For immediate release: Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
In the court-martial of Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, accused of sexual assault for allegedly twice forcing oral sex on a soldier, the words “affair” and “mistress” should never appear. Those are inaccurate terms.
Technically, Gen. Sinclair and the female soldier are adults. And no one alleges that he always used force. Still, that doesn't mean this was an “affair.”
There can be no true sexual consent between a doctor and a patient, a therapist and a client, a clergyman and a congregant, and a general and a soldier. Period. The power differential is just too great.
This is especially true in a traditionally sexist institution and when both are in stressful war zones.
Call it alleged sexual exploitation or abuse or manipulation or repeated sexual assault. But don't call it an “affair.” She is not his “mistress.” She's an alleged victim of sex crimes.
Assume your dad died in a fiery car crash, leaving your 65 year old mom utterly distraught. She goes to a 40 year old therapist and they end up in bed. Will you say “Well, mom's an adult. It's her choice.” Or will you say “This professional abused his power to exploit a vulnerable woman.”
We know better than to use hurtful, misleading terms that further re-victimized those who have been assaulted and are still suffering. We as a society are better than this. All of us must be careful to describe sex crimes accurately – as horrific abuses of power – whether they happen once or repeatedly and involve force or manipulation.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 15,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)