Risk assessment of sexually abusive clergy: Utility of sex offender risk instruments with a unique offender subgroup by Anthony Perillo


Sex offender risk instruments provide empirically based outlooks on recidivism risk and
often serve as a critical part of sex offender management. If applied to unrepresented offender groups, these instruments may offer inaccurate pictures of risk and hinder efforts to reduce sexual violence. With little research available on sexually abusive clergy prior to the abuse scandal of the early 2000s, sexually abusive clergy are one group not represented in the research used to develop risk measures. An understanding of the validity of current risk assessment practices with sexually abusive clergy is critical and timely, as changes to the handling of abuse by the Church will lead to increased need for risk assessment in the community.

Based on archival data of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and data from a state-wide investigation of sex offenders (N = 6,934), the current series of studies was designed to incrementally identify differences between sexually abusive clergy and general sex offenders, evaluate the validity of current risk instruments with clergy, and explore modifications to improve risk assessment with clergy. Study 1, which compared clergy and general offenders over the course of their offending history, found that clergy exhibited different patterns from general sex offenders on most variables included in risk measures. Study 2 (N = 2,852) examined recidivism in relation to scores on established risk measures. Recidivism rates for clergy (14%) were similar to rates from the body of sex offender research. Of the four instruments examined (Static-99, Static-99R, RRASOR, and MnSOST-R), only the Static-99R predicted recidivism for clergy (and did so poorly). Study 3 (N = 616) identified additional predictors of clergy recidivism and possible modifications to current items. This modified approach resulted in stronger predictions of clergy recidivism, on par with the best predictors of recidivism for general sex offenders. Overall, results suggest sexually abusive clergy to be a unique subgroup of offenders not sufficiently accounted for in existing risk measures. Use of the Static-99, RRASOR, and MnSOST-R with clergy is not recommended. Future research is needed to develop proper and valid risk assessment approaches with sexually abusive clergy.


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Understanding Clergy Sexual ‘Abuse’ as Torture


On Monday and Tuesday, a United Nations committee in Geneva asked the Vatican very tough questions about its track record on preventing and punishing acts of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The Committee Against Torture and international human rights law have long understood rape and sexual violence as forms of torture because, as one international tribunal observed, rape “strikes at the very core of human dignity and physical integrity.” Most of the Committee’s questioning was directed to the Vatican’s handling of widespread and systemic sexual violence by clergy.

Some studies indicate rates of attempted suicide are as much as 12 times higher for people who experienced sexual violence as children than those who had not. As one member of the Committee noted today, commissions of inquiry and other investigations into clergy sexual violence have documented this pattern:

  • A commission in Belgium reported at least 13 people were believed to have committed suicide as a result of the sexual assaults by clerics;
  • A commission in Australia was established in the midst of controversy surrounding news reports that at least 40 people who had been reportedly sexually assaulted by clergy had committed suicide. A police investigation suggested that church officials had known about the linkages but had chosen to remain silent.
  • In Kansas City, a police investigation linked five suicides of young men to the sexual assaults they endured at the hands of one priest.

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Jane Doe Shares Video Describing Alleged Clergy Abuse from WCCO


She said the abuse lead her to consider suicide.

“It has just destroyed me,” she said.

Law enforcement documents said the archdiocese panel that investigated Keating was told that Keating told another priest he had a “passionate encounter” with another 14-year-old girl in Italy.

The panel, led by then-archbishop Harry Flynn, found that there was not enough evidence to remove Keating from the priesthood. The panel did recommend that Keating’s contact with adolescents and young adults be restricted.

At that time and, up until this month, Keating was an archdiocese appointed professor at the University of St. Thomas who was living on campus and sometimes led overnight student retreats.


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Soul Murder: The Spiritual Sequelae of Clergy Sexual Abuse With Focus on Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism by Mary Gail Frawley-O”Dea, Ph.D.


Paper presented at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (2011). Panel Discussion: Clergy Sexual Abuse— Advances in Prevention, Recovery, and Treatment of Survivors and Perpetrators, Washington, D.C., August 6.

I was not allowed to scream in church
I wanted to scream when you put your hands on me
I wanted to scream when I could feel your pulse flutter like A moth’s wings underneath your olive skin
I wanted to scream in the confessional
When you’d lie, and absolve, and sin
And gore your meat hooks through my mind Telling me that you were god‟s punishment and fulfilment A proxy
–Anonymous Survivor –

The sexual abuse of minors by clergy is aptly called, „soul murder.” Originally coined by Leonard Shengold (1989) to connote all forms of childhood sexual abuse, soul murder is even more meaningful when used to capture the spiritual sickness, sometimes unto death, infecting the victim and adult survivor of clergy sexual violation. Not only must clergy sexual abuse survivors wrestle with all the other frequent sequelae of betrayal trauma, their ability to believe, to have faith in the Divine frequently is rent asunder.


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Findings from Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE: A case study of New Hampshire's pediatric SANE database [Journal of Forensic Nursing]


Abstract

The purpose of this article is to provide child sexual abuse data gathered by sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) in New Hampshire at the time of the medical/forensic examination. This study provides demographic, victim and assault characteristics from 696 child sexual abuse patients between 1997 and 2007. The study is a collaborative project between the SANE Advisory Board, a team of university researchers, and the Research Committee of the New Hampshire (NH) Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.


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The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse by Richard Boyd


Western society is undergoing an epidemic of reported childhood sexual abuse. Various authors attribute this to several causes, including the lifting of the stigma and shame of sexual abuse as a topic of conversation, better policies and law enforcement measures for victims, press interest in the topic, evolving childhood developmental psychology models that recognize and accept the severity of the impact of such abuse, and the reclaiming of rights and a voice by women and children who are over represented as victims in this type of abuse.

Childhood sexual abuse includes childhood incest where there has been any sexual activity between a child and an adult, whatever the specific kinship. Included also is symbolic relationship incest where say uncle to niece, step-parent to dependent child, teacher-child or clergy-child are included. Sexual abuse is now more openly discussed, attracts mandatory reporting by clinicians and professions interacting with children, and is now recognised as a major issue within society, with multi-generational implications.


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


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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