Why did it take so long to see something that in hindsight seemed so obvious? The true story of Boston Globe news reporters, who uncovered a disturbing scandal happening within the Catholic Church, is told through the film Spotlight.
Spotlight is part investigative drama-part unwinding horror film that follows a small team of tenacious journalists piecing together allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. Whilst the story, based on actual events antitheses the fear of going up against any large institution like the Catholic Church, the true story is in the motivation of the journalists to risk everything for justice. A result of this investigative journalism was an open discourse into the actions of the Church at a time when a community of people was turning the other way.
The film continually asks, why had it taken so long to make public the crimes of Catholic priests from the time when allegations first surfaced to now? The answer is not only in the power and corruption of the Catholic Church at that time, but in the guilt and shame that is natural to survivors of such abuse. One character within the film that was himself a victim comments “They say it’s just physical abuse but it’s more than that, this was spiritual abuse”. The film continually purports the psychological impacts of abuse and how such actions can leave behind long-term emotional and behavioural consequences.
Depression, sexual dysfunction, Post-traumatic stress disorder, self-injurious behaviours, feelings of shame and self-blame, and substance abuse as a way to self-medicate for the pain, are touched upon in Spotlight. Further to this, those impacted by the abuse still alive are considered in the film as “the lucky ones”. The film continually touches upon the deep psychological scars that abuse can leave. Furthermore, an admittance of guilt or perpetrators or justice through criminal proceedings appears far more important to survivors in order to lift feelings of shame than anything. Opening up about the abuse aims to shed part of the shame that was required for the victim to keep it a secret in the first place. Research suggests that feelings of shame may be an outcome of surviving sexual abuse and as a result, secondary behaviours such as substance abuse, relationship difficulties or suicide are indeed possible.
The psychological impacts do not stop with the victims themselves however, as the film portrays. Family, friends, parishioners, whistle blowers and many others were impacted by the abuse. In the film, the journalists themselves begin to lose faith in the Catholic institution that had been raised in. They are continually shocked and abhorred by the actions taken by the Church and their desire to seek justice and uncover the truth becomes more fervent with every revelation.