Friday, December 16, 2016
This week an investigative report was released alleging that nearly 400 children and youth in gymnastics programs in the United States were sexually assaulted by coaches and others in positions of authority. While some complaints were registered by the young people and their families many were ignored or concealed. This is shocking, and we'll wait to see the full extent of the abuse.
Meanwhile, in Great Britain there is a widening investigation into hundreds of sexual assaults of young people in youth soccer programs, again going back decades. In some cases the victims were paid off by the organizations to keep the abuse quiet. With both the gymnastics and soccer situations some coaches were simply moved to other programs rather than reported to police. We are aware of similar horrors in youth hockey programs here in Canada.
Whenever I see these terrible accounts I think of what has happened in the church through the years. While our minds might go first to the realities of the Roman Catholic church and high profile films such as Spotlight, we know that abuse occurred in Native Residential Schools run by Protestant denominations as well. From time to time youth pastors are charged with sexual assault, another betrayal of trust. So are police officers and scout leaders.
It seems that the temptation to abuse trust and power exists in every sphere of life, including within families. It is ugly and wrong and must be punished. It really is cold comfort that leaders in faith communities aren't alone in their abuses. I am deeply discouraged and sickened when yet another story breaks
What we hope and pray is that this evil -- and it really is evil -- will be punished. We're also reminded that despite this wrongdoing we still see the value of organized sports and organized religion. And in all facets of life we look for trustworthy leaders.