The barriers to a national inquiry into child sexual abuse in the United States

By Marci A. Hamilton


There is an often-overlooked but critical factor at the center of institutional child sexual abuse that must be acknowledged and addressed: Adults tend to place the interest of institutions and other adults above the protection of children. As the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shown, this phenomenon is evident across institutional settings and any institutional reform aimed at improving child safety must therefore guard against this tendency if it is to be effective in protecting children. In the United States there are also other barriers to dealing with child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. State government responses to the challenges of child sexual abuse have varied. However, the federal government has been silent on the problem of religious institutional sexual abuse. This commentary considers how the politics of religious liberty in the United States inhibits action by protecting institutions that cover up child sexual abuse.