A reader writes:
I speak from some experience, having been involved in some of the sex abuse litigation in Massachusetts (representing one of several insurance companies being called upon to fund some of the settlements the various Dioceses and Archdioceses have reached with the victims - hundreds of them). There were (are?), in fact, many female victims. But several things distinguish them from the boys, based on what I have seen. First, there are a lot fewer of them. Maybe 1 victim in 20 was female; perhaps even more like 1 in 30 or 40. The vast majority were boys.
Second, the abusers of females seem to have been less compelled to abuse multiple victims. I can't tell you how utterly sickening and heartbreaking it is to read case file after case file, describing the horrific details of a single priest's repeated rape and abuse of boy after boy after boy - dozens of them, hundreds in the worst cases - over many years' time. But the abusers of girls? Less so. In some cases, no more than 1 or 2 victims.
Maybe that's a reporting issue - what the statisticians would call self-selection among the cohort. I don't have any basis for really knowing. But it does seem unusual to me that female victims of clergy rape would be less inclined to report the abuse than the boys would. I just think it is more likely that priests who raped girls just tended to rape fewer of them. Maybe it's because the girls were generally not placed in positions where they were likely to come into frequent contact with priests in isolated settings, and vice-versa.
Third, the really, really creepy thing about many of the abusive priests was that so many of them were such popular, charismatic figures within their parishes. They would "get" their victims by cozying up to the boys' families, creating bonds of affection with the mothers and fathers, taking the boys under their wings, going on camping trips, etc. Then they'd rape them, knowing that their very popularity would make it unlikely that anyone would believe some crazy kid's accusation about good Father So-and-So.
With the girls, again, not so much. The victimizers of girls appeared (to me) to be basically very lonely, socially misfit, heterosexual guys with absolutely no outlet for the sexual aspect of their personalities. Some, of course, managed to create consensual relationships with adult female parishioners, or even with nuns. But a lot of these guys were generally pretty shy and awkward around the opposite sex, and for some of them, an 11-year old girl was just an easier mark than an adult.
I don't mean for a moment to belittle the act that transpired - rape is rape, lives were destroyed, and it is unforgivable. But there seemed to me to be something quieter and lonelier - less "planned" somehow - about their abuse of one or two girls, whereas the abusers of the boys - multiple boys - sometimes seemed almost to make it a bit of a "sport."
The John Jay study found that 19% of rape victims were female.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.