The Christian Science Monitor

With no verdict, how survivors of child sex abuse find own sense of justice

Whether practicing the rhythmic breathing of her daily yoga practice or hiking along local Rocky Mountain trails near her home in Colorado, Christa Brown says one of the most essential experiences of justice for abuse survivors happens within themselves. 

It is only a portion of justice, she says, and in many ways it lies beyond the rare punishments handed down by the justice system or church authorities. “How do we integrate justice into our own whole selves, psychologically, spiritually, and physically?” says Ms. Brown, who was abused by her Southern Baptist youth pastor when she was an underage “hyper-religious teen.” “How do we bring about some wholeness and a feeling of completeness for ourselves?”

Brown was among a number of survivors of childhood sexual abuse by religious figures who shared their stories with Monitor. Each of them, in their own way, described what true justice would look like for them. In Part One, Michael Norris, a chemical engineer in Houston, described how he became one of the very few who was able to confront his abuser in a court of law and see the priest who abused him convicted and sent to prison. Becky Ianni, a mother of four in Virginia, described how her former Catholic diocese gave her one act of justice she wanted most: a full public admission of what had happened to her and a public apology that named her accuser.

Such institutional processes are essential forms of justice, Brown says. But as Mr. Norris described, they are difficult to endure for survivors, and in many ways these official channels remain outside their control. For Brown, the “ultimate justice” for survivors is “a justice within our

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