Church slow to react to abuse

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

I couldn’t miss the recent letters of reaction to an alleged statement by the Rev. Benjamin Arreak concerning sexual abuse as “an old Inuit tradition of treating young girls, to make them proud of their womanhood”.

If correctly reported, Arreak’s statement has the potential to confuse both religious personnel and the public because it blurs the Church’s reputation as an institution advocating truth and kindness.

We’ve all seen enough recent evidence of sexual abuse in religious settings to know that there hasn’t been nearly enough preventative measures in churches generally.

Too many rogue priests have exploited the latitude by acting on their own compulsive desire for twisted sexual privilege.

But the trust-power breakdown has also extensively damaged innocence and faith worsened when church organizations have been reluctant or very slow in punishing abusers. The damage to victims and their families has been long-term and severe.

This incident underlines once again the need for churches to clarify their position with credible statements and tough anti-abuse measures. For until they do, it’s my sense that covert sexual abusers will continue to see the religious setting simply as a convenient place to procure a nice steady stream of pliable victims.

In the simplest of terms, the screening of all church personnel, along with the unambiguous marking of convicted insiders, are the first of responsible responses to the ongoing problem. Steady vigilance is required.

And church-goers shouldn’t tolerate sexual advances from religious staff as a cost of maintaining a nice calm façade on their institution of faith. God doesn’t condone abuse.

David T. McCann
Yellowknife

Sexual abuse destroys souls

I am writing in reaction to the article on the sex charges against an Anglican minister, dated October 3, 1997.

I believe that this calls for speaking out against the attitude that many people have towards this type of crime. In this case, the perpetrator is now in jail and paying for his actions, but that still leaves others who condone these actions enjoying their status and positions.

I do not believe in speaking ill of people because of who they are, but I cannot stand by quietly when something I totally disagree with is printed in black and white. From what I have heard, Reverend Arreak stated that he has been misquoted and if that is the case, then I would like to see an explanation of how this happened. I have always respected Reverend Arreak. That is why I am so disturbed by the article.

Sexual abuse is a destroyer of souls. It kills. How many of our families and friends have lost loved ones to suicide, and how many times have we been told that sexual abuse is one of the leading causes for this epidemic that is killing so many of our young people?

Sexual touching is not acceptable, because it leads to the real actions of abuse. When an adult in authority is doing something to a child, it is called manipulation.

When you are manipulated and made to feel insecure and scared, you cannot possibly be in a position to say no to what is being done to you. This then leads to more and more. I am proud of those girls who spoke out because, even if they felt shame, they stopped further exploitation.

When will it stop? First we hear of all the boys in Newfoundland being exploited by the Christian Brothers, then we hear the Roman Catholic bishop apologize to all those Inuit who had also suffered this abuse in a boarding school.

Does it have to happen in our Nunavik schools too? Why is it that some individuals and-or church authorities think that this sort of thing is acceptable? Are we really the ones in the dark? Do they think they have a special mandate from God to think this is all right?

I became proud of my womanhood when my mother told me about changes that will happen to me, when she taught me how to cook and sew.

She also warned me about how men would try to touch me when I don’t want it and told me to always fight for my beliefs. It wasn’t from being touched by an older man that I became proud of who I am. I am proud of my culture, and I don’t believe it includes the sexual touching of children.

I want to believe that the words of many wise women made a difference in my life. Just remembering my friend’s mother sitting on her bed in a tent, while her daughter, myself and another friend played.

Out of the middle of nowhere she said, “Listen to what I am going to tell you because you have to know it. Do not ever let a man touch you when you are a little girl. Their penises are very ugly and hairy.”

At that time we laughed at her words, but as I became older I realized what she had meant. She was preparing us for the day when someone would try to victimize us, prepared us to be strong and to be able to say no and speak out. I thank that woman, rest her soul.

Minnie Grey
Kuujjuaq

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