Understanding the Mystery of Clergy Sexual Abuse

July 26th, 2012 10:45 am

Martin Weber, D.Min.

(From the October 2008 edition of HopeSpeak)

 At the Stop Being Silent! seminar in Minsk, in an interactive session on ‘Redefining Domestic Violence: Sexual Exploitation and the Church’, Dr. Valli Batchelor lectured about violence against women by clerical abusers.

This excerpt provides an overview of clergy sexual exploitation and the Hope of Survivors network, following from the previous article on what happened when one woman tried to speak out in Australia. This excerpt has been reprinted and adapted with permission from the Hope of Survivors website (www.thehopeofsurvivors.com), a resource and support organisation for victims of clergy sexual exploitation. Because the majority of clergy sexual abuse is male clerical abuse of female parishioners, this article only addresses this majority.

 The Hope of Survivors

Shame is the reason I’m so proud to be connected with The Hope of Survivors. Perhaps I should explain.
More than any organisation I’ve known in several decades of pastoral ministry, including law enforcement chaplaincy, the Hope of Survivors (THOS) helps victims feeling ashamed from sexual abuse find dignity, confidence, hope, and even joy. And so I’m proud to serve on the executive board of THOS.

Shame afflicts most of us to some degree. It’s part of the human condition. As a chubby child, I was ashamed of my weight. Parents might be ashamed of their teenagers’ bad choices. Reformed ‘party animals’ may feel shame for years of carousing. But the human spirit knows no shame to match that of a sexual abuse victim who has been manipulated into feeling guilty for her predator’s sins. And those among them most deeply sunken in shame may be victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Reasonable people are outraged at a sexual predator who drags a jogger off the trail into the bushes. Society springs to the defence of such victims. As for incest, everyone except enabling relatives is furious about paternal predators. But when it comes to clergy sexual abuse, congregational sympathy usually gravitates to a popular, powerful preacher. Ironically, victims of clergy sexual abuse often must go outside the church to find a sympathetic heart. Tragically, they may lose not only their trusted spiritual leader but also most, if not all, of their faith community – even close friends.

This is where THOS has been such a lifesaver for hundreds of lonely victims of clergy sexual abuse who suffer in solitary shame. THOS helps them realise that:

 Clergy sexual abuse

To summarise the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse:

In such cases, the Hope of Survivors often becomes the only hope of surviving clergy sexual abuse.

Suggested reading:

As recommended by Valli Batchelor and Amanda Gearing

D Garland and C Argueta, ‘How Clergy Sexual Misconduct Happens: A qualitative study of first-hand accounts’, Social Work and Christianity, 2010.

MACSAS: Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, <www.macsas.org.uk>.

National Organization for Women, ‘Call to Criminalize Sexual Exploitation of Women by Clergy’, <www.now.org>.

National Organization for Women, ‘NOW President Calls for Fundamental Reform to Stop Clergy Sexual Abuse’, <http://www.now.org/issues/violence/clergyabuse_statement.html>.

M Porter, Sex, Power and the Clergy South, Yarra, Australia, Hardie Grant Books, 2003.

‘Silent Majority: Adults Abused by Clergy’, <www.adultsabusedbyclergy.org>.

Printable version available: Weber

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Comments (1)

  1. Stephen de Weger / July 16, 2016 / https://eprints.qut.edu.au/96038/

    I have recently completed a study of clerical sexual misconduct involving adults in the Catholic Church which some may be interested in. It can be found here: https://eprints.qut.edu.au/96038/

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