How Clergy Sexual Misconduct Happens: A Qualitative Study of First-Hand Accounts by Diana R. Garland & Christen Argueta

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This article reports a study based on phone interviews with 46 persons who as adults had experienced a sexual encounter or relationship with a religious leader. Fifteen others were also interviewed who had experienced the effects of those sexual encounters (husbands, friends and other staff members in the congregation), as well as two offending leaders. Subjects for this study were identified using networks of professionals, websites, and media stories about the project. The resulting nonrandom sample of 63 subjects includes congregants from Jewish and a diversity of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and nondenominational congregations located across the United States. The software package Atlas-Ti was used to code the interview transcripts and then to identify five common themes that describe the social characteristics of the contexts in which clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) occurs. Based on these characteristics, implications are drawn for social work practice with congregations.

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