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Forthcoming Paper in Social Science Research

Assessing reporting patterns of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church using Model Parameter Timeseries

Alissa Ackerman
Bilal Khan

Prior to 2002, little was known about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. After the Boston Globe broke the story about John Geoghan–a priest in the Boston Archdiocese who was accused of abusing numerous children, convicted of one count of indecent assault, and eventually murdered in prison–the church had many questions to answer. To this end, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commissioned John Jay College of Criminal Justice to research the nature and scope, as well as the causes and context of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

This research analyzes the data from the John Jay studies using a new quantitative technique, capable of adjusting for distortions introduced by delays in abuse reporting. By isolating discontinuities in model parameter timeseries, we determine changes in reporting patterns occurred during the period 1982-1988. A posteriori to the analysis, we provide some possible explanations for the changes in abuse reporting associated with the change-point. While the scope of this paper is limited to presenting a new methodological approach within the frame of a particular case study, the techniques are more broadly applicable in settings where reporting lag is manifested.