No Other Child
Michael D. Hoffman
In March 2011, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago, wrote:
The voices of those who have been sexually abused as children are often heard only years, even decades, after the children have been hurt. In meeting with those who have been abused, I have heard again and again their heartfelt concern that no other child suffer as they have. This is why whatever has been learned from these tragedies has to be remembered and relearned year after year. “
This issue of The Healing Voices is dedicated to child abuse prevention and released for April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Here are voices of adult survivors of abuse by clergy and many other voices. We all share the concern with protecting children within our Church and society at large.
In thinking about these words of Cardinal George, in my personal life, I focus on the “heartfelt concern that no other child” suffer as we survivors of child sexual abuse have. I think about my own children and how I would never, ever want them to experience the pain, confusion, isolation and despair that I felt as a 12 year old boy. Any trusted adult who betrays and manipulates his or her relationships with other adults to gain access to children to abuse them for sexual satisfaction drives a wedge directly into the heart of that child, disrupts his or her family relationships forever and fractures the community as a whole.
I have been a personal witness to the best practices of child safety at my parish, St. Mary of the Woods. While my children attended elementary school there, I became personally involved in what the Safe Environment Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Chicago, Mayra Flores, calls, “an on-going culture of safe environment.”
I didn’t have that at the Catholic school which I attended as a child, and it was there I was abused. But for children now we have this on-going culture of safe environment at our Catholic school. It is great to see people at the parish coming together fostering a culture of speaking up at the school and the church, raising awareness that child abuse affects all communities, allowing permission for children to tell a trusted adult if something bad happened, and educating parents about grooming behaviors. It is real progress from when I was a little boy. I am grateful for that progress.
Abuse of children is facilitated by a culture of silence or a practice of looking the other way. This issue of Healing Voices can help to break the silence that surrounds childhood sexual abuse in our society and promote best practices as practical, possible and personal.
Referring again to the Cardinal’s quote, “whatever has been learned from these tragedies (of abuse of children) has to be remembered and relearned year after year.” I wholeheartedly agree with him. That is why I helped to found the Healing Voices and why I continue to work in the Church and in society to promote child protection. My story can serve as a lesson to promote the good now.
I invite you to read the following essays from abuse survivors and from others who shareour heartfelt concern that no other child suffer as we have. Thank you for your interest in protecting children from harm.
For the full issue in which this article appears, click here.