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OPINION | MAURA HEALEY

We must change our culture and reform our laws

As a member of law enforcement and as a Catholic, I am disgusted and angered by the most recent revelations of abuse in the church. And I admire the courage of survivors and others who have come forward to bear witness and break the silence.

My position is simple: We must listen to and support all victims and survivors. We must expose abusers and bring them to justice. We must change our culture and reform our laws to help those of us in law enforcement achieve those goals. And all of us must do our part to protect children and families from abuse and assault.

Thanks to the combined efforts of survivors, advocates, journalists, and law enforcement, we have made strides in Massachusetts. Fifteen years ago, the attorney general’s office led a comprehensive investigation into the history of child abuse and sexual assault in the Boston Archdiocese. Our legislature changed statute of limitation laws and expanded mandated reporter laws to protect victims of child abuse.

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Going forward, church leaders must be proactive in cooperating with law enforcement and ending the culture of secrecy and silence that forced survivors to suffer alone. Everyone who works in a church — from clergy to staff — must be trained on and strictly follow their reporting obligations. If additional survivors come forward, there must be swift and comprehensive investigations and consequences. We can never again allow cultures of silence to mute survivors and prevent abusers from being identified and stopped.

We are living through a new era of support for survivors of sexual assault, as brave people continue to come forward to report what happened to them. As attorney general, my job is to ensure that, when someone does come forward, they will be heard, they will be protected, and we will ensure justice is done.