Friday, July 20, 2007

The Children They Murdered

As the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a settlement with victims of sexual abuse by priests, montages of images in digital videos proved to be a rhetorically powerful part of establishing monetary damages, according to "Why abuse settlements vary among the victims."

Attorney Katherine K. Freberg said videographers gathered childhood photographs, letters written by priests to her clients as children, confirmation certificates and photographs of gifts the priests had given their victims. She also sent cameras to film the locations where the abuse occurred. These images were interspersed with video of the victims as adults, describing the abuse and what it had done to their lives.

Once, mothers of the disappeared in Latin American countries asserted their rights to carry photographs of their children as a form of public protest. And in the U.S. free speech protections have allowed parents of murdered children even to wear buttons with images of their loved ones during trials of the accused, after a Supreme Court decision. Those challenging the church come bearing such images, but these victims bring images of themselves not others as children, in the pose of carefree childhoods that they never had. Now these digital videos remix and recombine the iconography of sexual violence and repression in newer and more rhetorically powerful ways.

What is interesting is that the abused themselves are not creating the videos, but instead they are leaving the digital design work in the hands of others. Even the website of SNAP - The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests expresses little of the visual culture around their activism. In contrast, see their installation in the Los Angeles Cathedral, which has appeared in Virtualpolitik before.

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