The Republicans appear to have a tin ear for the national tragedy of widespread child sex abuse. Approximately 25% of girls and 20% of boys are sexually abused. Yet 90% of them never go to the authorities. The cost to society in healthcare (resulting from addictions, among other problems), lost productivity, and the deadweight of misery is mind-boggling. The Republicans, though, act as though it is one of those problems that will just go away. Leading Presidential contender Rudy Giuliani is merely the latest Republican to appear callous to the millions of sex abuse victims.
As I noted in a column written a year ago, the scandal over the inappropriate actions of Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) with congressional pages tarnished not just Foley himself, but Republican leaders too. Then -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and his staff failed to act on information about Foley's transgressions long before the rest of us learned about the way pages were being treated. Others who knew Foley was a potential problem, yet failed to act decisively, included House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH); John Shimkus (R-IL), head of the Page Board; Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), whose page was involved; and Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY), chair of the House Republican campaign organization.
Over the year that has passed since then, these high-level Republicans have not been held accountable. Instead, the scandal disappeared from public view.
The Republicans had a moment when they could have been heroes to the millions of sex abuse survivors by allying against Foley and his practices. They could have initiated commissions, done studies, and held hearings on this national problem. Instead, after throwing Foley out (as they should have), they chose business as usual.
Is Rudy Giuliani any different? The evidence to date suggests the answer is "No."
Rudy Giuliani Has Strong Ties to Alan Placa, Who Has Been Accused of Sex Abuse and Covering up Others' Abuse by a Suffolk County, NY, Grand Jury
Giuliani currently has a tremendous opportunity to strike a blow for the millions of child sex abuse survivors by firing his lifelong friend Alan Placa, who is employed by his company, Giuliani Partners.
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Placa (referred to as "Priest F" in the 2003 Suffolk County, NY, grand jury report) is accused by the grand jury of both molesting boys and covering up others' abuse. Placa is on an apparently unlimited administrative leave from the Rockville Center Diocese, and has been ever since Newsday named him as a child abuser in 2002.
Placa was the legal advisor in the 1980s to the House of Affirmation, which provided psychological counseling services to priests accused of sex abuse. The grand jury report includes excerpts from a letter in which Placa brags about his ability to settle multi-million dollar clergy abuse claims for "$20,000 to $100,000." One person who worked at the facility called it a "pedophile boot camp," while an abuse survivor has called it a "breeding ground for sexual predators." Placa has co-owned property in New York with Monsignor Riordan - named in a sex abuse lawsuit against the Worcester, MA, diocese, which settled in the 1990s - and co-owned property in Florida with Rev. Kane, also accused of sexual abuse in a lawsuit that also settled, with a non-disclosure agreement.
It does not take a genius to know that this is not just smoke - it's fire. Even so, Giuliani has defended Placa's employment on the ground that Placa has denied the claims and Giuliani believes Placa was "unjustly" accused. Right.
Giuliani Has An Opportunity To Stand Up for Sex Abuse Survivors
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, more than anyone, know that lies and adult ties have kept them second-class citizens. What Presidential candidates, and not just Giuliani, need to understand now is that there is an emerging civil rights movement for children, as I have written before. Part of that movement is a demand that high-level officials in government, business, and religious organizations stop weaving falsehoods about child sex abuse for the public. They must deal only with the truth.
Here is what child sex abuse survivors are increasingly saying publicly: There is no honor in covering for a congressional colleague, a member of the clergy, or even a lifelong friend - despite the power and privilege involved. Adult ties that cover up abuse, and typically perpetuate it, are not ties worth honoring. These societal leaders should be leading the charge for survivors, not perpetuating the abuse through falsehoods and willed ignorance.
The Republicans fell far short of this standard in dealing with Mark Foley before he was outed to the public, and then after he resigned. Now, there is an opening for Giuliani.
There is an indisputable right and wrong side to this issue, and so far Giuliani has chosen the wrong side. He has a moment now to do what is right, and to let Placa go - before the other candidates figure out the reality: The millions of survivors of childhood sexual abuse are voting members of the public, no matter how silent they have been to date.