MORELIA, Michoacán — June 9, 2022, marked a milestone in the history of the Church of La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World), the most prolific Mexican cult that for almost 100 years has ruled the life and customs of at least 5 million people around the world (1.5 million in Mexico), all of whom witnessed the arrest and imprisonment of their leader Naasón Joaquín García.
The self-proclaimed “Apostle of Jesus Christ,” Joaquín García, finally fell. The hegemony of three messianic generations of alleged abuse, unlimited power and every manner of sexual aberration within this cult, founded by Joaquín García´s grandfather in the 1920s in Central México, reached its most vulnerable moment after its current leader’s detention in 2019.
To the faithful believers of La Luz del Mundo, Joaquín García is more than the cult’s leader. He is seen as the Messiah, the envoy of God and the last apostle of Jesus Christ on Earth. However, to the long list of former cult members and now-victims who are crying out for justice, Joaquín García is a twisted mind capable of perpetrating the most terrible abuses against innocent adolescents and children.
The circumstances in which these alleged sexual crimes against minors took place were within a power relationship exercised by Joaquín García over those young victims who saw in him a supreme being before whom they owed, not only their spiritual fidelity but their bodies as well, so that he could dispose of them at his discretion regardless of their childishness.
Sadly, according to the victims, most of these abuses occurred before the eyes of the community and the families of the victims themselves, who agreed to having their children accompany and serve Joaquín García at all times, encouraging them to do whatever was needed to please him, as he was basically seen as God’s representation on Earth.
According to allegations made by some of the victims and former members of Light of the World Church, the administrative structure of the church even had a group dedicated exclusively to the recruitment and grooming of young parishioners, who would later be prepared to serve, entertain and intimately pleasure Joaquín García.
The Unconditionals, as the women in that circle close to Joaquín Garcia were known, in addition to serving as escorts, recruiters and personal assistants to the so-called Apostle of Jesus Christ, enjoyed a privileged status within the church and carried out important activities, such as managing the cult’s internal media content and organizing mass events, having to travel from the United States to Mexico on a regular basis.
However, these women were also considered exclusive to Joaquín García, and he was the one who had to give his approval so that they could marry another member of the community.
It was not until 2019 that one of Joaquín García’s closest Unconditionals, Sochil Martín, gave him the kiss of Judas and exposed the recurring sexual children exploitation system within the cult to U.S. authorities, resulting in the arrest of the Apostle of Jesus Christ and two of his closest Unconditional servants, Alondra Ocampo and Susana Medina Oaxaca, both of whom were accused of complicity.
Despite the fact that it was not the first scandal of alleged sexual abuse within the Church of the Light of the World that has become known since its foundation, this time it had a great impact and serious consequences due to the first-hand evidence that the plaintiffs presented, as well as the enormous evidence that U.S. authorities found against Joaquín García in his personal electronic devices.
Although Joaquín García’s defense has been led by Alan Jackson, one of the most sought-after lawyers in the United States, the biggest turning point came when Ocampo pleaded guilty to charges of sexual crimes against three teenagers.
According to the lawsuit filed by the victims, Ocampo took three young womento Joaquín García, inducing them, through biblical texts, to dance naked and then participate in sexual acts with Joaquín García.
Ocampo was sentenced to four years in prison for these crimes and was released in early December 2022 for having shown repentance for her actions and for having collaborated with the California prosecutors in the investigation to prosecute the cult’s leader, Joaquín García.
On the other hand, Medina Oaxaca was saved from going to jail after reaching a plea bargain with the California prosecutor, being sentenced to one year of probation after paying a $150,000 bail.
Finally, Joaquín García was accused of 19 crimes, among which were: sexual abuse of minors, rape, possession of child pornography and human trafficking. However, the defendant, on the advice of his lawyer, admitted guilty to three of those crimes, for lewd acts committed with a 15-year-old girl, and for doing the same with another 18-year-old girl.
This strategy allowed the expected sentence for Joaquín García to be reduced to 16 years and eight months, which generated great discontent among the victims, who had expected a maximum sentence for the defendant given the seriousness of the crimes of which he was accused and the impact they have had on their lives.
However, the three accused, as well as the wife and children of Joaquín Garcia still face a civil lawsuit filed by the victims before the Superior Court of Los Angeles.
According to this lawsuit, Joaquín García and other members of the church systematically abused their victims, who were mostly young women, and used religion as a weapon against them. This lawsuit, filed last September, seeks payment for damages caused to the victims.
Nonetheless, in the meantime, the millions of members of this cult are demanding the immediate release of their still-leader Joaquín Garcia. They insist that he is an innocent victim who has been framed and unfairly accused by the California Attorney General’s Office with false evidence.
Here’s the remainder of Richard Carrier’s Twelve Books at Herculaneum (nearby Pompeii), that is changing the history our world’s been tricked into thinking. In his own recent words “There is a fabulous ancient treasure still buried at Herculaneum in the Bay of Naples.” continued on to explain much of it has been covered by Mount Vesuvius volcanic ash, since 79ad. Various other documentaries have been made, yet Italian Government restrict further works to be performed, for fear of safety/destruction/landslides.
7. Ptolemaïs of Cyrene’s Two Treatises on Science
Ptolemais of Cyrene was in her own day a renowned scientist and expert in acoustics, harmonics, and music theory, sometime near the turn of the era. Authors who quote her treatise on that subject, Pythagorean Principles of Music, consistently regard it as renowned and authoritative. That makes this a known important-yet-lost work of the only known female research scientist in the Hellenistic era. That alone would make it a prize worth rescuing and having. But what we also know is that in her highly respected treatise on harmonics she sought to bring disparate doctrines into a single unified science, and she actually wrote another treatise generalizing that method to all the sciences—arguing the importance of combining empirical with rational methodology, rather than treating them as at odds or as different inquiries—an achievement that was influential not just in her own field, but in others. Eclecticism (the opposite of dogmatism) and unification (combining the best of different theorists and methodologies and scrapping the worst) begin to appear in all extant scientists after her date, making hers possibly a major contribution to the modernization of science.
Again there is no telling what else she may have done. But these two works alone suggest a trend seen also in Galen a century or two later in the life sciences: seeking to unify a scientific field’s disparate theories and ideas, and establish the correct methods for pursuing it. We see evidence of this (merging atomism with Aristotelianism, for example; likewise empiricism and rationalism, experimental and theoretical science, mathematics and table-top instruments, and the like) in Ptolemy and Hero as well, bringing it into the fields of astronomy and the rest of physics. See my discussion of all these points in The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire. Given the Herculaneum magnate’s clear and deep interest in matters of science, logic, and mathematics (from his shelf full of books on the subject), and Ptolemaïs’s works’ clear and influential fame across the sciences, I think there are reasonable odds we can find it there, making hers the first extant scientific study published by a woman.
8. Pamphila’s Historical Notes or Agrippina’s Memoirs
Speaking of women as authors, there were many in antiquity, yet almost none preserved by patriarchal Christians in the Middle Ages. But two come particularly to mind whose lost books we would very much like to recover: Pamphila of Epidaurus wrote thirty-three volumes of Historical Notes on events up to her own time, which was around 60 A.D. So once again, contemporary accounts of events right during the dawn of Christianity. She wrote several other works (on famous women; on sex; and various miscellanies and epitomes). But having the first known female historian’s treatise on history would be a great find. More so as she was probably also Black—and thus would the be among the first extant Black historians (since sources describe her as Egyptian by descent, and not merely a Greek from Egypt); though she wouldn’t be the first altogether (earlier Africans we know wrote books; Juba, for example).
Given the wide use later historians made of Pamphila’s Notes, and her just having published it not two decades before, it bears a reasonable probability our Herculaneum collector would have had a copy. There are other famous works from women we would like to have, such as Leontion’s treatise Against Theophrastus, which could be the first feminist treatise ever written. Given that she was a famous Epicurean philosopher—indeed, she was a student of Epicurus himself, and companion of Metrodorus, whose books were in the Herculaneum cache—someone, in fact, even Cicero had read and also assumed his readers would be well familiar with, and given that our Herculaneum collector was fond of works from Epicureans, it follows that her book, too, stands a reasonable chance of being there.
Another likely find in this category:
The memoirs of Julia Agrippina (Nero’s mother, Caligula’s sister, and Claudius’s wife), which Tacitus employed as a source. She was assassinated by Nero in 59, too early to report on events of 64, but her work must have covered events up to at least 54 (Nero’s accession). She was born in 15, and her close position to Caligula and Claudius makes it reasonable to expect she might have mentioned Christianity if it were at all significant (e.g. if the Chrestus event under Claudius really did have anything to do with Christ).]OHJ, P. 295
Agrippina was a famous and important personage of the time, and it was particularly popular to spite Nero in the years after his death by supporting causes and authors he opposed. Agrippina’s Memoirs thus also stands a reasonable chance of being found at Herculaneum.
9. Petronius’s Satyricon or Against Nero
Petronius is renowned for being a prominent member of the senate and imperial court of Nero. The latter forced him to commit suicide in 66 A.D. yet he composed and published a damning treatise against Nero in revenge before completing the deed, which was referenced by other authors like Tacitus. This could hardly omit reflection on Nero’s murders of scapegoats for the burning of Rome—and thus revealing whether indeed it was any such group as the Christians, as the text of Tacitus now says. Petronius is also regarded as the author of the infamous Satyricon, which bears eerie similarities to stories in the New Testament, and whose date and authorship has been importantly challenged, which dispute really needs a resolution, because it affects a great deal about how we see what the Gospel authors are doing (see my discussion in Robyn Faith Walsh and the Gospels as Literature). Either of these would therefore be an important find. And as they fall into the category of recently popular “rage lit” against Nero, in Latin, and composed by a nearby notable, there’s a reasonable chance either could be at Herculaneum.
Important Writers Likely to Be Found There
After those nine or so titles of particular interest and likelihood, there are also many then-famous writers who wrote numerous books on many subjects, any of which would be a prize to recover. I’ll just name the top three in my areas of interest…
Agathinus was one of the most important medical theorists in the 1st century A.D. He might post-date Herculaneum or pre-date it. But he is of considerable historical significance as a Stoic who nevertheless established an “eclectic” medical sect called the Episynthetics, which specifically rejected the splitting of medical theory into sects and sought unification of theories under a common empirical regime (so, possibly another scientist influenced by Ptolemaïs). Which is important to the history of science because this sectarianism had become excessive over the preceding century, reminiscent of the sectarian divisions within 20th century psychology, and it is notable that deliberate efforts were beginning under the Romans to end this. Indeed Agathinus’s efforts would later inspire Galen.
Agathinus wrote on numerous medical subjects, but most significantly including an empirical treatise on the dosage requirements of the poison hellebore, employed as an emetic (to induce vomiting) or (we also know) commonly as an abortifacient. Scholars argue his treatise was based on (and thus reported) his own dosage experiments performed on animals to tailor dose to body mass. This would reflect possibly the first controlled medical study; as well as the first formal medical study of chemical abortion and birth control. And the Herculaneum collector could have this, or other works of Agathinus, owing to his considerable fame and importance in that very century.
Posidonius was literally the greatest scientist of his century (the 1st century B.C.), with extraordinary fame and renown, yet nothing he wrote survives. As I wrote in Scientist:
Posidonius even built a machine that replicated the movement of the seven known planets. Cicero’s description of this device certifies it was a proper orrery (a luniplanetary armillary sphere)—a machine that represents the solar system in three dimensions, in rings that can be rotated to reproduce the actual relative motion and position of the seven planets over time. This was probably a significant improvement on a similar machine Archimedes had built over a century before; Posidonius would have known of important corrections and improvements to planetary theory developed after him. …
It is also possible Posidonius constructed a dial computer, a kind of astronomical clock, which indicates planetary positions (and even lunar phases and other data) two-dimensionally, through a gear-driven dial readout [such as we actually found; in fact, its date and location are apposite enough that that might even be his; or one he built for a client].SCIENTIST, PP. 145-47
Overall, Posidonius wrote over thirty books on countless philosophical and scientific subjects, including books on astronomy, meteorology and climatology, earthquakes and lightning, seismology and volcanology, mathematics, geography, oceanography, zoology, botany, psychology, anthropology, ethnology and history, and beyond. He notably wrote up a study on flammable minerals (including varieties of petroleum and coal). He famously tried calculating the size of the Earth by a novel method—though erred, and his error was picked up by Ptolemy and eventually Christopher Columbus; though unlike Columbus, Ptolemy recognized its inaccuracy and developed the system of locating positions on Earth by degrees of latitude and longitude to overcome that problem.
Posidonius also had some knowledge of lenses and magnification and may have begun research on the subject; but either way, he certainly had knowledge of lenses that magnify through refraction (as evinced in Strabo, Geography 3.1.5; Cleomedes, On the Heavens 2.6; Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 5.82; cf. Seneca, Natural Questions 1.6.5–7). Such work would bear comparison with later research by Ptolemy on exactly the same subject (Scientist, index, “lenses”). No scientific treatise on the subject survives from antiquity, although missing sections of Ptolemy’s Optics appear to have included it, and there is ample evidence its study predated Ptolemy (Ibid.).
Given his fame and the importance of his books, recognized even in his own day, the probability is quite high that there will be works of Posidonius at Herculaneum. Any of them would be valuable to recover; but especially any that might have discussed the science of magnifying lenses, or petroleum or coal, or the sizes and distances of the planets.
12. Seleucus of Seleucia
Finally, of superlative importance would be recovering any of the lost works of the astronomer Seleucus, who lived in the 2nd century B.C. and was the student of Aristarchus—and actually the most famous heliocentrist in antiquity. We now enfame Aristarchus for being the first known heliocentrist, all but having forgotten Seleucus. But Plutarch, who read their works, says Aristarchus proposed heliocentrism as “only a hypothesis” but that Seleucus “demonstrated it” (Platonic Questions 8.1 = Moralia 1006c). That would actually make his work on the subject the more important; and ancient readers knew it. Plutarch does not say how Seleucus proved heliocentrism—indicating Plutarch could trust any reader already knew, which entails a rather considerable renown for the man and his achievement. We also know from elsewhere that Seleucus was famous for discovering lunisolar tide theory, recognizing that a form of universal gravitation from sun, moon, and Earth explains and predicts the behavior of ocean tides (e.g. Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.99.212–218 and 2.102.221; Cicero, On Divination 2.34 and On the Nature of the Gods 2.7.15–16; Seneca, On Providence 1.4; Cleomedes, On the Heavens 156; Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.2.3–6; Strabo, Geography 3.5.8 and 1.1.8–12).
We might infer Seleucus put this together as an explanation of a heliocentric solar system as well; certainly, Galileo thought so (see Galileo’s Goofs: Lessons We Can Learn from Failure). And Plutarch hints as much (see Ancient Theories of Gravity: What Was Lost?). And regardless, many Roman authors were quite familiar with his work. Direct and indirect attestations range from Seneca’s Natural Questions (which does not survive whole and the lost portions could indeed be at Herculaneum as well) to Plutarch’s On the Face in the Moon. Given that even Seneca, a major Latin author from Rome, includes mention of heliocentrism and debates surrounding it just a couple decades before the destruction of Herculaneum, and given how readily ancient authors knew Seleucus’s work and assumed everyone else did, it seems reasonable to expect we could find Seleucus’s “proof” of heliocentrism at Herculaneum, or at least his treatise on lunisolar tide theory or universal gravitation, which would be extraordinary.
And Much More
As I said, there could be other books by these authors, and so many authors and books we don’t even have a surviving mention of. Recovering their lost names and works for posterity would be an inestimable honor to them and an achievement for humanity. But there will also be works there of greater magnitude.
This includes countless scientific treatises. Almost all of that genre was destroyed by medieval Christians—more out of mere disinterest than hostility, but sometimes, yes, hostility (I document in Ch. 5 of Scientist that even the liberal-minded Origen commanded the shunning, and thus discarding, of all scientific and philosophical works by ancient atomists, and even Aristotelians, which will have encompassed the majority of ancient science). Just one subdivision of that subject, life and mineral sciences, illustrates the point (see my article The Sociology of Ancient Scientists Cannot Be Based on Medieval Source Selection); likewise gravitation and dynamics (see Ancient Theories of Gravity: What Was Lost?); and more. In Scientist I mention a great deal else, from lost treatises on combinatorics and permutation theory, to studies of air pressure and magnetism. Any of this, too, could be there.
This also includes countless historical treatises. Besides the many examples I already mentioned, there are more. As I wrote in Historicity:
MarcusVelleius Paterculus sketched a history of the Romans from their mythic past up to the year 29 [A.D.] (of which parts survive) and [the native African] King Juba of Mauretaniadid the same up to around the year 20 (none of which survives) … [Likewise] Marcus Servilius Nonianus, who we know wrote a dedicated history of the first century up to at least the year 41 [and he wrote it in the late 50s]. … [And] Cluvius Rufus, ex-consul and Nero’s personal herald in the mid-first century, having served in the Senate since the 30s, wrote a detailed history of events during the reign of Nero, beginning with the reign of Caligula in the year 37, and continuing past Nero up to the reign of Otho in the year 69. This surely would have discussed Nero’s persecution of Christians in 64, which would have required a digression on Jesus and Christianity, which in turn would likely touch on the relevant details of the appellate case of Paul before Nero in 62 (if that even happened) and what was claimed in that case, and how it degenerated into the execution of scores if not hundreds of Christians just a couple years later for the crime of burning the city of Rome, surely the single most famous event of that or any adjacent year … [Likewise] Fabius Rusticus wrote a history during Nero’s reign that covered events up to his own time, which may have gotten as far as his death or at least the persecution [of Christians], and at any rate covered events under Augustus and Tiberius (and Claudius) and thus would very likely have noticed Christianity if it was notable at all.
And that’s just of lost histories we know about, because someone else mentions them. So whether your jam is science or history (or any other subject of poetry or prose), you, too, should want Herculaneum to finally be excavated, to rescue this treasure hoard unparalleled in human value.
Richard Carrier is the author of many books and numerous articles online and in print. His avid readers span the world from Hong Kong to Poland. With a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University, he specializes in the modern philosophy of naturalism and humanism, and the origins of Christianity and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, with particular expertise in ancient philosophy, science and technology. He is also a noted defender of scientific and moral realism, Bayesian reasoning, and historical methods.
In an unexpected ‘sports result’ & with numerous congratulations given, RCbbc can now post that 2 of the 3 ‘presumptions’ that were made in the 2013-17 Royal Commission of some other victims have now been admitted true. As devastating as that was, an unexpected leap in the victims/families/relatives/schools from other houses & years have also come forth. It’s motivation like these moments, that drive RCbbc on.
There’s no greater reward, than hearing that some of this info has helped ‘bridge the gap’ that was left by the ongoing effects of CSA. Unfortunately these same scenario continue, yet the level of protection is harder to break/sneak through than before. Abuse is a result of human nature, which can be taught out our society, which we still have to be ‘critical’ (suspicious) of. Sit Sine Labe Decus; let Honor stainless be.
The Marist Brothers have a lot to answer for when it comes to Darcy O’Sullivan, otherwise known as Brother Dominic.
In the 1970s and 1980s, O’Sullivan taught at the Marist Brothers College in Hamilton, Newcastle, and St Mary’s High School in Casino, on the northeast coast of New South Wales.
In 1996, O’Sullivan was almost appointed the principal of the Marist Brothers College.
This is all in spite of the numerous child sexual abuse rumours and claims circling O’Sullivan at the time. In this article, we expose O’Sullivan’s horrific crimes and share how he was brought to justice.
Other Marist Brothers knew O’Sullivan was abusing his students
Other Marist Brothers knew what O’Sullivan doing to his students. In fact, it was another Marist Brother who inadvertently turned O’Sullivan into the authorities in January 1997.
Brother Anthony Hunt — otherwise known as Brother Irenaeus — was Brother Superior of the Marist Brothers in Lismore in the mid-1980s. Like O’Sullivan, Brother Anthony was teaching primary and secondary students in the area.
Another victim said the school was like a “smorgasbord” for O’Sullivan.
“He would take you out of the classroom into a storeroom and he’d just go for it. He’d do it on the veranda where anyone could see. He’d push you up against the wall and when he was finished he’d take you back in and take another boy out,” the victim said.
In March 2016, O’Sullivan pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison for crimes against 12 students. However, two years later O’Sullivan did a complete backflip in the Sydney District Court. O’Sullivan showed a complete lack of empathy for his victims and denied ever touching them but instead claimed he had a “paternal interest” in them.
The Commission also heard from multiple Marist Brothers who claimed Malone knew about the allegations and moved O’Sullivan to other parishes to avoid trouble. In a Marist Brothers provincial council meeting, Malone claimed:
Sexual abuse was rampant at St Joseph’s Orphanage in Clontarf, WA. The Christian Brothers would leer at the boys while they showered, and in the evenings, the Brothers would choose boys to take to their bedrooms. One of the survivors said this was “pretty much a nightly occurrence, or at least it occurred more often than not”…
To all of those who’ve sent in WP Messages to this RoyalCommBBC blog, I am sorry I haven’t responded to your messages. Although I’m now able to partly post new pieces, I’m not able to access your messages. If possible, please COPY + PASTE them into either an eMail OR TXT:
#Neglect / #negligenttreatment is something that should never have happened. Particularly, when used as a “learning tool” for 1st borns. Only when later children are raised ‘better’, by not exposing them do these ‘godly folk’ change their practices: Nothing to see here – move on!
Tags: NRS, RC, SDBC and tagged 1st borns, baptist, BBC, boys brigade, child sexual abuse, Church, church family, ecosystem, first borns, girls brigade, habitus, history, neglect, patterns, RC, redress, royal commission, SDBC, support, youth group
Professor Jill Astbury MAPS, College of Arts, Victoria University
All forms of child sexual abuse (CSA) are a profound violation of the human rights of children. CSA is a crime under Australian law and an extreme transgression of trust, duty of care and power by perpetrators. The rights violations that define CSA are critically connected to the deleterious behavioural and psychological health consequences that ensue. This article examines the long-term effects of CSA on mental health and the determinants of these outcomes, in order to identify opportunities to ameliorate the profound psychological impacts of CSA on the lives of many victims/survivors. The article is based on a literature review commissioned to inform the APS response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was established in 2013 by the Gillard Government.
Prevalence of child sexual abuse
Rates of CSA are difficult to gauge accurately given the clandestine, sensitive and criminal nature of the sexual abuse to which children are exposed. Perpetrators of CSA are often close to the victim, such as fathers, uncles, teachers, caregivers and other trusted members of the community (Finkelhor, Hammer & Sedlak, 2008). CSA often goes undisclosed and unreported to professionals or adults for many complex reasons, including fear of punishment and retaliation by the perpetrator, as well as the stigma and shame associated with this type of abuse (Priebe & Svedin, 2008).
A global meta-analysis of child sexual abuse prevalence figures found self-reported CSA ranged from 164-197 in every 1,000 girls and 66-88 per 1,000 boys (Stoltenborgh, van Ijzendoorn, Euser, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2011). In Australia, Fleming (1997) used a community sample of 710 women randomly selected from the Australian electoral roll and found that 20 per cent of the sample reported experiencing CSA involving contact. Another national survey involving both men and women (Najman, Dunne, Purdie, Boyle, & Coxeter, 2005) reported a higher prevalence of CSA, with more than one third of women and approximately one sixth of men reporting a history of CSA. A more recent study in Victoria (Moore et al., 2010) reported a prevalence rate of 17 per cent for any type of CSA for girls and seven per cent for boys when they took part in the study during adolescence. Both Australian studies involving community samples of women or girls and men or boys indicate that girls are two or more times more likely to experience CSA than boys.
Long-term mental health consequences
A significant body of research has demonstrated that the experience of CSA can exert long-lasting effects on brain development, psychological and social functioning, self-esteem, mental health, personality, sleep, health risk behaviours including substance use, self-harm and life expectancy. CSA often co-occurs with physical and emotional abuse and other negative and stressful childhood experiences that independently predict poor mental and physical health outcomes in adult life.
Nevertheless, the research literature indicates that when other predictors of poor adult mental health are statistically controlled, CSA remains a powerful determinant of psychological disorder in adult life (Kendler et al., 2000). Strong evidence from twin studies indicates that a causal relationship exists between CSA and subsequent mental disorders. Twin studies necessarily control for genetic and family environment factors and a number since 2000 have documented significant associations between CSA, depression, panic disorder, alcohol abuse/dependence, drug abuse/dependence, suicide attempts and completed suicides.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies published between 1980 and 2008 (Chen et al., 2010) found that a history of sexual abuse including child sexual abuse was related to significantly increased odds of a lifetime diagnosis of several different psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders and suicide. A particularly strong link between CSA and subsequent PTSD has been found.
Although the diagnosis of PTSD may be appropriate for those who have been exposed to relatively circumscribed CSA, Herman (1992) argued more than two decades ago that this diagnosis does not adequately capture the psychological responses of people who are repeatedly traumatised over a long period of time, experience subsequent re-victimisation in adolescence or adult life and typically display multiple symptoms of psychological distress and high levels of psychiatric co-morbidity. For survivors of this kind of CSA, Herman (1992) proposed the expanded diagnostic concept of complex PTSD on the grounds that it was better able to accurately capture the complex psychological sequelae of prolonged, repeated trauma.
Risk of suicide: Australian research
Survivors of CSA face a significantly increased risk of suicide and a higher prevalence of suicide attempts and ideation. An Australian follow-up study (Plunkett et al., 2001) of young people who had experienced CSA compared with those who had not, reported that those with a CSA history had a suicide rate 10.7-13.0 times the national rate. Furthermore, 32 per cent of those sexually abused as children had attempted suicide and 43 per cent had thought about suicide. None of the non-abused participants had completed suicide.
A more recent Australian study confirms and extends this finding. Cutajar and colleagues (2010) conducted a cohort study of 2,759 victims of CSA by linking forensic records from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine between 1964 and 1995 to coronial records up to 44 years later. They found that female sexual abuse victims had 40 times higher risk of suicide and 88 times higher risk of fatal overdose than the rates in the general population. Interestingly these rates were even higher than those for males, in contrast to the usual gender pattern for suicide. The respective rates for males were 14 times and 38 times higher than those in the general population.
Determinants of long-term mental health outcomes
While victims/survivors of CSA face greatly increased risks of poor mental health in adult life, a significant minority do not go on to develop psychological disorders (Saunders, Kilpatrick, Hanson, Resnick, & Walker, 1999). Broadly, two approaches to explaining this finding have informed research: differences in the nature of the abuse that has taken place; and post-abuse factors that positively mediate or intervene in the development of negative long-term mental health outcomes.
Nature of the sexual abuse
The likelihood of experiencing severe, negative mental health outcomes in adult life as the result of CSA is increased by several abuse-specific characteristics. Large scale epidemiological studies have consistently documented that forced penetrative sex, multiple perpetrators, abuse by a relative, and a long duration of CSA (e.g., more than a year) predict more severe psychiatric disturbance and a higher likelihood of being an in-patient in a psychiatric facility in adult life.
More than 20 years ago, Pribor and Dinwiddie (1992) investigated different types of CSA of increasing severity and found that incest victims had a significantly increased lifetime prevalence rate for seven psychological disorders including agoraphobia, alcohol abuse or dependence, depression, panic disorder, PTSD, simple phobia and social phobia. Bulik, Prescott and Kendler (2001) also confirmed that a higher risk for the development of psychiatric and substance use disorders was associated with certain characteristics of the abuse, including attempted or completed intercourse, the use of force or threats and abuse by a relative. More severe and chronic abuse which starts at an early age has also been reported to increase the risk of developing symptoms of dissociation.
Post-abuse mediating factors
Certain factors, both negative and positive, are likely to intervene after CSA has taken place and to mediate adult mental health outcomes.
Coping strategies Specific coping strategies used by survivors can positively or negatively predict long-term psychological outcomes. Overall, positive, constructive coping strategies such as expressing feelings and making efforts to improve the situation are associated with better adjustment (Runtz & Schallow, 1997; Tremblay, Hebert, & Piche, 1999), and negative coping strategies, including engaging in self-destructive or avoidant behaviours, with worse adjustment (Merrill, Thomsen, Sinclair, Gold, & Miller, 2001). However, the coping strategies used by survivors are contingent to some degree on the availability of social or material resources over which children have little or no control.
In addition, the number of negative or maladaptive coping strategies used is predictive of the likelihood of sexual re-victimisation in adulthood (Filipas & Ullman, 2006). This strongly indicates that the link between CSA, negative coping strategies and adverse adult psychological outcomes is strengthened by sexual re-victimisation. Several studies have confirmed this relationship.
Re-victimisation CSA is associated with an increased risk of subsequent violent victimisation including intimate partner violence and sexual violence in adolescence and adulthood (see, for example, Classen, Palesh, & Aggarwal, 2005). Sexual re-victimisation involving rape or other types of sexual abuse/assault poses a potent risk for worse psychological health in adult life. A number of studies have confirmed that women who are sexually re-victimised compared with their non-revictimised counterparts have more severe symptoms of psychological distress in adulthood.
Social support and reaction to disclosure Historically, the role of social support and other societal and cultural factors in determining survivors’ responses to CSA has been under-explored in comparison with the heavy focus on the survivor’s role in responding to sexual trauma. Increased interest in the contribution of social support and other sociocultural factors has prompted increased investigation into the social contextual factors that can mediate adult outcomes following childhood violence, many of which are associated with the reactions to disclosure.
Delay in the disclosure of CSA is linked inevitably with other delays, all of which are harmful to the child. These include delay in putting in place adequate means to protect the child from further victimisation, delay in the child receiving meaningful assistance including necessary psychological and physical health care, and delay in redress and justice for the victim. Without disclosure, negative health outcomes are more likely to proliferate and compound. Conversely, disclosure within one month of sexual assault occurring is associated with a significantly lower risk of subsequent psychosocial difficulties in adult life including lower rates of PTSD and major depressive episodes (Ruggiero et al., 2004).
Yet experiences of disclosure are not uniform and whether they are positive or negative depends on the reactions of the person to whom the CSA is disclosed. Unfortunately, negative reactions to disclosure are common, constitute secondary traumatisation and are associated with poorer adult psychological outcomes (Ullman, 2007). Such reactions include not being believed, being blamed and judged, or punished and not supported, all of which can compound the impact of the original abuse and further increase the risk of psychological distress including increased symptoms of PTSD, particularly when the perpetrator is a relative.
Specific characteristics of disclosure appear to be protective against the development of psychiatric disorders. This finding highlights the importance of social support in concert with effective action by the person in whom the child confides. The degree to which someone is affected is likely to reflect various indicators of the severity of the abuse as well as countervailing protective factors such as the strength of family relationships and the survivor’s self-esteem. One such factor is a warm and supportive relationship with a non-offending parent, which is strongly associated with resilience following CSA and lower levels of abuse-related stress.
Implications for psychological training and practice
The research outlined above shows conclusively that CSA is associated with multiple adverse psychological outcomes, although such outcomes are not inevitable. The identified mediating or intervening factors that increase or decrease the risk of developing psychological disorders as a result of CSA have important implications for psychological training and for the practising psychologists who work with survivors of CSA.
Training on CSA
It is a matter of grave concern that the issue of CSA has been neglected in psychology training. When psychologists lack appropriate knowledge and skills to work with survivors they put both their clients and themselves at risk and can cause unintended harm. Training on CSA is urgently needed in psychology programs to disseminate evidence to students on the protean psychological consequences of CSA as well as the skills necessary to carry out the demanding mental and emotional work of treating survivors. Survivors can have chronic, complex problems in many areas of functioning and psychological disorders can overlap with physical health problems, including pain syndromes and high risk health behaviours such as alcohol, tobacco and drug use. Careful long-term psychological care is often necessary. As survivors may seek help from a range of psychologists, it is important that all psychologists are educated about the magnitude and psychological consequences of CSA.
Apart from acquiring more in-depth knowledge of the emotional effects of CSA and experience in trauma-related interventions, postgraduate courses should prepare practitioners for how exposure to their clients’ traumatic material can traumatise them as well. To remain psychologically healthy while working with survivors of CSA, psychologists need to be able to recognise symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and develop self-care strategies and support systems that will help them to manage the stress related to working with CSA survivors.
Most practising psychologists today who work with survivors have acquired their knowledge and skills ‘on the job’ post-graduation or as a result of their own initiative by attending workshops delivered by specialists in the field. An unknown number of registered psychologists may have no training on CSA and a more systematic continuing education program should be available and accessible so that all psychologists are equipped, at the very least, to ‘do no harm’ to the clients who have experienced CSA.
Implications for psychological practice
Knowing how to facilitate disclosure and take a comprehensive trauma history is an essential first step in developing a treatment plan for survivors of CSA. How a psychologist responds to a client’s disclosure will have an enormous impact on whether a survivor continues or abruptly terminates treatment. Any hint of disbelief, blame or judgment is likely to fracture the client’s fragile hope that she or he will be believed and that it is safe to undertake the painful task of working through the original abuse and its aftermath. If the response to a disclosure is negative it may be years before a survivor is willing to try again, and in the meantime the psychological burden of the abuse and its effects can proliferate. The effort to remain silent and keep the abuse hidden is extremely isolating and cuts off access to potential avenues of psychosocial support.
It would be a mistake for psychologists to assume, for example, that knowing about prolonged exposure therapy for the treatment of PTSD, would, by itself, be sufficient to offer effective treatment to survivors. Beyond the symptoms of traumatic stress associated with CSA, survivors often struggle with many other pressing concerns. These often relate to the deep betrayal of trust by the adult/s with a duty of care towards them as children. This betrayal can prompt persistent negative self-perceptions, difficulties in trusting others and their own judgement, and abiding feelings of shame and intrinsic ‘unloveability’ that contribute to insecure, unsatisfying relationships in adult life. These same issues can impinge on the client-psychologist interaction, making it challenging to establish a robust therapeutic alliance or maintain appropriate boundaries.
CSA does not result in a single disorder such as depression, treatable within the 10 sessions supported under the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. The chronicity and complexity of the disorders stemming from CSA require much longer term mental health care. The current system under Medicare is very poorly suited to meeting the mental health care needs of perhaps the most numerous and psychologically vulnerable group in society – CSA survivors.
The Royal Commission has provided a timely opportunity to closely examine the enduring, deleterious and multi-faceted impacts of CSA on survivors, how institutions in which abuse took place failed to intervene and the kind of assistance survivors believe will be most helpful in healing from their traumatic experiences. Psychology has much to contribute to this process and to ensure that the best available psychological evidence is put forward to address the profoundly disturbing phenomenon of child sexual abuse.
Clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuseIn contrast with the large evidence base amassed since the 1980s on the prevalence and health consequences of CSA occurring in the general community, minimal research was published before 2000 on CSA perpetrated by clergy or others working for institutions or organisations, and evidence remains limited in scope.There is an additional theological and spiritual dimension to clergy-perpetrated abuse that sets it apart other forms of CSA, including a spiritual and religious crisis during and after the abuse (Farrell & Taylor, 2000). CSA perpetrated by priests and other members of the clergy has been described as “a unique betrayal” (Guido, 2008) and the “ultimate deception” (Cook, 2005), and the implications of such abuse for victims are eloquently described by McMackin, Keane and Kline (2008):The sexual exploitation of a child by one who has been privileged, even anointed, as a representative of God is a sinister assault on that person’s psychosocial and spiritual well-being. The impact of such a violent betrayal is amplified when the perpetrator is sheltered and supported by a larger religious community. (p.198)Psychological consequences of clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuseClergy-perpetrated sexual abuse of children can catastrophically alter the trajectory of victims’ psychosocial, sexual and spiritual development (Fogler et al., 2008). In the US, investigation into the Catholic Church by the John Jay Research Team repeatedly identified certain psychological effects of clergy CSA in the personal testimony of survivors and family members. These included major symptoms of PTSD with co-occurring substance abuse, affective lability, relational conflicts, and a profound alteration in individual spirituality and religious practices associated with a deep sense of betrayal by the individual perpetrator and the church more broadly (John Jay College, 2004, 2006; McMackin et al., 2008).Some of these negative psychological outcomes are shared with survivors of CSA in the general population but those related to spirituality, religious practices and a sense of betrayal by the church alter the nature of the harm caused by clergy-perpetrated CSA. While a diagnosis of PTSD may be useful as a starting point in understanding and treating survivors of clergy CSA, Farrell and Taylor (2000) contend that “there are qualitative differences in [clergy-perpetrated CSA] symptomatology, which the PTSD diagnosis cannot explain” (p. 28). Such symptoms include self-blame, guilt, psychosexual disturbances, self-destructive behaviours, substance abuse, and re-victimisation. These symptoms are argued to emanate from the theological, spiritual and existential features of clergy CSA. For these reasons, Farrell and Taylor (2000) suggest that a diagnosis of complex PTSD (Herman, 1992) offers a better fit for the symptoms reported by survivors of clergy-perpetrated CSA.Preventing clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuseThe history of denial, cover up and delays in response to disclosures of clergy CSA by churches has been well documented, with their responses to perpetrators evidencing a failure to implement any effective preventative measures. To stop institutional CSA from occurring, it is critical to understand the situational indicators of such abuse so that the opportunities they afford to perpetrators to commit the crime of CSA can be identified.Parkinson and colleagues (2009) identified that having immediate and convenient access to minors were the defining characteristics that facilitated abuse. The evidence also suggests the need for parents and their children to be made much more aware of the grooming tactics used by clergy who perpetrate CSA. The John Jay College study (2006) identified the strategies that allowed the perpetrators to become close to the child they subsequently abused including being friendly with the victims’ families, giving gifts or other enticements such as taking them to sporting events or letting them drive cars, and spending a lot of time with victims.A recurrent theme in Australian victims’ accounts is how their parents’ religious beliefs and trust and reverence for members of the clergy meant that they could not conceive of the possibility that priests could sexually abuse their children and betray their own vows. Yet there is ample evidence that this trust was sadly misplaced and the same caution that would be applied to other members of society needs to be applied to the clergy.Finally, in tandem with a message from churches that there is zero tolerance for CSA, there needs to be a clear and trustworthy process in place, independent of the churches, that encourages children to disclose CSA safely and confidentially. Educational programs in all schools beginning in primary school might be one way of achieving this.Victims of clergy-perpetrated CSA need to be heard with respect and compassion, given meaningful assistance to meet their psychosocial needs, and provided with justice through those who perpetrated the abuse and those who covered it up being held fully accountable. Only then will it be possible for recovery from the immense trauma of clergy CSA and the rebuilding of shattered lives to truly begin.
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