2017 – A Remarkable Year of Courage by Abuse Survivors

“Courage, my friends; ‘tis not too late to build a better world.” – Tommy Douglas

The past year will be remembered for many things but for us, one thing stood out from the turbulence of 2017:

The courage of survivors to confront sexual abuse, sexual harassment and all forms of sexual misconduct in spite of their fears and the systems stacked against them amazed and inspired us in 2017. The groundswell that began with clergy sexual abuse survivors in the 1980s and 2000s,  energized Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein survivors and emboldened survivors of sexual misconduct by priests, entertainers, athletes, executives and politicians at all levels has been seismic and awe-inspiring.

We witnessed it just this past week in Minnesota, where hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis came together to try to prevent the Archdiocese and its insurers from using bankruptcy laws to their advantage. In the Diocese of Crookston last week, one lone survivor bravely challenged Bishop Michael Hoeppner’s attempts to discredit him and protect the priest accused of molesting him as a child. In New York, dozens of clergy abuse survivors came forward to be heard in 2017 under programs offered by the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre even though these programs did not offer full vindication.  We’re hopeful that New York finally enacts a Child Victim’s Act providing broader accountability in 2018.

Every day, survivors of abuse bravely confront their abuse in one way or another. We were reminded in 2017 of how courageous that is. It is very difficult for survivors to come forward and tell even one person that they were abused for various reasons, including fear of retribution, shame or thinking no one will believe them. Some survivors never come forward with their secret and live their lives as best they can. That alone takes a tremendous amount of courage.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, there are resources available to help you. In Minnesota, advocacy programs in your area are just a call away and are dedicated to helping survivors and those traumatized by unhealthy relationships seek safety and be safe. Check www.rapehelpmn.org/find-help/ for an advocacy program in your area. Further, nationally, you can seek help through the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (“RAINN”) https://www.rainn.org/get-help, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673.