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“So who sex offenders are, how they come to be sex offenders, instead of boys who grow into safe men, is very important to us.”
Yvonne Cournoyer, MNCASA’s sexual violence prevention coordinator, adds that we can learn a lot from those who have offended, as well as from those who work with them. “They know more about what leads to this behavior and how they gain access to victims,” Cournoyer said. “That’s information we can use in terms of prevention.”
This means we need to resist the easy “us-vs.-them” dichotomy. Clohessy began this work because he was victimized by a priest for four years as a boy. His younger brother was molested by the same priest. That brother grew up to become a sex-offending priest who was suspended in 2002.
“Everybody looks at the child sex offender as the other, as a real deviant who is in no shape or form like the rest of us,” said Clohessy, 58. “It’s not helpful to demonize them.” Neither is it helpful to excuse them, he said.
“We can forgive a school bus driver who gets drunk and causes kids to be hurt,” he said, “but we cannot give that person keys to another school bus. If we have a choice to err on the side of complacency or err on the side of prudence, let’s err on the side of prudence.”
It tears him up that not everyone is following this path.
“It’s very simple. Whether it’s a bishop or a CEO, we throw the book at those who ignore and conceal child sex crimes. Those who protect predator priests do no one a favor — not the victim, the family, the parishioners or the offenders themselves.
“They only kick the can down the road, leaving their successors to deal with the dozens of victims who come forward.”
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