Child Abuse Recovery Journal

The new home of Suite101's Child Abuse & Recovery Feature Writer, Susan Maree Jeavons. Susan is a child abuse survivor who provides articles, commentary, poetry, support, and information on topics related to child abuse.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Simple Acts of Kindness

At 6:30 PM, on Monday, March 5th, I received a phone call from a stranger named Mary, of San Diego CA. She told me about a man name Stuart who committed suicide on Friday. I have talked to so many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse over the course of the last 8 years, that I could not remember Stuart specifically. Yet she called to thank me for being kind to him when he was alive.

After Mary’s call, I found myself overcome with grief for a stranger that I had never met. I did not know Stuart, but Mary told me that he was very passionate about the topic that I had written about; The Catholic Scandal, an article about adults who were abused by the Catholic clergy when they were children. So I went back on line and read the discussion and article. Then I remembered Stuart, and that we had something in common, besides being the same age, we both wanted justice for adults who have been sexually abused as children.

After thinking about Stuart’s life and wondering why he ended it the way he did, and then pondering about this kind stranger who had called me to thank me, I felt compelled to post the original letter from Stuart, along with the article, in his memory. I hope that he knew that his passion mattered. People like Stuart and Mary, fuel my desire to do everything in my power to continue to fight for stronger laws to protect the most innocent among us from sexual predators.

Here is the article, and the letter of his that I posted at Suite101:

"The Catholic Scandal" © 2002 Susan Maree Jeavons

For several years now, I have been writing about the sexual abuse of children. I have researched all aspects of abuse, read the statistics each year and followed the progress (or lack of it,) of related bills in Congress. I have answered letters from hundreds of survivors, written many letters to my State and Federal Representatives to ask for their support in several child abuse bills, and posted my opinion about child sexual abuse in dozens of survivor forums and news sites. I have read child abuse news articles all across the country.

For the last few months, America has heard about the sexual abuse of Catholic children by priests. It seems that every week another victim comes forward. More secret financial settlements are revealed, with millions of dollars spent to silence the victims, to avoid embarrassment to the church.

I have watched and listened as America responds at last to the sexual abuse of children and I wonder why it took so long. Thousands of children, all religions, have been sexually abused every year by parents, teachers, coaches, relatives, neighbors and others, and I never saw such a reaction to those cases. Is it because the abuse happened by priests? Is it because priests are supposed to be God like, protecting children and teaching them the difference between good and evil? Aren’t parents, coaches, teachers, relatives neighbors and others just as responsible for children’s protection and education? Shouldn’t we be just as appalled and outraged when a father rapes his own daughter as we are when a priests rapes a child? Why is it any different, any less criminal or heinous?

Some may think that the Catholic scandal is on a much larger scale, but I do not believe that to be true. Out of 903,000 victims of child abuse, 11.5% of those (over 100,000 children) were reported to be sexually abused in 1999 alone, according to the findings of the US Dept. of Health & Human Services. This does not take into account those victims who did not report their abuse. The Catholic sexual abuse numbers are not known yet, but theoretically, if you take the last 10 years and total just 50% of the 1999 statistics for each year, that adds up to at least over half a million children who have been sexually abused.

The figures are inconceivable, yet until the Catholic Church became the focus, sexual abuse of children was not front page news. No one stood out in front of City Hall with signs, protesting the rape of innocent children, demanding that fathers, step-fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers and others be removed from their duties as protectors of children. Don’t we have a responsibility to protest the sexual abuse of all children, regardless of religion, race or economic status?

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that this injustice has been brought to light. I only hope that in the process of looking closer at who is protecting our children, I pray that we look just as closely at the cases that are not related to the Catholic scandal. I pray that anyone who sexually abuses a child, will be scrutinized and publicly scorned as thoroughly as the Catholic priests have been. Public humiliation should have a powerful impact on these perpetrators. The victims and families trusted these priests with their children’s lives, much the same as any child trusts his life to his parents.

Sexual abuse of a child is the ultimate betrayal of trust, whether the perpetrator is a Catholic priest, a care taker or a family member.

June 18, 2002
SusanMaree: I received this comment and asked permission to post it here. I agree with Mr. Schwertok's comments and ask that you consider writing to your representatives about this subject.

Stuart's Comment, June 16, 2002:
Dear Friends, A decades long criminal conspiracy has been perpetrated against the most vulnerable and innocent members of our society. It is painfully clear that officials at the highest levels of authority in the Catholic Church have knowingly allowed clergy to prey upon and sexually assault untold numbers of young children. It is a fact that many Bishops, having first hand knowledge of these crimes have remained silent and have allowed the crimes to continue for years, and even decades. It is a fact that some of these predators have been abated in their search for new victims by church elders who have chosen to transfer these predators from one church to another rather then to confront and report their crimes. These same officials have the unfathomable arrogance to sit around week after week discussing how many strikes the church will allow these sexual predators to accrue and what if any punishment, will be imposed. Let s also remember the Church considers a strike to represent an assault on a particular victim. It does not account for how many times, or for how long a period of time, a child was victimized. Additionally, there is no way to account for victims who will not or cannot confront their tormentor. Through all of this I have yet to hear a single elected public servant voice his or her outrage, and certainly no one has voiced mine. Why doesn’t every member of the Senate and House demand the Justice Department focus attention on what is undeniably a criminal conspiracy? Why isn’t a Federal Grand Jury already investigating these crimes? How in the name of all that is truly holy can this be happening? Does the separation of Church and State grant immunity to members of a clergy to sexually assault and destroy the lives of innocent children? Are church elders and officials accountable to a set of laws different from those I and 280 million other Americans live by? Of equal concern is how every single elected public official, through their silence and cowardice, has condoned the actions of these criminals. To me they are all co-conspirators. It breaks my heart to realize that the entire Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our government allows sexual predators to continue their atrocities rather than risk controversy. I know for most people this is an emotional and difficult issue to deal with. While obviously emotional, this issue is far too important to be ignored. Everything I believe to be sacred demands that children be protected and nurtured. Anything less denies the basic morality Americans have always stood for and the morality I stand for. I hope you will contact every elected public servant you believe is failing in his or her obligation to represent you and what you believe in. I also I hope you will ask other friends to do the same.

This is the notice of Stuart’s suicide:
© 2007 North County Times Friday, March 2, 2007
VISTA --- A man found dead Friday morning at the side of a hilltop street in the Vista area is believed to have committed suicide, authorities said.San Diego County medical examiner's investigators said Stuart Alan Schwertok, 57, of Vista appears to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.

Stuart, your efforts on behalf of innocent children, will not be forgotten. May you rest in peace...