SPOTLIGHT on Child Sexual Abuse

Categories: News and Events, Our Perspective

Spotlight-on-D2LSeveral of Darkness to Light’s staff members went to see the movie Spotlight on opening night in Charleston. The film covers the investigative reporting of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team in exposing the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. We work at an organization committed to empowering adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, and are immersed in the problem of sexual abuse. Yet despite our daily exposure to the issue, we left the theater without uttering a single word to each other. We walked dumbstruck to our cars, each lost in our own thoughts about what we just experienced.

As I drove home, I thought about the two men who walked out of the theater and didn’t return. I thought about the survivors portrayed in the film and the countless others that have suffered…so many in silence. I thought about what it means to be a Catholic and make sense of how such horrors were perpetrated and silenced in an institution ingrained in my upbringing. The personal reflection is difficult, but as someone that is working hard to combat the problem of sexual abuse, I feel unsure how to talk about this movie. Spotlight has been praised for shining a light on the child sexual abuse problem in the Catholic Church, so Darkness to Light endorsing the film may be seen as a statement against the Catholic Church, or at worst anti-Catholic. If we were to recognize the efforts that the Catholic Church has made regarding policy and holding offenders accountable, this could be perceived as unsympathetic to survivors who endured profound trauma and a broken trust by men of faith. So, to avoid appearing biased, we risk not giving credit to one of the most important movies of our time. We as an organization stand for ending the silence and stigma of child sexual abuse. This movie must be used as an opportunity to shout from the rooftops that enough is enough!

And here’s the reality. This movie is not just about a problem in the Catholic Church. It’s not just about a problem that happened in the past. It’s a problem still happening today and it can happen anywhere. Spotlight should open our eyes to sexual abuse and the tendency of society to cover it up at the expense of our children. Do not let this movie suggest that sexual abuse is only a sin of the Catholic Church or a sin of the past. The story as it unfolded in Boston, is the reality in families, communities, churches, and revered institutions everywhere.

I hope you will see Spotlight and I personally will be cheering it on for Best Picture during the Academy Awards this weekend. At Darkness to Light we hope this movie can be a catalyst to open hearts and minds to the devastating problem of child sexual abuse. Together, let’s say, “No more!” Together, let’s stand up for children and protect their only childhood. Let’s continue to educate ourselves and commit to ending child sexual abuse so it can be a thing of the past. Join the movement at

UPDATE: “Spotlight” took best picture at the 88th Academy Awards, despite winning in only one other Oscar category, for the screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer. The last time a film won best picture without winning Oscars in multiple categories was 1952’s “The Greatest Show On Earth.” 

cindy_headshotCindy McElhinney is Director of Programs at Darkness to Light (D2L). With more than 17 years experience in product management, project management, and customer support, Cindy is leading D2L’s efforts in product development and the support of a large network of program providers. In the past six years at D2L, Cindy has worked tirelessly to position D2L as the leader in prevention programs.  She is passionate about child sexual abuse prevention and committed to ensuring that D2L programs are widely accessible and the most effective at educating the mind and moving the heart of adults so that all children are protected. 

2 responses to “SPOTLIGHT on Child Sexual Abuse

  1. As a Darkness to Light facilitator and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was blown away by Spotlight. They were able to show the denial, repression and dissociation that happen not just to victims and survivors, but to communities, as they attempt to cope with the silent, violent epidemic that so damages their social fabric. This is much more than a movie about one community or institution or survivors and victims. This is a mirror for all communities and a request that they find the courage to risk looking into the mirror, and the will to recognize that it is in fact, their community reflecting back at them. Only then, can we allow ourselves to be open to equipping ourselves with the knowledge and practice to intervene skillfully BEFORE the the harm is done.

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