Spotlight, Shadows and Speaking Truth to Power

CHICAGO, IL – You’re not going to see any superheroes in the new movie Spotlight. Well, at least not the kinds that wear capes or battle space aliens.

Nor are you going to see car chases, tidal waves, earth quakes or even people raising their voices very often.

And for a movie about the Boston Archdiocese child sexual abuse scandal, you’re not going to learn much about evidence-based solutions, or the most effective ways to raise healthy, vibrant children either.

But you will learn something very valuable, however, about how we prevent child sexual abuse from ever happening in the first place: we don’t allow it to exist in the dark, wrapped in secrets that are fostered by adults who are unable, or unwilling, to ask hard questions about what they know is happening right in front of them.

You will also learn that the heroes in Spotlight are the investigative journalists and brave citizens who stood up to a system that thrived on secrecy and intimidation.

If the role adults play in preventing child sexual abuse isn’t clear already, let us be clear here, now – preventing child sexual abuse is not the responsibility of children, it’s the responsibility of the adults who live in the neighborhoods and communities those children live in.

Those adults, all adults, all of us, have to be willing to face things that make us uncomfortable, and as we see in Spotlight, we also have to be willing to confront the institutions which prefer that such actions are ignored.

What Spotlight shows us more than anything, is that many adults, and many people in power, knew exactly what was going in Boston, and as it turns out in countless communities across the nation, and the world, but they refused to connect the dots, or allow those dots to be connected, though even worse, they refused to expose those lies to the light and speak truth to power.

Spotlight also shows us however, what happens when we do expose lies to light.

We transform the lives of children, and the adults they will become, as well as the neighborhoods they call home, and those institutions that had so much sway, no longer look so all-powerful, or unassailable.

Given all this, our request to you is simple:

– Start by seeing Spotlight, encourage your friends and neighbors to do so as well, discuss it and then learn more about what you don’t understand by contacting your local Prevent Child Abuse America chapter, which you can locate on our website;

– Volunteer at your local child-serving and child sexual abuse prevention organizations;

– Ask the hard questions when something doesn’t seem right in your neighborhood or at an organization serving your child and family, and believe children when they tell you something isn’t; and

– Make sure the institutions in your communities have child sexual abuse prevention guidelines in place, and for an example of such policies please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you’re not sure how to do any of these things, please let us know, because we’ll be glad to help, and please note, that we’ve prepared a discussion guide that can be useful for community groups who want to create calls to action.

“Spotlight does something amazing and rare,” says James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America. “It takes a story that could be lost in emotion and pain, and portrays how doing the right thing, being dogged about it, and ignoring the pressures to turn away from the real story, can be just as powerful to watch as any superhero in a cape leaping over a tall building. I’m thrilled Spotlight is out in the world, but I’ll be more thrilled when I know that we’ve all seen it, discussed it and are doing the right things for children ourselves.”

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