are abused before they turn eight years old.


One out of ten K-12 students is sexually abused during the school year by abusive staff.


One priest may have sexually abused hundreds of victims.

One child hurt is one too many, and the scope of pain that may develop because of childhood sexual abuse may last a lifetime… stay with you, forever.

*Statistics from the advocacy group, Darkness to Light.

What Can Be Done?

When men or women who were sexually abused as children stand up for themselves, change begins. The first step is speaking up.

Simmons Hanly Conroy and Mitchell Garabedian are here to support the courageous men and women who want to change their lives and protect others by coming forward.

One day, we want to see a world in which children are protected from harm. Where children can go to school and join organizations that nurture them, instead of take from them. Where children — of all ages — can speak up and tell their stories without fearing they will be silenced, or worse.

A world, too, where children can look up to adults and trust them, full stop.

We don’t live in that world yet. But we can start.