Originally posted on April 20, 2011
Last night PBS aired a Frontline program called The Silence. It covered a horrendous case of sexual abuse perpetrated against children in remote Alaskan villages by Catholic priests and clergymen. In one village, almost 80% of all the children were abused. The Silence shows how silence and inaction perpetuates abuse.
According to the 20-minute piece, the Church at first ignored the claims of abuse. Later it moved the accused abusers from parish to parish. It took years for the Church to acknowledge what occurred, and longer before anyone from the Church went to address the problem, and even the latter was done primarily because it was ordered by a court.
The Silence also shows how sexual abuse embeds itself in every aspect of a person’s life. Many of the men and women featured in the piece still suffer the effects of the abuse. The pain remains just below the surface, and it takes very little to bring it up. The piece also shows the ripple effect sexual abuse can cause. Ben Andrews’ father beat him after Ben told him about the abuse he suffered. His father then left to get drunk, returned home, and shot and killed Ben’s younger brother. Ben held his brother as the boy died, and he has held on to the guilt that he caused his brother’s death for all these years.
This is the effect abuse has. It taints everything. The Silence is something that people who tell abuse victims to “get over it” need to watch because it shows what people go through. There is no easy way out, no easy fix, no quick “moving on”. The abuse is always there. That does not mean that people have to let it control their lives, but it is hard battle to keep it from doing that.