I continue to be amazed at the persistent misreading of the John Jay Report by many online Catholics. Just recently, a priest blogger offered an off-hand comment that “most of the sex abuse by priests was against young men.” I found that interesting. Wikipedia has a table that profiles victims by age. Assuming that older victims were “young men” rather than younger boys, maybe we can say that males age thirteen and older are the ones referred to by the blogger. Maybe we can drop the age if we define a “young man” by the first time a boy is referenced as such. I might have been seven or eight when the term was first used for me. I don’t think it was in connection with being old enough to drive a car. But if one drops the threshold of manhood to age eight, you can tell yourself that nine out of ten victims were “young men.” But only by discounting that almost one in five of them were female.
I find it interesting that the most common age for victims is 12. Perhaps even more interesting is that there were almost as many victims under the age of ten as there were victims aged 16 or 17. We can also say that most victims, almost two-thirds, had yet to reach high school.
A pseudonymous commenter on another blog said that 81% of victims were male teenagers. That’s not at all accurate. 81% were males. That includes pre-schoolers. Male teenagers were in the minority of total victims.
Of course, the whole study is based on what was reported to the researchers. If there were any silent victims out there in the years 2002-04, they were not counted. If there were victims older than seventeen: women, men, elderly, developmentally disabled–they went uncounted too.
Assuming the male-female ratio holds up across age groups, I would figure 43% of victims were teenage males. Given that the study included pre-conciliar years, I would also wonder if sex abuse was in many cases a crime of opportunity: altar servers and sex-segregated schools. Notice the small bumps at age eight and fourteen: maybe that suggests First Communion and Confirmation. Another opportunity.
I think people will continue to read what they want into the report. They will demonize their favorite group: priests, bishops, homosexuality, Vatican II, and even the victims as needed to adjust the facts to their personal mindset. As long as conclusions deviate from the raft of knowledge we have, any attempts to resolve this crisis, even to heal from it, will be bound to fail.