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The Boston Globe


The Podium

Ripples of abuse

For a long time now, I have been thinking about a metaphor good enough to represent the many ramifications of priest pedophilia and child abuse. One analogy is ripples in a pond: abusing a child is akin to throwing a stone in a pond — it sends out widening ripples impacting family, relatives, friends, believers, society. So the ripple effect means that abuse of one child ultimately creates many victims.

Now recent events have set me wondering if I need a better metaphor. The Defense Dept. has recently released the results of a study showing a rise in the number of reported cases of sexual assault in the military, with thousands more going unreported for fear of negative consequences. This depressing evidence of what the New York Times calls an “entrenched culture of sexual violence” in the military suggests that we need to move beyond a conception of abuse as one-on-one violence, and see it for what it really is, namely, institutional abuse.

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