The news story last week describing a scene at midnight was one to chill the soul of most people but especially survivors. It was a visual played out in public that a lot of us experienced behind closed doors. Church doors.
A couple standing outside late at night, saw a boy running down the street screaming for help when he should have been at home safe in bed. Wearing only his underwear his priest, Father Angel Perez, was chasing after the 12 year old. OMG, picture an almost naked, drunk priest chasing a child down the street. Folks I gotta tell you this gives me nightmares. It is a representation of what every boy who was abused by their minister or priest experienced, being chased by a grown man with lust in his eyes and a boner in his pants. If you are not a survivor, try to imagine the fear in your heart and mind of experiencing something like this. Imagine living in a world where you are not safe in your house of worship. Imagine a world where you do not feel you could tell someone, and if you did you would not be believed, or worse yet God would strike you dead.
By the grace of God this little boy awoke to a real life nightmare, having his religious mentor holding his genitals and taking pictures. He grabbed his clothes and ran. The couple rescued the boy, took him home to his parents where he recounted what had happened.
A grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against Father Perez. It charges him with first-degree sexual abuse, abuse of a child in the display of sexually explicit conduct, tampering with physical evidence, four counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and driving under the influence of intoxicants. Stating there was “clear and convincing” evidence that the priest would pose a risk to the victim in the case and the general public, bail was denied by Judge Audrey Broyles. Go Judge Broyles!
Quick action and people doing the right thing ended in best possible results. Right? We are finally having appropriate responses to child sex abuse. Right? Not so much. Better than even a decade ago, but there are miserable failures and actions that do nothing to stop abuse from happening in the first place.
What happen last Sunday night reads like the first chapter in a Stephen King novel. Now here is chapter two. Over 40, yes count them, 40 parishioners showed up at the hearing to arraign Father Perez. Were they there to protest the horror of what happened and support the victim? NOPE, these fine church members were there with ribbons pinned on their shirts that said, “We Support you Father Perez”! Even the judge was appalled that all those people would show up for the perpetrator and not one person present in support of the victim.
Anybody sick yet? Well just in case you aren’t, let me point out that the Archdiocese of Portland is reported to have made Father Perez an “open-ended” loan to pay for his defense. I think that means an unlimited line of credit with no stated terms. I guess they support the Good Father’s right to fight these frivolous claims. Gawd, I want to scream!
And lest we overlook the obvious I want to point out that in 2012 with all we read and hear about abusing children, a mother allowed herself to place trust in a person of power. Number one rule: protect your children and DO NOT allow them to be in a one-on-one situation which is where abuse most commonly occurs!
As parents, community members, and institutions it is time to change our culture from one of acceptance and misplaced trust, to one of action in policy and practice that will protect and defend our children.