Years of abuse, years of silence

Long before Father Donald Patrick Roemer was charged with molesting a young boy, his behavior had been observed by churchgoers, fellow priests, school officials and police authorities. Yet none of them did anything. 

The trail of inaction is called the “bystander effect” by many, a term used when individuals fail to help in tragic situations.

Often they are more wary of falsely accusing someone than of their fears being confirmed. They question whether it’s their responsibility to help, whether stepping in would do any good. If no one else is upset, they assume it’s OK to walk away.

"We think our way out of situations we don’t want to believe," said Pete Ditto, a UC Irvine professor who studies moral decision-making.

Read more on reporter Ashley Powers’ harrowing account of Roemer’s crimes in our latest Column One feature.

Photos: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times, Jason Wise / For the Times

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    [TW: CHILD ABUSE, CLERGY ABUSE]
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    In Ireland this “bystander effect” took over a country.
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