Sexual Abuse: Remaining silent does more harm than good

Victims of sexual abuse sometimes live with the pain for decades, especially if they were preyed upon as children, without believing there is something they can do about it. That is true particularly when the predators were authority figures employed and sometimes protected by powerful institutions.

If you are among those victims, please understand this: There is something you can do.

More and more, the high, strong walls that have protected some predators for years, even decades, are crumbling. No longer should the evildoers who hurt you and thousands of others believe they are insulated from justice.

Last week, the report of a Pennsylvania grand jury that investigated sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests was released. It is nauseating reading. Grand jurors found evidence that for decades, more than 300 “predator priests” abused more than 1,000 children. In some cases, church superiors protected the priests from justice. There also was evidence that sometimes, police and prosecutors turned blind eyes to accusations of wrongdoing by the priests.

The report is nothing new. Similar scandals have been reported in Boston and Chicago, among other places.

It needs to be emphasized that sexual abuse of children and coverups of the evil are not limited to the Catholic church. It can happen in other denominations. It can happen in schools. It can happen anywhere communities trust authority figures of any kind.

But something has changed. It is not as easy to get away with preying on children as once may have been the case.

There is no statute of limitations on such crimes in West Virginia. The passage of time is no protection for predators. It means if you were a victim, police and prosecutors can do something about it.

They are eager to do so. Our experience with area law enforcement officers, deputies and officials is that they make stopping child abuse of any kind — and punishing those who commit it — a top priority.

If you were or are a victim, call the police. If you need help coping with the situation in any way, many others in your community can help. Among the options for help are the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center, which emphasized it “does not refuse services to anyone regardless of where they reside.” That number is 800-884-7242.

There is also a National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673), which works with the West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Don’t let the wound continue causing you pain. Don’t let the man or woman who victimized you hurt others.

Perhaps you thought for years that there was nothing you could do.

There is. Think about it, then pick up the phone.

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