Why Organizations Hide Sexual Abuse Incidents

What drives organizations to conceal the such vile behavior?

The news of yet another sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church sparked fresh outrage. The abuse itself is enough to make your blood boil. But it boggles the mind knowing so many in the know helped cover up the scandal over the course of 70+ years.

To think that maintaining the church’s reputation and finances outweighs the well-being of the more than 1000 children.

Of course, religious institutions aren’t the only organizations covering up such crimes. Sex abuse within USA Gymnastics was horribly widespread. The investigation revealed that the team physician, who should have been the most trusted adult in the organization, was a pedophile of the worst ilk. Longstanding shameful behaviors and crimes among celebrities and business executives are also being exposed through the #MeToo movement.

Who and what are being protected

The reason these scandals get covered up is because the perpetrators or those enabling them are often a substantial source of income or influence. Their high value to the organization translates to greed, which unfortunately overrides any moral obligation to the victims.

They’re often moved around within the organization or the spotlight on them lowered to reduce the risk of discovery. The culture within the organization breeds silence. Victims aren’t believed so they quit talking, and witnesses fear retaliation for speaking up, including losing their jobs, and therefore turn a blind eye.

For years, complaints about the gymnasts physician Larry Nassar fell on deaf ears. Joe Paterno and others at Penn State knew of Jerry Sandusky’s suspected activities long before the story broke in 2011. Football and the legendary Paterno, who coached there for 45 years, reign supreme: total revenue from the football program in 2010 was $70.2 million.

When silence isn’t golden

It’s all about protecting the money and preserving the brand, never about the victims. Ironically, these institutions actually hurt the people best positioned to grow the organization. Sports organizations need athletes, churches need parishioners, and Hollywood needs actresses. Go figure.

In the end, it all comes down to the organization’s powerful word against the victim’s weak voice. Who’s going to believe a kid making accusations about their coach or a starlet’s claims against a director? This is what results from the predator’s grooming process and the code of silence within the organization.

It’s shocking to learn that complaints about the abuse in the Pennsylvania dioceses were locked in a secret archive. Their Code of Canon Law specifically requires maintenance of a secret archive – and only a bishop holds the key to it.  

The bottom line

There will always be sexual deviants in society. Some organizations attract them in greater numbers than others because of the populations they serve. Children are always an easy target, as are vulnerable women.

It’s important to identify the problem and then manage it. Setting the right tone and establishing policies and procedures is the responsibility of those at the top.

The new Safe Sport Act which was signed into law in February of 2018 and applies to most youth sports organizations. It directly targets those organizations that want to handle matters internally. Any adult with access to youth is required to report suspected child abuse directly to law enforcement within 24 hours.

For more information on mandatory reporting requirements and the latest in child abuse education and prevention, see our Safe Sport Child Abuse and Other Misconduct Risk Management Program for Non-NGG Organizations program.

Source: Tamara Lush. “Why Organizations Cover Up Sex Abuse Scandals.” insurancejournal.com. 21 Aug. 2018.
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