For clergy sex abuse survivors, ‘Spotlight’ Oscar win brings joy and tears

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Source: Boston Globe

For decades, clergy sex abuse survivors were alone, silenced by shame and by a sweeping conspiracy in the Catholic Church hierarchy. On Sunday night, the movie that tells their story won the Academy Awards’ highest honor, bringing a renewed sense of validation to the New England survivors who first spoke up and hope that others will be empowered to come forward.

The best picture Oscar awarded to “Spotlight,” which documents the Globe’s investigation starting in 2001 into abuse and its coverup, “acknowledged the importance of the worldwide issue of the abuse of children by priests, and the hierarchy that protects them,” said Ann Hagan Webb, 63, who counsels abuse victims as a psychologist , and kept her own story of abuse hidden for many years until she went public in 2002.“Lots of cheering going on at my house!”

Webb said that she was “elated” to see another survivor on the stage when “Spotlight” producers accepted the award: Phil Saviano, who was abused by a priest when he was 11. He is one of the film’s heroes, played by actor Neal Huff.

“I know they took the challenge of telling the story accurately while paying tribute to both the Globe reporters and the abuse survivors who had the courage to tell their stories publicly,” Saviano said of the filmmakers in a text from the Dolby Theatre.

The film also won the award for original screenplay.

Saviano, 63, came forward with his story in the early 1990s and received a settlement from the Diocese of Worcester in 1996. But when he tried to spread the word about endemic abuse within the church, he was initially written off as an unreliable source. A character in the movie describes him as “a [expletive] train wreck.”

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