Survivors of clergy sex abuse hope 'Spotlight' film brings victims forward

Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:12am EDT
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By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Survivors of clergy sex abuse said they hope the upcoming film "Spotlight," about the Boston Globe's groundbreaking report that Roman Catholic officials routinely covered up abuse by priests, prompts more victims to publicly confront their abusers.

The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing in 2002 that church officials routinely covered up reports that priests had sexually assaulted children, setting off a global wave of investigations that found similar patterns at dioceses around the world.

The scandal damaged the Catholic Church worldwide, undermining its moral authority and requiring costly legal settlements. The church is still struggling with the crisis, which Pope Francis addressed last month on his historic first visit to the United States, meeting with victims and declaring that "God weeps" for their pain.

The film, which focuses on the work of the investigative reporters who spent months tracking down sealed court records, victims and abusive priests, does not depict abuse but shows the heavy emotional toll it took on survivors, many of whom turned to alcohol, drugs or suicide when unable to overcome their pain.

"I do think it will encourage more survivors who are still trapped in silence and shame and suffering to find the courage to speak up," said David Clohessy, who runs the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and was sexually assaulted by a priest as a teenager.

"Spotlight," starring Mark Ruffalo as reporter Mike Rezendes, Michael Keaton as editor Walter "Robby" Robinson and Rachel McAdams as reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 6. It has gotten strong early reviews in festival showings, and some in the film industry describe it as a possible Academy Award contender.

Victims portrayed in the film describe how pedophiles of all stripes, not just priests, "groom" their potential victims, first lavishing attention on them, then sharing inappropriate secrets like pornographic magazines before moving on to raping them. It is a pattern survivors of child sex abuse have described repeatedly.

"You feel trapped because he has groomed you. How do you say no to God?" victim Phil Savino, played by Neal Huff, tells Pfeiffer in one early scene.   Continued...

Suzy Nauman (R) of Arlington, Massachusetts, leads the way as protesters demonstrate about the clergy child sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese outside Cardinal Bernard Law's Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston in a May 12, 2002 file photo. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Files