Friday, April 09, 2010

On charting priestly child abuse

Apologies to for my slow blogging, but I've been travelling. Now that I'm back home from out east, I want to expand on a point that made in the comments at John Pacheco's place.

The point at discussion was the interpretation of a graph found in study of the scope of priestly abuse commissioned by the United States Conference of Bishops in 2002. The study itself was undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Here is the graph:

Pacheco's point is that the scandal is "is long past" and he is sharply critical of those who "drudge up decades-old garbage which has largely been dealt with".

The idea that these details are decades old should probably not go unchallenged. Below is the graph from chapter 5.2 of the same study as to when these allegations were made by year:
As you can see, the vast majority of the allegations themselves were made just a year or two before the study. Presumably these are adults coming forward to share details of the abuse that happened decades ago, as is in any case implied by this chart of the year of the start of abuse for the single year 2002, when there appears to be something of a spike:

And this one, which reports time between the incident and the report:

This last one especially should give pause for those who think that this problem is completely behind us. To judge from this, 10% of allegations of abuse are reported right away and another 10% within a decade of the abuse. Most allegations, however, wait until the victim decides to come forward in what seems to be their 30s and 40s and 50s.

This may mean that huge bump in the middle of the graph is largely a function of the age of the abusees (on average 12, according to this study) and the delay in reporting. The 12 year-olds being abused in 1982 (which seems to be the peak) are now 40. As subsequent cohorts mature, the shape of this graph will resolve. But we really won't know whether the number of 12-years abused this year is less than those abused twenty years ago for another few decades.

1 comment:

Lifer said...

My rebuttal here: