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Lobdell: Singing to break the silence

November 29, 2010|By William Lobdell
  • Elaina Kroll
Elaina Kroll (Daily Pilot )

For years, Elaina Kroll had stopped singing.

The Newport Beach resident had been robbed of her childhood passion by her church choir director, who molested her. The sexual abuse she had suffered as a bewildered 16-year-old had been, in her mind, cruelly fused together with music.

In the subsequent years, she would drop out of a prestigious music conservatory in Boston, suffer from depression and no longer have the desire to sing.

But Saturday night, at the fundraising gala in Anaheim for The Innocent Mission — a nonprofit she founded last year — Kroll will play the piano and sing Sarah McLachlan's hauntingly beautiful "Angel."

Tears will flow, including mine.

At the Los Angeles Times, I covered the Catholic Church's sexual abuse and cover-up scandal for six years, talking with hundreds of survivors in the process. Unless you see it up close, it's impossible to begin to understand the long-term devastation that the child rapes had on the victims. Soul murder is an adequate description.

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And perhaps more hurtful were the ubiquitous cover-ups by the church's bishops, who put their careers and institution far ahead of the safety of children. Despite unleashing known child rapists on unsuspecting children, the Vatican has yet to punish a single bishop, and parishioners continue to give money, respect and deference to these accomplices in the sexual abuse of minors.

No wonder most victims feel so betrayed by everyone in the church.

For all these reasons and more, most survivors of the Catholic sexual abuse scandal walk through life with scattered souls, often descending into drug and alcohol addiction, promiscuity, troubled relationships, and depression and other mental illness.

Even the sizable civil settlements of recent years didn't provide much healing for many victims. I know of many examples where the six- and seven-figure payouts vanished in less time than it took to litigate the cases — the money thrown away on drugs, giveaways to family and friends, wild spending and bad investments.

Kroll took another path. In 2009, she quit a successful career in the wine industry and used her settlement money to fund The Innocence Mission, whose goal is to "create a world where every child's right to sexual innocence is protected and upheld." The nonprofit also helps survivors find justice through the criminal and civil courts.

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