Spotlight: Revealing Sexual Violence in Religious Institutions

Written by  Lamtiar D J Tambunan Wednesday, 07 February 2018 09:11

The Film Spotlight doesn’t tell completely new story. It is directed by Tom Mc Carthy and based on a script that he wrote with Josh Singer. The captivating film became popular and was widely recognised. The work of Tom Mc Carthy and Josh Singer reveals a truth that was long covered and surrounds clergies of the Christian church. The story in Spotlight answers the questions of the viewer and opens the eyes to all form of hidden violence.

The movie talks about the evils committed by pastors who are working for religious institutions. In the film it is clearly shown how many people always tend to protect the religious side, even though it is apparent that there is something wrong with what they are doing. In Spotlight the perpetrators were constantly protected until the media uncovered the case. The evil that the pastors committed was already secretly known by many people, but because of the systemic disguise he could walk free for many years while the victims continued to be silenced.

The controversy surrounding the topic makes the investigators be stuck in several challenges. Not all informants want to reveal what truly happens, as if they are not allowed to while they in fact know that they face a form of serious crime. More startlingly there are not only a few but many cases, that reach far back in time and spread through various cities in the US.

Institutions that in fact have the obligation to act by the law systematically closed many cases over the years. In the beginning there wasn’t a person brave enough to do something or report the crimes and scandals that were committed by the Christian pastors. Since many years people that were assigned to investigate constantly closed crime cases. This continued to the day that Marty Baron, the new editor of the Boston Globe, had so much passion so to investigate and uncover the case he had heard about.  He continued to investigate more on the story of fornication by the pastors, who are protected and believed by the side of the church and are viewed as distinguished and holy.

The background of the screenplay for Spotlight is coming from a real story that happened in the Catholic Church in the US. For many years the church systematically concealed the circumstances under which children were sexually abused, which went through all levels of church up unto the highest authorities. It shows that it is a hierarchical system in which the owner of authority can commit sexual harassment for the longest time without facing any consequences. The cases central in Spotlight were swept under the carpet for the longest time. Spotlight is not only aired to fill our days with an important story, it is able to teach us about the significance of acting upon it in the real life where we live among others.

  1. Supporting the victims makes it easier for them to be brave to reveal the truth

The violence the clergies commit is not caused or shaped by their belief in god. However the question remains how something like this is possible to happen in such a way? The fact that someone is a clergy does not mean he is not capable of doing harm to people, while not all pastors are going to act like the pastor in Spotlight. When many people that experience such things in religious institutions belief they are wrong while the clergy is in fact committing the crime, the film can support subjects to have a more healthy and conscious understanding of such violence. The inability of victims to voice and report what they experienced is of course very difficult, as they need to gain freedom over what holds them back. As a matter of fact when a victim reports a story to the media then the media often hides the name of the institution in case the institution mentioned is already well known and established. This needs to change so victims are protected and supported so that children in the future can hope to find freedom of expression and justice in being heard. Children to come need to be free and protected from being violated.

  1. Revealing crimes reverses the idea of giving high religious figures a lot of power

Only by obtaining the profession of a high religious person makes many people think that is enough proof for them to be a good and noble person. Haying committed a crime is enough reference that should determine if a person should ever be able to ever continue working in such a position. If all the bad a person has done is ignored and he can keep on working in the position, it highly affects the credibility of the profession he embraces. If the bad past of a person is forgotten or not considered it will affect the current profession and the way people live with and trust the church. Perpetrators of violence can come from various profession and backgrounds, but systemically protecting criminals goes back to the institution itself.

Involuntary fornication with children is an action of crime. If the perpetrator is a religious figure, it is all the more controversial in discussions. The religious community already has the trust to educate children in religious and moral issues. But it turns out that the hopes and expectations of what happens to their children if they send them to church do not correspond with what really happens. Someone who commits a crime in church and abolishes the promise he gave when becoming a clergy, he has to be removed from church so not to threaten the legitimacy of the whole institution.

  1. The Truth will find its way

A quote says that ‘the truth will always find its way’ to show that it will benefit the people that show apprehension and care for victims of sexual assault. The justice system will arrest anyone who is a criminal regardless of their status quo. In the bible it says, “god looks upon people to see if they are good or bad, and he judges those who commit violence” (Mazmur 11:5). This verse shows how god sees the good in people who have the heart and courage to help those in need just as he sees the bad in the ones that reject and oppose to notice violence. God notices every event and who acts upon it in what way. Victims don’t have to be silent or bury their feelings and trauma within themselves. They don’t need to be afraid to express and state the truth.



Lamtiar D J Tambunan is a student in training at Rifka Annisa and was a student at the "Biblevrouw HKBP" high school Medan, Sumatera Utara.

*Disclaimer: the opinion stated in this article does not reflect the position of Rifka Annisa.

Read 7051 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 July 2018 23:59
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