Guest Blog by Iyioila Adebayo on Context's program: Healing from sexual abuse within the church and sports organizations

By: Iyiola Adebayo

 

From Hollywood to the U.S. gymnastics team, and then Canadian Sports.

Inside the Catholic church, and the Southern Baptist Convention – mind-boggling sexual misconduct toward men, women, boys, and girls, the numbers of abuse are alarming.

The pendulum of accusations and convictions across nations, religion, and vocations has been swinging back and forth like a timed, “karma machine.”

Leaders and coaches accused, now more than ever, and now under the gavel of various court judgement, though their victims are still stuck with the lifelong consequences of the violations.

But in a sudden twist of faith, victims have found their voices.

Some from a life that has gone deep down into destruction, others suffering in silence, alone in their shame dealing with mental health issues, and the abuse they are left to deal with.

600 cases of abuse identified within Canadian sports, 700 victims from the Southern Baptist Convention, 150 girls within the U.S. gymnastic association – all violated by just one coach or minister – and the thousands across Catholic churches around the world. It took almost two decades for some of the victims to find the courage speak up and come forward.

The #METOO movement, begun in 2017, was the catalyst victims needed to lose their fears and find their voices.

One victim after another – the numbers grew.

Their boldness and bravery has brought about a revolution across institutions, organizations, and changes with strong reformation waves sweeping through structures and hierarchies especially within Church leadership where refuge is supposed to be a given.

John Swales is a sexual abuse survivor, and the first Canadian to come forward with his sexual abuse in the Catholic church. John told Lorna Dueck how his life took a downward spiral into drugs, alcohol, and prostitution. With only at Grade 10 education, he found his way out of the darkness.

Today in the Vatican City, Pope Francis convened 199 Bishops to dialogue, in a bid to find ways to put an end to this endemic problem within the 1.2 billion strong Catholic community.

In a similar move, the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, earlier this week, convened and announced through its President, Rev. J.D. Greear, “10 calls to action,” for Southern Baptists.

The big question now is: are these talks, reforms, and apologies enough to bring an end this predatory behaviour by leaders?

Rev Father Micheal Berchard, Chaplain of the Kings University College in London, Ontario answered this question with Molly Thomas saying, that institutions are taking the right steps, but much more reforms and summits are needed, and “a whole shift in attitude. Church leaders need to know that there is no excuse for abuse, especially when it comes to our children. This is clearly an abuse of culture and power.” Father Michael said.

With the spotlight now on leadership in churches, sports, and other institutions, have we come to the end of sexual abuse at the top?

Only time will tell.

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