How did Ciase become aware of the importance of explicit recognition of the status of victim?
Antoine Garapon: Most of the victims we interviewed gave us an account of their life, often chaotic and painful, by re-reading it in the light of the sexual violence suffered in their childhood. However, this is a particularity of victims of sexual abuse, compared to victims of other prejudices: the difficulty in reporting general discomfort (lack of self-confidence, inability to let someone touch them, shame , etc.) to the violence suffered, and therefore the difficulty in considering oneself as a victim.
I’m not talking about traumatic amnesia, which exists but which is very rare. Most of the time, these people know what they’ve been through, but it’s sort of “under control”. Until, under unexpected circumstances, often a very long time after the fact, this dormant memory becomes problematic again and evolves into a greater “impediment to being”. This can be done in contact with another victim, for example.
It is a completely different trajectory from that of victims of attacks, where time tends to reduce the pain, and for which the roots of the discomfort are more easily identifiable.
Why is it so important that recognition of victim status precedes compensation?
AG:Financial reparation must follow a word of justice. If you give money without having clearly established everyone’s responsibilities, the meaning of these payments may be very ambiguous: is the perpetrator buying the victim’s silence? Is he paying for the sex pass?
The basis for the payment is more important than the amount. The currency sign must be preceded by a word that gives it its meaning. If this word is clear, if it does not lend itself to any contradiction of interests, then justice can be done, even if it does not involve punishment.
La Ciase recommends that this word of gratitude be given by a third structure, outside the Church. Why ?
AG: In technical language, we speak of a “third party of justice”. This is the basics of justice: you cannot justify yourself. A recognition that would come from the Church could not be neutral. Too many interests, in particular reputation, are at stake. There is an incredible weakening of the word of the Church, which has become corrupted in the strongest sense of the term. For the corruption of morals always ends in a corruption of language. How can people who were not able to be indignant when the sacrament became the instrument of crime, when a confession was priced against a fellatio, can they be credible?
Relying on a third body, this is already what the bishops have done by asking for the establishment of the Ciase. It was brave of them. But we have to go to the end.
Would this independent body have anything in common with Ciase, precisely?
AG: Probably the same state of mind, yes. Some profiles could be similar: psychologists, lawyers, historians, in any case professionals accustomed to collecting testimonies and carrying out investigations. But since it would be individual care, and no longer the evaluation of a general phenomenon, there would be no need for geographers or sociologists. This structure should also be competent to identify possible fraud: people pretending to be victims without being so.
Doesn’t the status of victim have something enclosing? How to get out of it?
AG: Most victims have one thing in common: they want their ordeal to be “useful for something”. In Ciase, we saw victims become witnesses. The person ceases to be locked in this status of victim to witness an injustice more general than the one he has experienced – an injustice that deserves political and collective treatment. She comes out of her traumatic silence, of this immense moral solitude, and joins a human community.
Justice always proceeds from this conversion of violence into a guarantee of good. Allowing victims to testify is to give them social utility, to tell them that they have not experienced all of this in vain. It therefore seems essential to me that their words be more public, including in the ordinary life of the Church. They could for example intervene in seminars, to say to future priests: “Understand what we went through, and enrich yourself with our terrible destiny. “