In California cities with a considerable Roman Catholic population, the issue of clergy sexual abuse fills the news from time to time with shocking stories. While both men and women have come forth, one group that remains largely hidden in this crisis is black Catholics.
Why black are hidden victims
The U.S. Catholic Church does not track the race or ethnicity of victims of sexual assault from priests, so the full effects of clergy sexual abuse on people of color is unknown. Even in religious communities with a high percentage of black parishioners, the exact incidence of clergy abuse is unknown.
The reasons behind this are extensive. For one, the Catholic Church has long maintained a culture of racism against its black faithful. The American Catholic Church also views the black population, in general, as charity cases that require reliance on the institution’s goodwill to get by. In some cases, church charity programs allow abusers to prey on African Americans who were not regulars at Mass or came from other Christian denominations. Many survivors only come forth years later to tell their stories of sexual assault, with many suffering alcoholism, addiction, mental problems, and more resulting from their experiences.
Resolving past abuse
Most victims of clergy sexual abuse delay admitting their experience because of feelings of shame or mistakenly thinking that no one will believe them. However, California increased the ability of sexual assault victims to take action against their abusers. Before 2020, child sexual abuse victims often lost the right to pursue action against their perpetrators if they didn’t report it immediately.
If you suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or another clergy member when you were a child or teen, you may be able to file a claim in court. Doing so may give you some closure.