Supporters of Popular Priest Accused of Abuse Demonstrate Publicly, Likely Scaring and Shaming Victims into Silence
Supporters of a popular and prominent Catholic priest in Chicago took to the streets to show their support for the accused cleric. While we understand that these supporters have a right to their opinion, we hope that in the future they will utilize alternative means of support that will not scare or shame victims into silence.
One of the things being harped on by the supporters of Fr. Michael Pfleger is that the allegations of abuse against him are from 40 years ago. To those who do not spend a lot of time thinking about sexual violence, this delay in reporting can seem baffling, but in reality delays like this are incredibly common. Data shows that the average age of a survivor of sexual violence to come forward is 52 and most survivors suffer in silence and self-blame for decades. This fact is only compounded when the abuser in question is someone who holds a prominent position in their community, like a valued coach, popular teacher, or trusted priest.
The sad part about this demonstration is that it will do little to help Fr. Pfleger but will go a long way towards keeping other victims scared into silence. There are myriad ways that supporters can show support for their priest without shaming survivors of sexual violence, whether that is to visit the priest privately, bring him home cooked meals, or send him messages of support.
Conversely, most victims of abuse go through the harrowing experience of reporting and going public alone. Seeing an accused abuser celebrated while their own story is decried by others can be retraumatizing. We encourage Fr. Pfleger’s supporters to learn more about the data on sexual assault and why so many survivors take decades to come forward and we hope they will support this priest in private instead of publicly.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)