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The Double Victimhood of Deaf Boys

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Amy Fried, Ph.D.     Permalink

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Recently, the New York Times ran ahearbreakingarticle, on the decades-long, futile, efforts of deaf vicitms of child sex abuse by priests in the Catholic Church, to report the crime that had been perpetrated against them.

"They told other priests. They told three archbishops of Milwaukee. They told two police departments and the district attorney. They used sign language, written affidavits and graphic gestures to show what exactly Father Murphy had done to them. But their reports fell on the deaf ears of hearing people."

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Maureen Dowd has coveredwell, the outrageous PR moves of the Church and its defenders - such as Bill Donahue of the Catholic League - in the wake of this scandal, in lieu of compassion for the victims. Her acerbic wit accuses the Church of "giving up its credibility for lent" Donahue of blaming the victims.

The self pity of the Church has been nauseating. As Katha Pollittnotes:

"On Palm Sunday, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan urged worshipers at St. Patrick's Cathedral to show 'love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.'"

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And now, the New York TimesreportsChurch comparisons between the abuse scandal and the persecution of Jews!

Crooks and Liarsshows Donahue - unbelievably - trying to minimize the abuse by pointing to the age of the boys; you see, since they were over 12 or 13, it somehow wasn't abuse, just homosexuality. This absurd logic totally takes the victimhood out of the equation. By that logic, rape is never rape, it's just straight sex.

The Vatican is also using legalistic ducks,absolvingthemselves of all responsibility claiming that it is they who are being "tested" by the scandal (what about the boys?) In every way, the Church is negating the victimhood, and the humanity, of these disabled, and powerless, boys.

My identical twin was born deaf. I remember her struggles to communicate when we were children. I can vividly imagine what these children went through, in trying to get adults to come to their rescue.

Being deaf creates the need for different types of communication and body language, than that of hearing people. The sounds deaf people makes - due to the the lack of feedback - may sound excessively guttural to the unaccustomed ear. Their hand and face motions may seem extreme, as well. For this reason, the Deaf often speak of a"culture" of deafness.

I can imagine how these boys' struggle to take their complaints was impeded not only by a callous concern for the reputation of the Church, but by the boys' communication skills. After all, they would have had to use their guttural speech, and their exaggerated body language to describe sex acts the adults were no doubt uncomfortable with.

Chris Matthews recently referred to the helplessness that any child would feel, given the power of priests. Given the physical and cultural barriers for these children, I can only imagine the pain.

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Amy Fried is the author of "Escaping Dick Cheney's Stomach." She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, and has been an advocate for church-state separation and other civil liberties issues. She writes on women's issues, media, veganism (more...)

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