There is an excellent profile in the Providence Journal of Jim Scanlan, who is referred to as “Kevin from Providence” in the highly-acclaimed movie Spotlight. Scanlan never told anyone what had happened to him until well into adulthood. His inspirational story includes his ongoing work with an organization in Providence called ResilientKids.
One might think that the subject of Spotlight–how the Catholic Church covered up child sexual abuse–is well-known and widely agreed upon as a national disgrace. But it bears remembering that the so-called National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ) crusaded of behalf of Father Shanley. Never mind the affidavits from 19 other victims of Shanley’s. To the NCRJ, the fact that Shanley was convicted on the basis of a recovered memory outweighs any and all evidence of serial predation of minors.
Jesuit priest James F. Talbot, who pled guilty to abusing Jim Scanlan, later admitted to abusing 88 other victims. The NCRJ still defends Father Shanley, who may well rival that number.
There was a powerful article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on January 27 about the devastating effects of child pornography on victims whose images have been spread around the world on the Internet. It is the kind of article that would seem to generate only sympathy and concern for victims. But the “National Center for Reason and Justice” proved otherwise. This Orwellian-named organization used the occasion to question whether real harms occurred and to smear Dr. Joyanna Silberg, one of the therapists named in the article. In a letter to the New York Times, published on the NCRJ website, the president of the organization, defense lawyer Michael Snedeker, claimed that “Joyanna Silberg, the therapist of one young woman in the story, is notorious for advocating the debunked myth of satanic ritual child abuse.” Snedeker also asserted that “obsessive attention paid to victims can paradoxically make their feelings of trauma worse, or even cause them in the first place.” He closed by expressing concern about giving “pseudoscientific, dangerous therapists another gravy train.”
These statements are wrong in every particular. Dr. Silberg is not even the therapist for the woman she mentions in the story! That woman lives in another city. Dr. Silberg merely conducted assesments for the purpose of litigation. Dr. Silberg did not receive a percentage of any legal judgments, nor has she received any payment other than the set fees for conducting an evaluation. The insinuation that she may have engaged in therapy that made the woman worse is beyond false, it is defamatory. It is also a claim that defies common sense. It is clear from the article that what Snedeker calls “feelings of trauma” were hardly caused by the therapists in this case. They were caused by the appalling actions of those who took these images and disseminated them. Moreover, Dr. Silberg has never advocated or endorsed anything pertaining to satanic ritual abuse. Instead, she is apparently a target for these smears because she has spoken up for victims of sexual abuse through the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.
There is real irony in the fact that an organization that claims to worry about false accusations would levy several of their own. One can only speculate why the NCRJ is so threatened by an article about victims of child pornography that it would make such baseless claims. Whatever the reason, their response reveals a great deal about their true values.
Note: we will be engaging the NCRJ’s extremist position on recovered memory in a future post.