The female victims of Church sex abuse

Is there another shoe yet to drop in the Church sex abuse scandal? Mary Ormsby of the Toronto Star thinks so, and suggests the next group of victims to come forward may be heavily female. That would reverse the findings of the John Jay study, which concluded that over 80 percent of the victims were male.

London [Ontario]-based lawyer Robert Talach… expects that male-female ratio to change within five to 10 years to reflect a trend that began in the 1970s when the church welcomed female altar servers. Researchers say disclosure of abuse is typically delayed for about 30 years, which means women assaulted as children are just starting to come to terms with what happened.

“In some of our [Father Charles] Sylvestre cases, which are (from) the ‘70s, many of the women were victimized under the pretenses of ‘I’m training you to be one of these new, upcoming female altar servers,’” said Talach, who has represented more than 100 victims of clergy abuse, most of them male.

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“We’ve seen priests using that to look innovative to their parishioners, but in reality it was to allow them access to women if their predilection was female.”

The article is based almost entirely on lawyer anecdote, so I’m not yet persuaded that we’ll see anything like the “wave” of female victims they predict. But this part caught my eye:

[Lawyer Patrick] Wall’s perspective on the degree of female abuse is unique. He was a Benedictine monk for 12 years, working as a “fixer” dispatched to tidy up messy sexual problems of priests and laymen at troubled parishes and schools. He said when a girl required surgery after rape, the code was that she needed a “hernia” operation.

In a bizarre twinning, he counselled accused priests and heard confessions from traumatized victims. He also worked on cases where priests impregnated girls then procured abortions for them.

“That is so prevalent, it happens all the time,” he said of the abortion runs, which in part accounts for his belief that teenaged girls are the silent majority of priest-related sexual abuse.

If that’s true, heaven help us.



  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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