August 19, 2018


Sex scandals fester at unhealthy organizations, experts say (The Associated Press, 8/19/18)

Of all the horrific details contained in the Pennsylvania grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, one sentence stands out: "The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid 'scandal.'"

When sex-abuse cases dominate headlines, a familiar pattern often emerges. If it took place at a large organization -- be it a church, a large state university or a group such as USA Gymnastics -- misconduct is often covered up in hopes of saving the institution's reputation, and the money that accompanies it.

Why is the role of institutions so powerful? Because they command emotion. They inspire loyalty. And they have established ways of doing things that rev up when problems surface.

Perhaps most relevantly, they often have a community built around them, geographically or otherwise. And preserving that community can become a priority -- even over something as seemingly fundamental as protecting the youngest among us.

In short, when bad things happen inside institutions, the ingredients are already there to make things even worse.

"We have to stop protecting our rainmakers and we have to hold them to the values we espouse, not just move them around," said Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women. [...]

"Sadly, all too often, we still see organizations wanting to preserve the brand and preserve the money, either by moving alleged perpetrators out of the organization to another area, rather than getting rid of them, or not acting in a way that's protecting the victims," says Churches.

"Victims and survivors then feel ashamed," she says. "They don't believe the institutions they trusted are caring for them.

"Why would that be, though? Why wouldn't an institution reflexively prioritize the protection of the very people most likely to help chart its future? Alan Salpeter, an attorney at Arnold & Porter in Chicago, says there's usually one key reason why abuse is covered up.

"It happens because of weaknesses in the culture of the institution," says Salpeter, a crisis-management expert who has written about the Penn State situation.

Those weaknesses can be to protect profit or power.

Now suppose that all these institutions made all their records open and available to the public.

Posted by at August 19, 2018 9:00 AM