AMSTERDAM (AP) – A commission investigating abuse of children linked to Dutch Roman Catholic institutions says girls were sexually abused by members of the clergy in their homes and in church, while they suffered physical abuse and intimidation at the hands of nuns at homes for young women.
The report follows a previous study focused on boys, which found boys were especially vulnerable to sexual abuse in boarding schools.
The commission, led by former Hague mayor Wim Deetman, was funded by the Catholic church. In preliminary conclusions in December 2011 it estimated that up to 20,000 children were molested at Catholic boarding schools between 1945 and 2010, and “several tens of thousands” faced abuse of some kind.
Monday’s follow-up study focused more on Catholic girls and young women, who in addition to boarding schools were often sent to homes for unwed mothers run by nuns if they became pregnant without being married.
“In cases of physical violence without sexual abuse, both new and previous complaints point toward primarily female perpetrators, mostly nuns who worked as educators or caregivers,” Deetman wrote in his conclusions.
“In heavy cases of sexual abuse, the perpetrators were primarily male.”
The commission has already turned over to police only the handful of abuse cases it has uncovered that it thinks may be prosecutable. It recommends mediation for the rest.
In a response, the umbrella organization of the Dutch Catholic Church and religious institutions apologized.
“Not only the doers are blameworthy, but also those who were to ensure things went properly in the homes and institutions where the girls were sheltered,” they said in a statement. “Violating the physical and spiritual integrity of any person, especially that of children, is under all circumstances repulsive.”
They said they would now consider how exactly to offer mediation and help to victims.
In February, newspaper NRC Handelsblad estimated the Church has so far committed to pay around (EURO)30 million ($40 million) in damages to victims identified by the commission.