The failure by senior government officials to condemn Hastert is matched by the health care media and professional health associations’ failure to report the health consequences resulting from childhood sexual abuse.
These consequences are extreme. Child abuse survivors frequently suffer lifelong, and life shortening health effects resulting from excessive rates of alcoholism, depression and other psychiatric disorders including the severe trauma disorder, DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder), illicit drug use, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, heart, lung and liver disease, and suicide.
Survivors can also exhibit a constellation of social problems including criminal behavior, dysfunctional parenting including inter-generational abuse, homelessness, prostitution and other at-risk sexual behaviors. Not surprisingly, one of Hastert’s victims died of AIDS in 1995.
In sentencing Hastert on April 27th, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Durkin recognized this reality when he stated, “the abuse was 40 years ago, but the damage lasts today.” “It’s hard to look at Mr. Cross [one of Hastert’s victims] now in his late 50s and know,” Judge Durkin stated, “that this abuse happened when he was 17 and he is still damaged.” The CDC estimates the total lifetime estimated costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child abuse at approximately $124 billion.
Despite well documented life-long adverse health effects, when the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others reported Hastert’s “known acts,” one would expect these would be reported by health and health care news organizations. They have not.
For example, Inside Health Policy, Kaiser Health News, the Morning Consult, Politico Plus, and
Real Clear Health, organizations that report daily and twice daily on a wide range of health, health care and public health issues, have made no mention of the health consequences and health care costs brought on by child abuse.
During the Penn State scandal, I asked a Harvard educated editor of one of these publications why she was not reporting on Sandusky. I was told his behavior was a criminal matter and unrelated to health care or public health. To further the point, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Altarum Institute, an organization dedicated to “solving complex problems to improve human health,” and Health Affairs all refused over the past month to publish versions of this essay.
Among numerous health care associations, the American Public Health Association (APHA) nad the American Medical Association (AMA) have also been silent. The APHA’s website makes no mention of Hastert and the AMA’s website still notes Hastert as the 2006 recipient of the AMA’s Nathan Davis Award for his “outstanding contributions to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of the public health.”
The indifference by senior federal officials and the health department industry is also the norm. Over the past decade, Diane Champé, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, cancer survivor, and beneficiary of over two decades of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) therapy, she and I have worked unsuccessfully to interest members of Congress, Congressional committees, the White House, and numerous others in addressing child abuse, or at least discuss the issue publicly.
I met Diane in 2007 while doing health policy work for the then House Majority Leader, Mr. Steny Hoyer. Diane scheduled an appointment with me to ask why the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was not researching DID, a disorder that frequently afflicts victims of child abuse. I inquired and learned that NIMH was not (and to this day) is not funding DID research.
In efforts to meet with members of Congress over the past decade, we have either received no response or were told, for example by Representative Elijah Cummings’ office (Cummings is currently the ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee), that he only meets with constituents. We did meet with Diane’s representative, Chris Van Hollen, and his staff. After discussing survivors’ issues over several months, we failed to interest his office in any number of a wide range of inter-related issues including the need to:
- Improve child abuse reporting and data collection,
- Improve related clinical research and treatment including diagnosis and treatment of DID,
- Further protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and
- Other legal protections for survivors.
Concerning this last issue, Hastert could not be criminally prosecuted as a child molester because the statute of limitations for his crimes had expired. Hastert’s victims could have pursued him in civil court only because Illinois has comparatively liberal “window laws.”
In many states a victim’s “window” to pursue their perpetrator in court closes quickly. For example, in New York, the window closes five years after the victim turns 18. When the 2013 documentary , “Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice,” was released, a film specifically about the inability of survivors to seek justice, we hoped it would serve to stimulate discussion. We were wrong.
We tried to present the film to relevant Congressional committees, at the White House, to Maryland State legislators, and, among others, to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. NO ONE was interested. Lynn Rosenthal, who served up until early this year as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, did watch the documentary but refused to present the film to a wider White House audience.
Our only success, or related success, was in attaining pro bono legal counsel from a well-established DC law firm. Years later we learned the firm supported our efforts largely because the attorney we initially solicited was, while serving as an altar boy, molested by his priest.
In the federal government’s sentencing recommendations for Mr. Hastert, prosecutors wrote, “He [Hastert] made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity. All of them carry the scars the defendant inflicted upon them.” “It is profoundly sad,” prosecutors wrote, the abuse was inflicted by “a man whom they trusted and whom they revered as a member and coach.”
In sentencing Hastert to 15 months in prison, Judge Durkin stated, “nothing is more stunning than having the words “serial molester” and “Speaker of the House” in the same sentence. It is “profoundly sad.” It is not “stunning.” With one exception, the fecklessness of the Congress, the White House, the health care media and leading organizations does not disappoint. The indifference, the ongoing neglect, the failure to even make public comment is exactly what Stanley Tucci’s “Spotlight” character, Mitchell Garabedian, meant when he stated, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
As for Diane’s work, she is now dedicating all her time to opening a community center in inner-city Baltimore to provide non-clinical, social services to adult survivors of child abuse and neglect.
The article’s original name is “About Hastert’s “Known Acts:” The Indifference Is As Disturbing as the Crime;” written by David Introcaso Ph.D.
 Searching The New England Journal of Medicine’s website using the phrases, “child sexual abuse” and “childhood sexual abuse,” yields no related research articles.
 For information concerning Diane Champé’s work, go to https://www.edcinstitute.org/
 Read the NIH Report for “Dissociative Identity Disorder,” see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23197123