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But in religious communities, the fear of ostracism carries additional weight. Sexual predators, they say, tend to hide within a culture or religious hierarchy that either ignores or in some way condones their crimes. Members of religious communities that prefer to resolve their problems internally are particularly disinclined to report sexual predators within their midst, experts say.
The same can be true for religious communities, where people celebrate births and marriages together. There can be the same response—deny it, ignore it, reassign people. Jack Schaap, the disgraced former pastor of an Indiana megachurch, is serving a year sentence after pleading guilty to taking a young parishioner across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Recently in Indiana, former First Baptist Church of Hammond pastor Jack Schaap pleaded guilty to having sex with a girl who attended his church.
This July, 19 former Yeshiva University High School students filed a federal lawsuit claiming two school rabbis abused them in the s and s. And the vast Roman Catholic Church sexual scandal has shown that childhood sexual abuse can be found in any culture, including one that is founded on religious tenets. We in the United States talk about freedom of religion, but we fail to appreciate the way religion affects a community and how it responds to the secular world.
Marci Hamilton, a law professor specializing in religion and the law at the Benjamin N. Prosecutors say they know of more victims who were too afraid to testify. Prosecutors say they were able to encourage the victim to testify by gaining her trust through their Kol Tzedek program, established in to reach out to ultra-Orthodox communities in a culturally sensitive manner. The program also educates the Orthodox communities about sexual abuse issues and the criminal justice system.
She adds that her division has been seriously pursuing child sexual abuse cases within Orthodox circles. It also provides a valuable lesson, they say, about the enormous consequences of failing to contact outside authorities. In the U. The scandal broke in when the Boston Globe reported a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the church in the Boston area. Stories that had originally appeared to be about individual cases morphed into a shocking scandal with worldwide implications. Thousands of adults are still struggling with the psychological damage of childhood abuse at the hands of the clergy.
The extent of the scandal is still unfolding. Hamilton says that the Catholic Church scandal has taught the country that sometimes an organization chooses concern over its public reputation over that of the children in the organization. The most recent landmark case came last year, when Philadelphia prosecutors convinced a jury to find Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, guilty of child endangerment.
Prosecutors accused Lynn of helping to cover up allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in Philadelphia. Lynn received a three-to-six-year jail sentence.
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