Movie Review: Spotlight

I’m probably one of the last people on earth to see this movie, but I’m glad I finally did. It was my intention to see it in the theaters, but plans suddenly changed and due to personal circumstances over the past few months, it completely slipped my mind. So shout out to Netflix for making it possible.

If you don’t already know, Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting into the sexual abuse allegations of Boston’s Catholic priests. Spotlight was the  name of the Globe’s investigative reporting division. For more than thirty years, law enforcement, lawyers, judges and even reporters of the Globe and Herald had conspired to cover it up. But when the Globe hires Martin “Marty” Baron, an editor from Florida, Marty insists on delving into and exposing the conspiracy. The movie relays some stories of abuse and how victims were affected but it’s mostly an in-depth look into the challenges the journalists faced as they attempted to expose the abuse and the widespread cover up.

Overall, I thought the movie was outstanding. It was well written and the actors were phenomenal. The movie first opens in the late 1970s where a priest sits in the precinct while officers discuss his possible punishment. One officer is astounded when told of the possibility that he’ll never go to trial. His jaw drops when later, the priest strolls casually out of the police station. The next scene is thirty years later and talks of Marty’s impending arrival.

The movie then details how Globe journalists exposed almost 90 priests and over 1,000 victims from Boston. Because they also uncovered the Catholic church’s pattern of transferring abusive priests, the church’s global cover up scandal eventually erupted. Watching the truth was agonizing and infuriating.

I was hesitant to watch it because I was afraid of suffering from triggers and flashbacks. I didn’t want to have an anxiety attack or cry uncontrollably throughout the movie especially since I had planned to see it with a friend. But for me, the movie didn’t have that effect on me at all.

The victims described their grooming processes and the subsequent effects it had on their lives. One eventually asserted that he wasn’t just sexually abused; he was spiritually abused because the priest robbed him of his faith. And he was right. Most of the victims never returned to church, were under educated and working dead end jobs. It was sadder once I realized those boys were targeted because they were poor and/or from single family homes and the abuse robbed them of the chance to rise above their parents’ economic condition. Some spiraled downward even further and turned to drinking and drugs with many eventually committing suicide.

As I was watching, I was also reminded of the Sandusky scandal. He too preyed upon the poor boys in his community using the same escalation of grooming techniques: dirty jokes, porn, oral then intercourse. And in both circumstances, the mothers were honored that their sons were chosen as their mentee.

It wasn’t just the victims’ stories these journalists sought. They attempted to speak to the defending attorneys, priests and archdiocese as well. Most refused but when one journalist attempted to extract a confession from a preacher, she was astounded that he readily admitted to his crime. But he kept asserting that what he did was ‘alright’ because he never received satisfaction from it. And then it hit me.

The Catholic church may be reap with vampires.

Vampire is the term used for sexual abuse victims who turn around and abuse other victims. While most never portray this behavior, the Journal of Criminal Psychology estimates approximately 29% of victims become perpetrators. If that’s the case, it would stand to reason that some victims never tell, remain in the church and even conspire rise to priesthood due to the accessibility of victims and lack of punishment from the church. To me, it appeared as if this priest did just that. I’d love to see this idea further explored.

The only scene that brought me to tears was when one victim asked to be anonymous before telling the journalist his story. After he finished and as he rose to leave, he turned around and said, “you can use my name if you want.” I bawled.

I was reduced to tears because I empathized with why he wanted to remain anonymous and how, through telling his story, he eventually found the courage to add his name to it. As time goes on, some of us start to see the abuse from an adult’s perspective and not from the viewpoint of our wounded inner child. It takes decades for many of us to reach this stage and that’s why it takes so long for us to come forward. But when we finally do, it usually comes with unwavering resolve. We recognize how damaging it was to ourselves, our families and our communities to remain silent for so long. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still perfectly understandable why we remained so; but once we reach the paradigm shift from inner child to adult, we finally lift the weight off our chest. We experience the feeling of freedom — liberated from the judgment, guilt and shame of what others did to us. And we want to use our voice to help others who may be bound by victimization.

This is why the movie Spotlight is vital. It showed the world where the guilt truly belonged and enabled thousands of men and women to free their inner child from the bondage of emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, grooming and sexual abuse. Even if you weren’t a victim or never knew a victim, you must see this movie.

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