What’s the financial cost of the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal?
Not for the Church itself. Who cares. Let them go bankrupt for all I care. (Though one pair of researchers estimated in 2015 that the Church had paid out nearly four billion dollars for the scandals since 1950, and they said that was an underestimate.)
I mean, what’s the financial cost to the victims?
Believe it or not, researchers have calculated that, too.
In an article published this past May in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, the authors looked at health care costs, child welfare costs, violence/crime costs, special education costs, and productivity losses. They found that female victims of child sexual abuse — at least the ones who didn’t die of suicide — suffered a lifetime cost of $282,734. (Males lost $74,691 over their lives, but that discrepancy, the researchers said, was due to a lack of information on productivity losses for men.) Quality of life losses amounted to another $40,000 on average to all victims.
“You have a modest impact of a few thousand dollars a year for earnings, but that accumulates over the life cycle,” says [George Washington University in St. Louis Health economist Derek] Brown, “you have 40-plus years of those impacts for a victim.”Survivors of sex abuse often develop depression and anxiety, which affects their performance at work or school.
The point is this: Victims of child sexual abuse suffer long after the incident itself. And when we’re talking about the Catholic Church scandal, we need to consider the impact it has on victims throughout their lives — not just in an emotional sense, but in a very tangible economic way.
NPR spoke with one victim, now 53, who was sexually assaulted by a priest in Pennsylvania “for about two years.” He began drinking and doing drugs in high school, didn’t graduate, and has since spent time homeless and behind bars. He’s doing better now, but the abuse he suffered had serious long-term damage.
That’s why abolishing the statute of limitations in these cases is a major goal in the fight against abuse. These victims deserve a chance to recover what they’ve missed out on. It’s not always enough for their abusers to go to jail.
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