Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Questions to Be Asked About Discussion of Sexual Abuse: Why Is Abuse of Vulnerable Females by Adult Males Shrugged Off So Easily?

Speaking from the vantage point of a "but half-woke" straight male, David Roberts writes

Sexual discrimination, harassment, and abuse are everywhere. They are not isolated cases, not rare, and not confined to the powerful or famous. They constitute an ongoing, systemic crisis. #MeToo is meant to draw attention to that crisis. Talking about the perpetrators "moving on with their lives" at all, much less with sympathy and solicitude, is a clear signal that the moral weight and severity of the crisis has not sunk in. We're still not taking this shit seriously. 
It goes without saying that legions of women have said all this before and better than me, but for whatever (lamentable) reasons, there are demographics that may be reachable by a dudely voice that are not being reached by female voices. So I figure it can’t hurt to add my voice to the choir.

If David Roberts is correct when he says (echoing "legions of women") that "sexual discrimination, harassment, and abuse are everywhere," but the "moral weight and severity of the crisis has not sunk in" — and I think he's absolutely right about this — then what are the implications for 

1. Discussion of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, where the focus has obsessively been on a quite specific form of abuse, abuse of male minors by male priests;

2. And discussion of the allegations of Christine Ford about Brett Kavanaugh and his sexual assault of her?

Add to the calculus of concerns here that the same right-wing Catholics who claim that they profess great horror about the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic context — as long as the discussion is very narrowly focused on the abuse of male minors by male priests — appear more than eager to see Brett Kavanaugh confirmed despite Christine Ford's credible allegations (see, e.g., this report), and one has to ask: what are the professions of horror about sexual abuse of vulnerable people really about in the right-wing Catholic and evangelical context?

Does abuse of women — which is, by all indices, far and away more prevalent than abuse of male minors by male adults — even count for those professing such horror about sexual abuse of vulnerable people by religious authority figures? Or is something else driving those professions of horror?

If so, what is that something else?

And why is the abuse of vulnerable female minors and vulnerable women by adult males taken so casually, shrugged off so easily, treated as beneath notice? What's the right-wing Christian revulsion about sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic context really about?

Add to these considerations the testimony of Christa Brown, who was sexually molested as a teen by a Southern Baptist minister: she writes yesterday,

Experts say evangelicals are likely worse than Catholics in responding to abuse, and the number of children being abused is likely greater.

Observations like this should not in any way be used to minimize the problem of abuse of minors in the Catholic context, or to energize a false defensive narrative about how the same abuse occurs in other institutions. But they do make one ask why the focus of discussions of sexual abuse in churches have been so narrowly limited to the Catholic context — if abuse is a serious problem in all religious contexts — and why that Catholic discussion has been almost obsessively narrowed to discussion of abuse of male minors by male priests.

These questions need to be asked — especially as Christine Ford's allegations about Brett Kavanaugh are under consideration.

The headscratcher illustration is from The Evening Ledger (Philadelphia, 4 May 1916), and was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Johnny Automatic of Open Clip Art Library.

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