The astonishing news that the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office concealed at least 738,000 records dealing with child sexual abuses in the Explorer Scouts program should raise the collective ire of everyone in our community.
The cover-up by public servants of any information about the incidents is, in effect, a collusion in crimes against our most precious, innocent citizens — our children.
As a licensed clinical social worker who treats victims of childhood sexual abuse, I can attest to the serious, long-term psychological impact of this horrendous trauma. The pain that for years finds its way into every crevice of a person’s life is indescribable.
In 2008, following the devastating news of abuse of thousands of children by Catholic priests, I worked with the adult victims of these crimes to successfully sponsor legislation to tighten reporting requirements, raise age limits, stiffen penalties and extend the statute limitation on child sexual abuse cases in Kentucky. Since the passage of the law, the number of prosecutions has grown and the level of awareness about transparency in these cases has increased.
This awareness, evidently, never penetrated the walls of our city administrations or the Jefferson County attorney’s office.
Their concealments are symptomatic of serious problems in both of these bureaucracies. Both exist to serve our community. They are not power centers designed to protect their own from public scrutiny.
As an active Catholic, I still grieve the unfaithfulness of our priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who chose to protect the reputation of the church and its clergy over protecting lives of vulnerable children. For those of us in the pews, we have had to lead our “leaders,” who have failed us, to live up to their duties.
Our collective Catholic outrage is resulting in major changes in the screening of seminarians, the training of all church personnel in proper conduct and reporting of malfeasance and total accountability. The latest example of transparency is Pope Francis’ thorough investigation of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC., an abuser over decades who was enabled by his fellow bishops and two popes.
The city administration and the county attorney’s office need similar reforms now. Like the Catholic Church, a collective examination of the recruitment screenings, training and transparency policies should begin immediately. As with the tragic systemic racism within the police department being exposed in the last six months, a similar rooting out of child predators and their enablers is now required.
For the police, these reforms are more than in-service seminars and a few rule changes. They require a change of the culture of policing. Are the police a military force occupying our neighborhoods free to wield domination at will or are they community partners, trained to serve with compassion and care, to help all of us strengthen what is best in every corner of our great city?
The cover-up of the Explorer Scout sexual abuse scandal is demonic. Shame on those who participated in it. But, like my Catholic Church, let it be a crisis that results in reforms aimed at protecting children from twisted men, given power and position, who are intent on sexual exploitation.
Jim Wayne served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1991 to 2019. A licensed clinical social worker, he is the founder of the Wayne Institute for Advanced Psychotherapy at Bellarmine University and the author of "The Unfinished Man."