When Rapists WIN

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I’m watching the Netflix series The Keepers right now, and halfway through, I’m sad. Sad because, wow, sexual abuse has always been a problem, and as long as powerful people get away with it, powerful systems will seek to cover it up, revictimizing victims. It’s sickening. The documentary looks into the killing of a young nun (Sister Cathy Cesnik) and seeks to uncover why she was murdered. Hint: she knew too much about a rapist priest.

(Trigger alert: this documentary was extremely hard for me to watch. If you’re recovering, and your heart is tender, I’d steer clear of it).

This is the problem: sexual predators are the worst kind of bullies. They take what they want, when they want it, often accompanying their heinous actions with equally heinous threats. In this particular instance, God was brought in to shame an abuse victim. The priest said something to the effect of, “I don’t know if God can forgive this sin (her being raped by her uncle . . . referring to HER).” Girls who were assaulted were threatened, and they lived in fear of their lives in the aftermath of rape, sodomy, multi-people rape (including police officers).

These predators (not a strong enough word) have gotten away with their crimes. In a very real sense, they have won. And some institutions (police, church, organizations) are the reason why.

This is wrong. Rapists should lose, not win. They should be caught, not coddled. They should be imprisoned, not passed along to different locales to rape again. It smacks the face of justice, mars the victim’s pathway to peace, and it proves that the powerful, when they become intoxicated by their power, can enact the most evil violence upon others.

Thankfully, there are pinpricks of light. The people working to uncover what happened (many of them NOT sexual abuse victims) to the slain nun (who, it’s speculated, knew about the sexual abuse, which led to her murder)  have spent good portions of their lives trying to uncover the truth. I want to hug every one of them. At great personal cost, and no vested interest other than having been a student of Sister Cathy Cesnik, they’ve worked leads and stories to the bone. A journalist spent years of his life on the case simply because that’s what good journalism does. One of the priest’s victims has a large family who have spent countless time and resources to help their sister through it all.

The frustration, though, comes when doing the math. One predatory priest. Perhaps hundreds of victims. Thirty or so people working to uncover all the truth. Those thirty for one predator. Now multiply everything by the protected predators who successfully sought asylum in their church structures. The cover up is massive (and evil), but it’ll take a lifetime of reporters and good citizens to scratch the surface of the abuse. In this, I lament. It’s just so large, and for so long, predators got away with it.

No more. Please, no more. When bullies win, the entirety of society suffers–often silently. It’s time to change the paradigm of culture, to be open about what happened, dragging the perpetrator into the light, exposing the darkness. Let’s call rape what it is: a murder that leaves its victim alive (thanks to David Pittman who shared the idea with me. The original quote came from a GBI investigator who said, “A pedophile is like a serial killer that leaves his victims alive.”)

Our institutions must take a stand, must draw a line in the sand and swing completely the other way. We must believe victims over the clever pleas of so-called repentant rapists. We must strive to become a safe place for victims and an unsafe place for predators. (One way: Churches can get certified via GRACE’s new program). We must bravely report suspicious behavior. We must stop marginalizing victims while providing havens for rapists. When we remove protection from rapists, the criminal justice system and the free press have the ability to perform their rightful civic duties.

Although there has been some personal cost for me to openly share my story, by God’s grace, I’ll keep telling it.

When victims go first and tell their stories, they empower other victims to tell their stories, which then opens more doors for healing and justice. Never underestimate the power of your own story, even if your perpetrator goes free (mine did). Because together, we can help our culture move from a silent one, which by its silence inherently empowers rapists, to a vocal one where we no longer tolerate institutions that blindly protect rapists. Let’s work toward removing that protection by encouraging open and honest dialog, dignifying victims by listening to their stories, and praising the criminal justice system when it enacts justice.

In short, let’s be a part of a society that prosecutes rapists instead of protecting them.

 

 

 

 

  • It’s not just the church that covers it up. The Marines do, too. They’re more worried about the media frenzy than they are with punishing the perpetrator. It’s horrible. Don’t get me wrong, most Marines are honorable. But, the leadership does it’s best to cover up for the victims of the bad few in order to protect the Marine image.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Anyone who values reputation over doing the right thing (any organization) is doing this. It’s disheartening, and it’s wrong.

  • Brenda Austin

    I just left a church a year ago and I’m in a custody battle to get my kids away from there. It is a cult. My daughter who is 13 was assaulted and got a std by a member there this year and it was reported but the police in the small town are good friends with the pastor of the church so they are covering it up. If you live in North Louisiana pm me and I will give you the name so you and your family can stay away from it. I was a victim of sexual abuse and I just wish this evil would end.

    • Mary DeMuth

      This is pure evil. I’m so sorry. What is wrong with people?

  • Susan G.

    “Disgusting” was the very word I was going to use before I even saw Janet’s comment… I rarely watch any television these days, because the shows and movies have gone downhill in the last 20 years especially and are not fit for “human consumption” of our minds, eyes or hearts! I keep praying things will turn around in this nation, on every conceivable level…only God knows…
    Thanks Mary.

    • Mary DeMuth

      This was actually a really well done documentary, quite compelling. But of course the subject matter was so hard.

  • Janet from FL

    This is disgusting! This has gone on too long. It is sympathy misplaced. People say, “He is a good person. He should not have to spend years in prison and ruin his life.” What? I just finished a book “The Way of Letting Go” about Wilma Derksen’s high school daughter who was abducted and killed by a known child predator, but it took 25 years to find him and bring him to trial. Then there are appeals, and the process continues. This is so unfair to victims and their families — We need to be focusing on their needs, and provide counseling, financial help, etc. Putting the criminals in prison is only 1 part of the justice needed. Waiting 5-30 years for criminals to go to jail (if they ever do) is just too long!

    • Mary DeMuth

      I so hear you, Janet. It’s entirely bewildering.

  • Mary,
    Beautifully put. This kind of cover up cannot be OK with us. Thank you for shining a light on this dark evil. We have to shift the current culture. You are an amazing friend of children who need to be shielded from these rapists. Thank you!

    • Mary DeMuth

      I so appreciate your encouragement. Sometimes I feel like I’m one small voice in a very quiet universe about this issue. Thankfully, there are other voices out there like yours and GRACE that help me feel less alone.

      • Talena Winters

        I so appreciate your voice, Mary, and your willingness to share your story and speak up. The church needs to find a different line–one that shows compassion for the abuser without endorsing or minimizing their behaviour, so that they, too, can get help. For the sake of those whose lives have been destroyed by sexual violence and abuse, whether on the giving or receiving end, we need to stop hiding it and start talking about it.

        • Mary DeMuth

          Well said, Talena.

        • I have to respectfully disagree (at least partially). As long as there is an investigation and a trial going on, I believe the abuser needs to be treated as what they are: a criminal. Now, once they’re convicted and put in prison, treat them as a felon. When they have “paid their debt to society,” THEN there can be counseling, etc. But, not before. Of course, they have a choice to attend church services while in prison (and can receive pastoral counseling, too). Coddling criminals is why there’s so much craziness in our country now.

          • Mary DeMuth

            Also the stats on sexual predators actually/truly changing are dismal.

          • And I pray they all actually repent. But, unfortunately, you’re right. And in most cases, it seems that all they get is a legal slap on the hand.

          • Talena Winters

            Was this a disagreement with my comment? I’m not sure how it disagrees. Discipline done right is always compassionate and loving, even while it firmly addresses the wrongful behaviour. A church hiding and covering up the truth is not discipline done right, or at all. A church shunning and ostracizing is not discipline done right, either. There is a legal process that (in North America, at least), can be followed and the church can still treat the offender with compassion. (Re: the legal process–not so in every country.)

            When Jesus chased out the money-changers, he was still compassionate toward them, even while correcting them. He was compassionate to every Pharisee he ever rebuked. Compassion is not the same as coddling.

            And sadly, many people don’t change. But some do. God is sovereign over all hearts. And he paid the same price for all of us, because we have all sinned. I was simply trying to say that we should never forget that there are two damaged people involved in every situation of abuse, not just one.

          • Mary DeMuth

            GREAT clarification here, Talena.

          • Sorry, Talena. I guess I assumed based on the phrase “compassion for the abuser.” I have a lot of interaction with social and political liberals who love to use phrases like that to justify allowing things that they shouldn’t (or for not punishing as the state should). I apologize for my assumption.

          • Talena Winters

            No offense taken. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain.