On February 13, the final report of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church will be released.
In October, the commission had already validated the testimony of 424 witnesses, but most had already expired in legal terms.
However, Pedro Strecht, president of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church, says that what they have is compelling: “The witness reports present a lot of identical information, a fact that reinforces the consistency of the testimonies and describes dire situations existing for decades that become more evident as time goes back and, in some places, assumed truly endemic proportions.”
The initial figures presented by the commission did not surprise those who work in the field of sexual abuse in Portugal, including Carla Ferreira, a technical adviser to the board of directors of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV).
“It is a significant number, but we must be aware that this number is just a ‘drop’ in this area,” explained Ms. Ferreira. “We already have this notion in relation to a more general perspective of sexual abuse, that is, we have a clear perception that only about a third of situations are formally reported.”
And Ricardo Barroso, a psychologist and researcher in the field, believes that an even more alarming scenario will emerge: “I think it is to be expected, taking the experience of other countries and what we are learning about reality, these figures will increase over the course of the next months”.
The commission’s work so far has been widely praised. In 2022 he received an APAV award.
“We have the perception that uncovering situations like this is always a positive step forward, not only for those who were subjected to acts of violence, but also for all of us as a society, because it makes us a more attentive society,” said Carla Ferreira. . .
For Ricardo Barroso, what happens in the future is also just as important: “Victims have to understand that what happened to them cannot happen again and the Catholic Church has to demonstrate clearly and fully that this will not happen again and that put into practice a set of gestures, a set of concrete actions, such as denunciations, as support from the psychotherapeutic point of view that can be offered even to members of the Catholic Church, as the accountability of the aggressors, as the support that may give to potential victims in the future.”
The Catholic Church said it is prepared to “take appropriate measures.”
On March 3 there will be a Plenary Assembly of the Portuguese Catholic Episcopate, to delve into the final report of the commission.