Thousands of Dutch girls have suffered sexual and physical abuse by Roman Catholic Church officials since 1945, a report says.
An independent investigative commission, funded by the Dutch Bishop’s Conference and mandated by the government, reported on Monday that the girls were molested by members of the clergy in their homes or in churches.
According to the report, they suffered physical abuse and intimidation at the hands of nuns at young women’s homes.
The committee said around 40 percent of the girls interviewed in the study, led by former Hague mayor Wim Deetman, had been raped by priests or deacons.
In December 2011, the preliminary results of the investigation mainly focusing on children estimated that up to 20,000 of them were harassed at Catholic boarding schools between 1945 and 2010, and “several tens of thousands” faced abuse of some kind.
The latest follow-up study concentrated 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,” the report said, adding, “In heavy cases of sexual abuse, the perpetrators were primarily male.”
Following of the revelations, the umbrella organization of the Dutch Catholic Church and religious institutions issued a statement and apologized, saying they will consider how to offer help to victims.
“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,” the statement said.
“Violating the physical and spiritual integrity of any person, especially that of children, is under all circumstances repulsive,” it added.