Pope Francis has taken it upon himself to issue new regulations for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual abuse by those within the Catholic Church in Hawaii and around the world. The edict came after a February conference on the subject that was attended by numerous bishops and cardinals throughout the world.
Much has been made of the sexual abuse scandal of Catholic priests. Stories of abuse going back decades have been published in the national news as well as in Hawaii. Over the past 50 years, there have been over 10,000 accusations of sexually predatory behavior involving several thousand priests.
Sexual abuse by church leaders has made headlines in Hawaii and in other states. Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have vowed to make changes following investigative reports released by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News that revealed decades of sexual abuse by church leaders and volunteers. According to the reports, about 380 Southern Baptist preachers and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct since 1998. Many of these allegations have led to criminal convictions. Almost 100 of those who have been accused of sex crimes are currently incarcerated.
Hawaii residents may have heard about the story of the woman who gave birth while in a vegetative state in an Arizona nursing home. A 36-year-old man who worked as a nurse at the facility has been taken into custody. He was charged with sexual assault as well as vulnerable adult abuse. The man had worked at the Hacienda Health facility since 2011.
Hawaiians may have heard about the shocking allegations against the Catholic church in Pennsylvania that it covered up child sexual assaults that were committed by priests. Now, the Illinois Attorney General's Office reports that almost 700 Catholic priests in the state have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse over the past few decades. The number is far higher than what had been previously reported by the Catholic Church in its own investigation.
Hawaii residents monitoring the ongoing scandals about clergy sexually abusing people must continue to wait for the Roman Catholic Church to adopt reforms meant to hold abusers accountable. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had been on the verge of voting on new measures to address abusers and leaders who shielded them from consequences when the Vatican sent a last-minute order to hold off on making decisions.
General practice physicians in Hawaii have an opportunity to identify possible child victims of sexual assault by screening for certain factors. A study conducted in France that analyzed responses from 850 male and 869 female 15-year-old students discovered strong associations between certain behaviors and feelings and child sexual abuse. The researchers suggested that general practitioners could look for warning signs and then question young people more closely if their initial responses indicated the occurrence of sexual assault or attempted assaults.
Well-known alt-right figure Cody Wilson was arrested in September on allegations of sexual assault of a child. Wilson, 30, is known in Hawaii and around the country for his online sales of blueprints for 3D-printed guns as well as the creation of Hatreon, a site that he billed as a means for far-right figures to raise money for their efforts. The crowdfunding service raised over $8,000 each month for one prominent neo-Nazi website.
Hawaiians may be shocked to learn about the widespread sexual abuse that happened in Pennsylvania. According to news sources, more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children.
Hawaii residents should be aware that there are many different forms of sexual assault. Defined as sexual contact or behavior that takes place against victims who have not provided clear consent, assault may include unwanted sexual touching, attempted rape, fondling, penetration of the victim's body and compelling an unwilling person to perform sexual acts.