Thanks to Kamala Harris’s predecessor, the San Francisco DA’s office had files on clergy sex abusers. But Harris refused to share them with victims.
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Kamala Harris, surrounded by thousands of cheering supporters, kicked off her presidential campaign in Oakland earlier this year, declaring that she has always fought “on behalf of survivors of sexual assault, a fight not just against predators but a fight against silence and stigma.”
Fighting on behalf of victims of sexual abuse, particularly children, has been central to Harris’s political identity for the better part of three decades. Harris specialized in prosecuting sex crimes and child exploitation as a young prosecutor just out of law school. She later touted her record on child sexual abuse cases and prosecuting pedophiles in television advertisements, splashy profiles, and on the trail as she campaigned for public office.
But when it came to taking on the Catholic Church, survivors of clergy sexual abuse say that Harris turned a blind eye, refusing to take action against clergy members accused of sexually abusing children when it meant confronting one of the city’s most powerful political institutions.
When Harris became San Francisco district attorney in 2004, she took over an office that had been working closely with survivors of sexual abuse to pursue cases against the Catholic Church. The office and the survivors were in the middle of a legal battle to hold predatory priests accountable, and Harris inherited a collection of personnel files involving allegations of sexual abuse by priests and employees of the San Francisco Archdiocese, which oversees church operations in San Francisco, and Marin and San Mateo counties.