The psychological impact of clergy-perpetrated child abuse


Clergy-perpetrated child abuse can have a dramatic effect on children’s faith, family relationships and how they view the world.
Christian churches in Australia and around the world have faced a raft of allegations of clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuse as well as accusations of inadequate efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.

Encouraged by an increased focus on the issue as well as several inquiries, including the ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, an increasing number of Australian victims are coming forward to tell their stories and seek help.

So what separates clergy-perpetrated abuse from other types of child abuse?

Double betrayal

In addition to betrayal by the religious institution, many victims feel betrayed by family members who struggle to understand what has happened. Compare a case of clergy-perpetrated abuse with a case of child abuse where a member of the clergy is not the perpetrator. If a child was abused by a stranger walking home from school, chances are they would tell their parents straight away. Immediate social and psychological support would be provided, and the school would be briefed about the child’s needs.

This contrasts dramatically with the likely sequence of events when a child is abused by a member of the clergy. In this circumstance, the child may not tell their parents or anyone else about the abuse – studies have found many victims take an average of 23 or 24 years to disclose their abuse.


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The Secrecy of Abuse


This stratified ecclesial society with its protection of the superior authority of the clergy can easily prevent Catholics from ever achieving a mature degree of participation in the church. In short, Catholic adults are expected to be docile and obedient and to accept as true all utterances of the priests, bishops, and popes. Though St. Paul urged Christians in Corinth to “stop thinking like children” [! Cor. 14:20-21], Christian leaders have promoted the opposite attitude.


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Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace [U.S. E.E.O.C.]


Report of Co-Chairs Chai R. Feldblum & Victoria A. Lipnic

June 2016

Contents

PREFACE
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
PART TWO: WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
A. REAL PEOPLE/REAL LIVES
B. THE PREVALENCE OF HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
C. EMPLOYEE RESPONSES TO HARASSMENT
D. THE BUSINESS CASE FOR STOPPING AND PREVENTING HARASSMENT
E. RISK FACTORS FOR HARASSMENT
PART THREE: PREVENTING HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
A. IT STARTS AT THE TOP
B. POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
C. ANTI-HARASSMENT COMPLIANCE TRAINING
D. WORKPLACE CIVILITY AND BYSTANDER INTERVENTION TRAINING
E. GETTING THE WORD OUT
F. IT’S ON US
PART FOUR: SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
APPENDIX A: ACTIVITIES OF THE SELECT TASK FORCE
APPENDIX B: CHECKLISTS FOR EMPLOYERS
APPENDIX C: CHART OF RISK FACTORS AND RESPONSES


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CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IN FAITH-BASED INSTITUTIONS: Gender, spiritual trauma and treatment frameworks by Deborah Sauvage and Patrick O’Leary


This chapter examines the literature relating to the characteristics, effects and treatment frameworks of child sexual abuse in faith-based institutions. Three major themes were identified: (1) the over-representation of male victims, (2) the multifaceted dimensions of spiritual trauma and (3) the need to adopt a complex trauma approach. Each theme will be discussed in turn, followed by evidence-informed recommendations for enhancing services, as well as institutional and justice responses to child sexual abuse. More research is required to guide the development of independent complaint management and support systems.


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Girls abused by clergy members, and others, are focus of new team


Woman’s suit against Lutheran youth pastor is first in an effort to get more to step forward.

A national team of lawyers has joined forces to focus on a group of children who are underrepresented in clergy abuse cases — namely, girls.

The group announced its first legal action Monday, a suit by a Minnesota woman who charges that she was sexually abused for several years in the 1970s by a former youth minister at Zion Lutheran Church in Hopkins.

Although 1 in 4 girls reports being a victim of child sex abuse in national studies, just a small fraction of them take advantage of laws that permit victims to seek legal remedy in decades-old cases, Patrick Noaker, a Minneapolis attorney who is part of the team, said at a news conference.

The relatively small number of women stepping forward is true not just for clergy sex abuse, said fellow team member Marci Hamilton. In general, girls are reluctant to report abuse by coaches, teachers, family members and family friends, Hamilton said. Yet all can be sued through the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which allows older abuse cases to have their day in court.


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A LIFESPAN APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING THE EFFECTS OF CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE ON SELF-IDENTITY FOR MALE SURVIVORS by S.D. Easton , D. Leone-Sheehan , & P. O'Leary


Background/purpose: Being sexually abused by a member of the clergy can dramatically undermine the health trajectory of a survivor across the lifespan. Using life course perspective and theories of identity development, this study addressed the following research question: What are the perceived negative effects of clergy sexual abuse on the self-identity of adult survivors? Methods: This secondary analysis was based on qualitative data collected during the 2010 Health and Well-being Survey, an anonymous, online survey of male survivors of sexual abuse. Three national survivor organizations (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, MaleSurvivor, 1in6.org) assisted with recruitment. Participants provided narrative, open-ended responses describing how the sexual abuse impacted their self-identity. The final sample consisted of 187 male clergy abuse survivors with a mean age of 50.9 (range = 23 – 84 years). Conventional content analysis was used to analyze the data over a one year period. Results: Clergy sexual abuse negatively impacted five major aspects of the participants’ self-identity: psychological self, gendered self, social self, spiritual self, and total or overall self. All domains (except spirituality) contained subthemes. For example, the psychological self included mental health, self-harming behaviors, and low self-esteem. Nearly half of participants (48.9%) reported that more than one domain was undermined. Conclusion and Implications: Clergy sexual abuse threatens different components of survivor identities and can have a stunting or disintegrating effect on overall identity. Clinicians working with older survivors should assess and treat multiple effects of clergy sexual abuse (e.g., impaired spirituality, compromised masculine identity, disconnection to others).


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SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH – GUIDANCE ON THE PASTORAL CARE FOR SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE BOTH PAST AND PRESENT


This guidance is for those at all levels of church life who might be involved in or responsible for pastoral ministry and the provision of care, whether within or from the local church, diocese or at national level. This includes those providing ministry and pastoral care in schools, hospitals, prisons and further education. Some of those who read these guidelines will be adult survivors of sexual abuse
or know someone who is a survivor. Others may have little or no previous understanding of the issues relating to sexual abuse. People’s experiences of abuse, the impact it makes and the responses to this vary and this guidance will not provide all of the answers but it might assist in the process of understanding and supporting those who have experienced abuse. It is through an increased awareness of the issues for survivors of abuse that we will move towards our churches being safer and more inclusive places.


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Sexual Abuse by Church Leaders and Healing for Victims by Carolyn H. Heggen


Abstract: Sexual abuse by a church leader is an egregious violation of professional ethics and a serious misuse of the power of the pastor/teacher role. The resultant trauma for victims affects all aspects of their lives. Churches and their institutions have not consistently responded in appropriate ways to reports of abuse and have too often, by their denial or lack of effective intervention and care, further traumatized victims. Congregations can be places of healing if they believe victims and respond appropriately, if their worship is sensitive to victims, if they provide ongoing accompaniment for victims and those who love them, and if they make a commitment to work diligently to prevent further abuse.


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Clergy Sexual Abuse by Robert P. Allred


A Dissertation Presented to the College of Psychology of Nova Southeastern University
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Abstract: Sexual abuse perpetrated by trusted members of the clergy presents unique challenges to clinicians and yet the current literature on the effects of clergy sexual abuse is sparse. The vast majority of current research on clergy sexual abuse is based on the perspective of the perpetrators and not the survivors. Some literature suggests that clergy sexual abuse is equivalent to incest due to the level of betrayal trauma associated with each form of abuse. The current study seeks to examine the effects of clergy perpetrated sexual abuse on survivors and examine those effects in the context of the general literature on childhood sexual abuse. Adult male and female survivors of clergy sexual abuse were recruited online and asked to complete a series of self-report measures of religiosity, spirituality, and traumatic symptomology, including the Spiritual Beliefs Inventory (SBI-15R), Spiritual Wellbeing Scale (SWBS), and the Trauma Symptoms Inventory-2 (TSI-2). Participants also provided demographic information and completed a structured self-report questionnaire of history of sexual abuse. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that there were no between-group differences on measures of trauma or existential belief, but found that those abused by clergy reported lower levels of religious beliefs and practice, less social support from their religious community, less satisfaction with their relationship with God, and were more likely to have changed their religious affiliation. These data suggest that abuse perpetrated by clergy has a unique and
measurable impact on survivors’ future religiosity and spirituality as compared to other forms of childhood sexual abuse.


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Special Report: Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013 [U.S. DoJ]


This report uses the National Crime Victimization
Survey (NCVS) to compare the rape and sexual assault victimization of female college students and nonstudents. For the period 1995–2013—
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  • The rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for nonstudents (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).
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  • For both college students and nonstudents, the o ender was known to the victim in about 80% of rape and sexual assault victimizations.
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  • Most (51%) student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was pursuing leisure activities away from home, compared to nonstudents who were engaged in other activities at home (50%) when the victimization occurred.
  • The o ender had a weapon in about 1 in 10 rape and sexual assault victimizations against both students and nonstudents.
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  • Rape and sexual assault victimizations of students (80%) were more likely than nonstudent victimizations (67%) to go unreported to police.
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  • About a quarter of student (26%) and nonstudent (23%) victims who did not report to police believed the incident was a personal matter, and 1 in 5 (20% each) stated a fear of reprisal.
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  • Student victims (12%) were more likely than nonstudent victims (5%) to state that the incident was not important enough to report.
  • „ Fewer than 1 in 5 female student (16%) and nonstudent (18%) victims of rape and sexual assault received assistance from a victim services agency.

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