Judgement and Justice

Recently, I saw a post written by Insanity Bytes, which spoke of yet another sexual abuse scandal involving a Christian pastor. It is worth noting that this sort of scandal is not limited to the Church, nor to any specific faith, nor is it the exclusive domain of the religious. It seems that the sexual abuse of minors (indeed, of anyone by anyone) is a problem that has wrapped itself around humanity, and this has been the case for centuries.

As is so often the case (see this link for more details), Pastor Robert Morris used his position of authority to prey upon and sexual abuse a minor. Whilst Mr Morris had previously acknowledged an extramarital affair with a young woman, he never admitted that this was sexual abuse of a twelve year-old, nor that he carried out this abuse over a four-year period. His victim came forward years later, which is always a bone of contention for those who protect abusers. As always, they will argue that there must be some ulterior motive for waiting so long to report the events. They will argue that the confession of Mr Morris is good enough for the sake of justice. They will argue it is unfair to hold Mr Morris to account for abuse that took place decades ago, and that he should be forgiven.

Meanwhile, the trauma of the victim will be marginalised and forgotten. There is a post (which I should warn, could be distressing for some) where the victim, Cindy Clemishire, describes what Mr Morris did, and how he took advantage of her. It also speaks of how Mr Morris’ wife forgave Ms Clemishire, as though the victim was somehow the guilty party!

That sort of attitude is, right there, the root of the problem. We still live in a society where victims of sexual abuse are painted as having deserved it, or as having led their attacker astray. This creates all sorts of psychological problems for the victims, on top of the problems caused by the abuse. Ms Clemishire needed counselling for years, due to the actions of Mr Morris, and yet there are people who flippantly dismiss all her anguish and pain, and even dare to go as far a to say she is bad for not forgiving her abuser.

It also worth noting that Ms Clemishire did seek to address what happened to her. Back in 2005 she sought damages in a civil case, and was told Mr Morris would rebuke her claims, under the grounds that she was ‘flirtatious’. In the end, Mr Morris was prepared to try and buy Ms Clemishire’s silence, offering her $25,000, in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement, which Ms Clemishire rightly declined.

I want to come back to that ‘flirtatious’ matter. It is horrendous that this could be used as an excuse by a grown man to sexually assault a twelve year-old. There is never, ever, any responsibility on the shoulders of the victim of sexual assault. This is a pathetic excuse.

Decades later, the truth is now fully out in the open, and there are those who believe Mr Morris has repented, and should therefore be free from any further consequences. There are those who believe it is unfair to wield this matter against him, because it took place so long ago. Whether or not the victim is still traumatised is immaterial to that sort of person. The effects of terrible, evil events can leave scars that run incredibly deep, and it is not for anyone else to determine what the impact of those events should be upon the victim. Practices and policies of shaming victims into silence are still all-too common, and there remains so many stigmas attached to victims of sexual assault. ‘What was she wearing?’ ‘She led her attacker on.’ ‘She was walking down the street at the wrong time.’

Rape, and other forms of sexual abuse, are the sole responsibility of the attacker. There are no mitigating circumstances, nor excuses. There is no requirement for the victim to forgive their attacker, and ‘seeking forgiveness from God’ does not absolve the attacker from facing legal consequences for their actions.

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