What does it mean to be a victim today?

In the news outside of our quiet campus bubble, institutions traditionally associated with honor, integrity and respect have been losing legs to stand on.

Last week, U.S. lawmakers estimated that about 19,000 sexual assaults occur annually in the military, even though only about 3,000 were reported in 2011. A soldier who testified at a Congressional meeting said that her superiors ignored the threat to her – even after it was too late.

This week, authorities in Ohio alleged that coaches tried to hide the fact that two high school football players raped an intoxicated 16-year-old female. The victim started getting social media threats from female peers for reporting the incident.

The Catholic church has faced cover-up allegations for years.

These modern letdowns can be called commonplace and they point to a local, national and international culture against victim respect by those who have the power to change. Not all in power exhibit this, but the statistic of thousands of cases per year in our own military is deplorable.

More and more evidence of a victim respect deficit in America is being unearthed. Many leaders in the communities afflicted by these incidents have come to the aid of convicted attackers. As CBS reported, many military leaders have essentially revoked the sentences of personnel found guilty of rape or assault.

We wish we could say that the “professionals” in our field of journalism are doing their best to combat the respect deficit. They’re not. Though the victim of the football players’ attack was a minor, her name was reported first by Fox News and CNN immediately after.

It is our belief that the Civil Rights Movement is still under way. We may be moving past racial discrimination, and gender roles are more fluid than they were when the mass fight for equality began half a century ago, but the core institutions of our culture have yet to prove ethical proficiency. There is nothing strong about any sports team or military branch under this breach of justice.

At a Jesuit institution, we hope a new pope will stand for respect for those who have been victimized by Catholic officials. As a generation inheriting the world these institutions have much influence over, we need change. No organization should be too cherished to be responsible.

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