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Old 16-02-2013, 11:19
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 85
BIB - forgive me for responding, as it is clear you have a strong drive to 'put things right', but I'm going to try and explain this form a slightly different aspect. It is quite a long explanation - apologies in advance, and I'm not even sure I'll make my point clearly enough, but I'm going to try!

I am Catholic and my best friend is an ex-priest (still a relatively young man in his early 40s) who was himself abused as a teenager by a male teacher at a very well-known religious boarding school. My friend decided to become a priest himself, after a night being subjected to the most disgusting things by this man (the teacher was a priest as well), not because he had a true vocation to be a priest, but specifically "because I wanted to right the wrongs that were done to me by a priest". But of course, it didn't work - he had a breakdown and I supported him through leaving the priesthood a few years ago because of course he was a priest for all the wrong reasons.

But unlike others from the same school who have brought prosecutions against the teachers/priests involved, my friend has never been motivated to seek redress that way - he doesn't want to, and I must respect that, even though I know the name of the man who abused him and where to find him (as do the police) but without enough evidence they can do nothing. This man was 'dealt with' by the Church internally several times after boys said things about him, but it was never enough to bring a prosecution without a willingness to go to court, and yes the priest/teacher was simply moved around in the naive hope he meant it when he said he was 'sorry' and 'wouldn't do it again'.

Who's fault is it that he was left at large? The different Headteachers who agreed to move him/take him on their staff knowing his history/rumours? The Diocese? Ultimately the Pope? Or... was it my friend, the victim's fault, and the other victims like him, who for whatever reason didn't want to say anything against this man publicly, and so also had to live with the guilt that if he had spoken up other boys may have been spared? Where does the ultimate responsibility lie for these awful acts when it comes to 'who pays?' The abuser is the only one against whom anger/payment for actions/whatever you want to call it should be leveled, surely?

Of course my friend lives with the guilt that he could/should/would have saved others if he'd spoken up, but until it's happened to you you cannot judge what is 'right' for the victim to do - they have to cope with life somehow, and if my friend doesn't want to go to court because he knows to do otherwise would probably drive him to another breakdown and/or taking his own life through the same of a public case (his family don't know what happened to him, even now) then I'd rather have my friend alive, and just support him as best I can to be the best person he can be.

You might expect my friend to be angry at the Headteacher, who knew this teacher had a history of abuse and had been shunted around to 'keep things quiet' and 'dealt with so no fuss is made', but actually he isn't. In fact, he still counts him as a friend, knowing that (at that time) no one really knew how to deal with accusations of abuse, and the Head himself had no more insight or knowledge about the seriousness of the situation when it came to 'covering it up by moving the teacher around' than any other organisation which did exactly the same thing at that time (and before that time). It's just that the Catholic Church ended up being the 'organisation every knows about', and so suddenly we heard about priests being moved by Bishops to 'keep things quiet' here, there and everywhere - but it was happening in other places too, with other professions, other non-religious contexts. But boy, did the Catholic Church pay, and is still the 'easy target' because of its somewhat unique way of running itself. It also didn't get much credit for leading the way in (admittedly after the horse had bolted in too many cases) instituting safeguarding for children way before schools did, hospitals did, anyone else did (at least, over here)! Whatever it does, however much good it now does to safeguard children, there will always be those (many of them not even Catholic themselves!) who will say "too little, too late". And yet... and yet there is my friend, Catholic ex-priest, victim of horrendous abuse by another priest, who shamed me into looking into my own heart and made me consider my 'righteous anger' against a man I'd never met, made me realise it wasn't my place, or my right, to judge.

I know now that every victim is different, reacts differently, wants different things to happen - but it is not up to any of us to say what that should be unless we are also one of those victims or directly involved in any way. Maybe you are, maybe that's why you feel so strongly, and if you are I'm sorry. But if you are just saying it because you think it's the 'right' thing to say/do, then I hope looking at it from a slightly different angle, from the point of view of my friend's story, has given a different aspect to your considerations.

I struggled with my faith a lot after I found out about my friend - when he was still a priest I'd go to Mass and watch him say the 'Our Father', specifically 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us', and for a while I was so confused how he could say that after what was done to him - I couldn't say those words on his behalf for a long time! But then I realised that by not being able to say the words, the abuser was still winning - and my friend, full of everything that's good and right, was looking right at me as he was saying the words as if he was telepathically telling me "you can't be angry for me, you can't put it right for me, please don't feel full of 'righteous revenge' on my behalf etc...".

So I think what I'm trying to say is, that even if you/anyone might have the idea that someone 'must' pay in terms of what should be done to any of the perpetrators, or those who are seen has having 'protected' the perpetrators to 'keep things quiet' in any of the abuse scandals - be it JS or anonymous priests answerable to Bishops and the Pope teaching in schools - it's easy to get caught up in feelings of 'righteous revenge' on behalf of the victims and see things from the narrow point of view of "they (the perpetrator/s) must be made to pay" (or, in the case of the Pope, "those ultimately responsible for them staying 'in post' must be made to pay") when held up against my friend, the victim, who those who don't understand why he can't, might also accuse him of aiding and abetting the abuser staying in post by not wanting to press charges.

It's very complicated - I'm not sure I've explained it clearly - but ultimately the only person who is responsible for any action is the person (abuser) themselves, and second hand responsibility (e.g. the Pope 'paying for his part in it in this life' is not always the way the victims themselves see it - some do, of course, but others don't. And one size does not fit all when it comes to how each victim would like those with first or second hand responsibility to be treated by others.

This answer will be shorter, I promise!

I am also a teacher, primary by training, a sector dominated by female teachers like myself, but often now secondary schools are more female than male in terms of teacher/gender ratios. But often the only male role model a young child has is a male teacher at school - but who the hell wants to put their head into the lion's mouth any more and train for a job where accusations can be used as bribes to get your own way on a school trip? I know if I were a man I'd think twice - all it takes is one unfounded/untrue word and your career is ruined, both as a teacher and probably in any other job because of the 'no smoke without fire' thoughts of others.

I don't know what the answer is - the ones who really want to get away with it are too clever to get caught, even now they know how to get around the rules of windows in classroom doors, spy holes, never shutting the door if you're on your own with a pupil of the opposite sex. I know work in the 16-19 sector and do a lot of 1:1 tuition with students who need to catch up on their class work - I am on my own with teenage boys in a room where no one can see me. He could say anything against me and it would be his word against mine. Likewise, he could do anything to me and it would be his word against mine that he did not. If I were a male tutor alone with a female student in the same way I think I'd be petrified - if a student takes against you, or you give them a bad grade or report, you do hear phrases such as "I'll make you pay - they'll believe me, not you" bandied about, just like with that party of teenagers in the hotel.

Teaching is not an 'easy option', and it's not all about the holidays - it's a minefield these days.
When I was teaching (now retired) I always made sure never to be alone with a child/teenager. Teaching assistants were a godsend.
If unavailable, I'd meet/teach an individual child in a public space ie library. Noise/concentration was not an issue, because I found other children/teachers were aware.
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