Netflix's true crime docu-series, The Keepers, gets a lot of things right. Unlike many others in the genre, the series puts the focus on the victims rather than their perpetrators. Often, in the allure of a compelling storyline, the victims can be overshadowed. The riveting docu-series is being praised for choosing to focus on the victims and those in the community relentlessly pursuing justice not only for themselves but for everyone involved whether they came forward or not.
The tragic reality is that reporting a sex crime is more difficult than it needs to be. The trauma and subsequent coping are unimaginably difficult for anyone that hasn't experienced it themselves. Throughout the series, there is a prevalent theme of needing more victims to come forward in order to believe a single one.
Another theme that is common not only in The Keepers but many true crime series is the overbearingly bureaucratic system in place that can make real change take decades. The question of how many victims could have been spared had better systems for reporting been in place calls attention to the pervading nature of this problem.
In a statement to the Baltimore Sun, a police spokesman said, "People have since come forward [after] watching this documentary. They were victims of sex offenses that went unreported back then." Though hee declined to share how many people called, the spokesman explained that the new online form is for the purpose of informing detectives in the hopes of making it easier for survivors to report sex crimes and share their stories.
For those who have not yet seen The Keepers (spoilers ahead), the seven-part series begins by investigating the disappearance and murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a 26-year-old nun and high school teacher who went missing in Baltimore in 1969. Without further leads, her case soon goes cold. That is until new information becomes public in the early '90s. What comes to light in the process is nothing short of shocking — appalling and heartbreaking accusations of systematic sexual abuse at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland through the 1960s and '70s. The same school where Sister Cathy Cesnik was a teacher.
Not everyone mentioned in the series has responded positively. In a Reddit AMA, shorthand for Ask Me Anything, with the series director Ryan White, an official group set in place to oversee the Catholic church in the Baltimore area, known as the Archdiocese, made an appearance. As most of the questions were related to their involvement, the group had this to say:
"Archdiocesan records related to Maskell are confidential, and Archdiocesan policy and state law would preclude us from disclosing much of the information in them as they include confidential personal information (e.g. names of alleged sexual abuse victims), personnel records, health records, attorney-client communications, personally identifying information (such as social security numbers), etc."
Their portrayal in the Netflix series is not a positive one. They declined to have anyone make an appearance on their behalf for the series. Victims relayed their disbelief at the actions of the Archdiocese repeatedly. Accusations were made of cover-ups and bribery to protect the perpetrators over the course of decades.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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