Thursday, April 07, 2011

Catholic sexual abuse numbers in perspective: Are you paying attention New Hampshire?

As I said in a post last April, "The 2002 John Jay report tabulated a total of 4,392 priests and deacons in the U.S. against whom allegations of sexual abuse were considered by their dioceses to have been substantiated. Most of these were incidences of homosexual misconduct - somewhere between 80-90 percent of all cases. Dr. Thomas Plante of Stanford University and Santa Clara University has said that, "available research suggests that approximately 2 to 5% of priests have had a sexual experience with a minor" which "is lower than the general adult male population that is best estimated to be closer to 8%."

In her report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education entitled "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature," Charol Shakeshaft explains that, "This analysis indicates that 9.6 percent of all students in grades 8 to 11 report contact and/or noncontact educator sexual misconduct that was unwanted." (p. 25). And then Ms. Shakeshaft puts this percentage in a proper perspective:

"To get a sense of the extent of the number of students who have been targets of educator sexual misconduct, I applied the percent of students who report experiencing educator sexual misconduct to the population of all K-12 students. Based on the assumption that the AAUW surveys accurately represent the experiences of all K-12 students, more than 4.5 million students are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. Possible limitations of the study would all suggest that the findings reported here under-estimate educator sexual misconduct in schools." (p. 26).

Full Shakeshaft report may be found here."

According to the same John Jay Report, between the years 1950 and 2002 (a period of 52 years), the total number of substantiated abuse cases across the entire United States was 4,570.

That number again: 4,570.  Now, according to the New Hampshire Governor's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, in a 2006 report which may be found here, "Of the 14,000 children assessed (how many are not assessed?) for suspected child abuse each year in New Hampshire, only about 1,000..are found to have been abused or neglected...with physical and sexual abuse each claiming about 21% of victims...some victims are abused in multiple ways." (p. 25).

Let's do some math shall we?  In the sparsely populated state of New Hampshire (the population of Boston, Massachusetts and its suburbs is greater than that of the entire Granite State), there are approximately 200 children who suffer sexual abuse every year.  If we took this number and multiplied it by 52 years (the period of time covered by the John Jay Report on the Catholic Church - and bear in mind that study covered the entire United States), we would get a number of 10,400 children in New Hampshire having suffered sexual abuse.

Approximately 10,400 children over a period of 52 years.  The same period of time for which the John Jay Report said there were 4,570 cases of substantiated abuse in the Catholic Church across the entire United States.

There's something else I find interesting.  Notice the wording in the report of the New Hampshire Governor's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence: "Of the..children assessed for suspected child abuse each year in New Hampshire, only about 1,000...are found to have been abused or neglected."
Only?  When it comes to bashing the entire Church for the sins and crimes of a small minority of priests, do we not often hear "even one case is too many"?  And I would wholeheartedly agree with such a statement.  Even one case is too many.

Why then does this report seem to downplay the incidence of sexual abuse across New Hampshire?

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