Miguel García BaróThe whole of society, in general, must be cured of sexual abuse".

Miguel García Baró, Professor of Ethics at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas and member of the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, is, since its inception, coordinator of RepairThe initiative promoted by the Archdiocese of Madrid for the care and reparation of victims of abuse, which currently assists more than a hundred people.

Maria José Atienza-March 15, 2022-Reading time: 6 minutes

In January 2020, the Archdiocese of Madrid launched the Repaira place of recognition, prevention, care and reparation for victims of any type of crime. abuse and violence. Located in a different location from the archbishopric's offices, which provides greater privacy and freedom for those who come to its offices, Repair has an interdisciplinary team: canonical and civil counseling, psychological care and spiritual accompaniment and care. 

A diverse team to welcome and treat people who come to receive help after having suffered abuse, not only sexual abuse, but also abuse of power or conscience. 

A Repair not only those who have suffered abuse in the ecclesiastical sphere, but also those who have suffered abuse in the family, at school or in trusted environments. These cases also represent the majority of the cases received. 

In his first year, Repair assisted 75 direct victims of abuse (35 in the intra-family sphere; 13 abused by private individuals with no family ties; 13 in the religious sphere, 9 related to priests of the diocese of Madrid, and another 5 to priests of other dioceses) and ten of their relatives. 

In 2021, the number of direct victims assisted was 72, along with 31 of their family members. Of these 72 cases, 49 involved sexual abuse in different areas and the other 23 involved abuse of authority and conscience in the religious or diocesan sphere. 

In addition to all victim care, one of the key tasks of this initiative is training and awareness-raising. 

Currently Repair offers training courses on care and prevention of abuse, for which it has a waiting list. It has published a small booklet with the basic notions of action, protocols, the work it does, and even a model of commitment for people inside or outside the Church for the creation of safe environments for minors and vulnerable people. 

Miguel García-Baró, coordinator of this initiative since its inception, is very clear about this: Repair did not come "to wash the image" of the Church damaged by the abuse cases, but to repair and listen to the victims. 

A long and hard but hopeful process, not only for the diocesan Church of Madrid but, ultimately, for the whole of society. 

How do you define Repara?

-Repair is not an office for reporting abuse, but an office for accompaniment, welcoming and healing, open to all of society, not only to those who have suffered abuse by people in the Church. 

It is true that we do not have very large numbers, but we do a great deal of awareness-raising. Last summer, for example, we distributed thousands of small books containing information not only about what is Repair but how to act in the event of a close case of abuse, protocols, etc., etc. We are very satisfied with the reception we have had and with the work we have been doing. 

Our task is not to "wash the image of the institution", but to show the majority face of the Church, of Christians. In this way, by accompanying the person, even the relationship with God, which in many cases is completely disturbed, is restored. 

What is the difference in the way a case of abuse is dealt with in Repair?

-At Repair We take great care not to re-victimize the person who has suffered abuse. They are accompanied and listened to, and not only in cases of intra-ecclesial abuse, but also, and there are many, in the terrible cases of abuse in the family or among friends.

Repair offers, free of charge, all kinds of assistance to victims. We note that, in spite of everything, it is not the denunciation that the victims seek first, but the need for support and listening. This is always liberating for them. 

We have cases of people who came in as victims and are now acting as grief listeners for new cases. 

In the end, we do not really know how many there are (the average time between abuse and denunciation is between 15 - 25 years), but we see that, in the cases we attend to, the help is real, it was needed and things are changing. 

What is the process for a victim who comes to Repair?

-First of all, there is an interview, usually by telephone. It is conducted by a person who, for me, is fundamental in the proper functioning of Repair. She is a person with a lot of human and religious sensitivity, with a very good formation and who listens perfectly to the victim. This first step already means a lot in the recovery of the people who come to us. 

The interviews are long, sometimes more than an hour. After this first contact, an assessment is made as to whether the victim needs more than a grief counseling, e.g. psychological or psychiatric therapy. 

From the first moment they are informed of the legal possibilities that can be put in place. This grief counselling is key to avoid such a situation. revictimization

We have encountered people who, when they went to a lawyer or judge, who may not have been particularly sensitive in their questions or in their way of dealing with the victim, have then experienced the worst of their process, with a return to guilt... what we know by revictimization.

Does this accompaniment process end at some point?

-Initially, the process in Repair is set at about one hour a week for five months. This is a general time for bereavement counselling, the aim of which is not to prolong the problem. A time that, obviously, is adapted to each specific case because we cannot allow anyone to feel abandoned. Neither to create addiction nor to abandon them to their fate. 

In your last report, when you refer to victims of abuse, you distinguish between sexual abuse and abuse of conscience. Is there more of one than the other? 

-It is not really that there are more complaints of one type or another. It is noted, however, that physical abuse is reached by a relationship of dissymmetry in which one person begins to abuse another in a non-physical way: he or she subdues, enslaves or absorbs, also spiritually, and finally reaches physical abuse. Rarely, physical abuse is the beginning. 

In that sense, we are dealing with abuses of authority, conscience or power that occur within the Church, but that does not mean that other abuses do not follow the same path. 

In the Church, it is very important to form in personal freedom. In fact, in the formation courses that we offer, and that we give, for example, in the diocesan seminary, a good part is dedicated to the roots of abuse and to the risks and drifts of the spiritual life that can lead to the identification of the will of someone superior with the divine will, or to "blind" obedience. It is a topic that must be studied in depth in order to avoid these relations of dissymmetry.  

How does a person who has suffered within the Church reach a Church body? Can we speak of a scourge of abuse?

-It is very impressive that people come who have suffered abuse in the Church because their trust is obviously very wounded. But they come because they hear about it, they have read about us, etc., etc. Above all, what they want is for their case not to be repeated. As for estimates, whether or not there is a scourge..., it is difficult. 

Repair does not go looking for cases, Repair is received. If we receive a case concerning a religious or a priest, a canonical process with its corresponding investigation, etc. is established in parallel, but this process is not carried out here. The judicial demands are carried out by the corresponding judicial vicariate and more and more, as we are seeing, from the Tribunal of the Rota. 

At Repair we cannot make "estimates" of the cases that are out there. We focus on what we receive. Of the cases that have arrived here, we have 20 intra-ecclesiastical cases and 200 non-ecclesiastical cases. When we talk about Repair more emphasis is placed on victims from within the Church, but the focus should be on those 200 people served in the Repair and whose abuses have not occurred in the ecclesiastical sphere, because it implies that there is a widespread social disease, according to which a very large percentage of people have suffered harassment or abuse. 

Society, in general, needs to be cured of abuses. 

Repair How does someone who has suffered abuse outside the Church approach a Church body?

-The cases of abuse in the family often come through parish priests, religious who have welcomed with hope the presence of Repair and have referred cases.

We have also received some who have been known through Caritas social workers. They usually come to Repair because a person from the Church has brought them, or they have gone to a psychologist who knows them. Repair.

A considerable percentage of the people who come are Christians, and in some cases, a large percentage of them are Repair We have made sure that the people who provide bereavement counseling or psychologists also understand a religious language that allows these people to initiate a spiritual accompaniment to restore that area of the person who has been deceived.

Do you think there is a greater awareness of this drama of abuse? 

-I think so. There are difficulties, eh? It's not easy. We have received insults or disapproval, but we are convinced that any Christian really expects things to be cleared up and done thoroughly. 

At the same time, many things are being published that help in this regard. 

The papal exhortations are so obvious that, evidently, the resistances that exist will end up being undone. 

At the general level, there is also greater information or awareness. Society is now aware that, when hearing news of abuse, it is necessary to report it directly to the public prosecutor's office, for example. 

On the opposite side, are the abuses being used to launch a campaign against the Church? 

-It is true that, for example, we have seen information about Repair in which a person who has nothing to do with us appears next to us and accuses the Church of not doing anything, considering that this service is "to wash the image of the Church", and that is not the idea, not by far, of Repair

We understand the suspicions of the victims of abuse in the Church, but we do not play at cleaning up the image. That is why it is necessary that people know about these initiatives, trust them and know that they can go to a place like Repair forgetting about political or ideological issues.

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