Ross Douthat in the New York Times presents a compelling theory about the waves of sexual abuse scandals, from Roman Catholicism to Rolf Harris to Rotherham. Remember that these scandals are scandalous precisely because their perpetrators all got away with rape and abuse for long periods of time:
[I]nstead of looking for ideological vindication in these stories, it’s better to draw a general lesson. Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape.
In Catholic Boston or Catholic Ireland, that meant men robed in the vestments of the church.
In Joe Paterno’s pigskin-mad Happy Valley, it meant a beloved football coach.
In status-conscious, education-obsessed Manhattan, it meant charismatic teachers at an elite private school.
In Hollywood and the wider culture industry — still the great undiscovered country of sexual exploitation, I suspect — it has often meant the famous and talented, from Roman Polanski to the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, robed in the authority of their celebrity and art.
And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.
The point is that as a society changes, as what’s held sacred and who’s empowered shifts, so do the paths through which evil enters in, the prejudices and blind spots it exploits.
So don’t expect tomorrow’s predators to look like yesterday’s. Don’t expect them to look like the figures your ideology or philosophy or faith would lead you to associate with exploitation.
Expect them, instead, to look like the people whom you yourself would be most likely to respect, most afraid to challenge publicly, or least eager to vilify and hate.