Sexual Abuse by Members of the Clergy

Sexual abuse in the church community has recently been a hot topic in the news. Although sexual abuse is not limited to religion, sexual abuse in the church is especially upsetting to many as churches are believed to be a safe place.

When people hear about sexual abuse in the church, they typically think of the Roman Catholic Church. That is because most of the high profile news stories involving church sexual abuse have been in that community. However, sexual abuse occurs across faiths, and is equally as common in Protestant religions. There are multiple steps a congregation can take in order to help reduce the risk of sexual abuse occurring. However, first it is important to understand what sexual abuse is, and what it does to its victims.

Sexual abuse can occur between adults, children, or between an adult and a child. Most conversations about sexual abuse in the church are referring to abuse between an adult and child. This type of abuse occurs when an adult uses a child for sexual purposes, and it does not matter whether or not the child consents. Sexual abuse can involve penetration, fondling, verbal comments or insults, using the child for photography or in the production of pornography, or forcing a child to view pornography or other adults engaging in sexual acts.

Most people think that their children are safe and associate abuse with a stranger sneaking into their houses to kidnap and abuse a child. However, almost 90% of reported child abuse cases are committed by someone the family knows and trusts. This is primarily how predators lure in their young victims.

Child abusers will typically look for victims who are vulnerable – those who are withdrawn, shy, or who are experiencing problems at home. Sometimes children with physical or mental disabilities are targeted. Then, the predator attempts to form a close relationship with the child, sometimes by providing small gifts or giving extra or special attention. Typically, the friendship gradually grows into something inappropriate, and often the special relationship causes the child to stay loyal to the abuser and not report abuse. Other times, the abuser uses threats or physical violence to keep the child quiet.

Churches have many different views on child abuse, what it means, how they should address it, and how their religion ties into it. Regardless of views, here are some things that churches can do to help victims of abuse:

  • Minister to victims of abuse, perpetrators, and the family members involved for both. Do not place blame on the victim or try to hide the abuse, as this may make the victim feel that the abuse is normal and appropriate.
  • Train volunteers, staff, and congregations on sexual abuse – what it is, red flags that signal it is occurring, and what to do when it does occur.
  • Put policies into place that create a safe environment in the church for all its members.

Unfortunately, like many people, most churches do not have such policies in place because they believe that sexual abuse is something that happens to “other” churches and not their own. However, statistics show time and again that sexual abuse occurs across all races, social economic statuses, ages, locations, and religions. No church environment is immune from the risk of abuse.

In a survey conducted to determine the prevalence of sexual abuse policies in churches, 100% of churches agreed that child sexual abuse training is important and necessary. However, only 57% admitted to providing such training for their staff members. These statistics have improved over the past few years, but are still not adequate. Until 100% of churches work towards fighting sexual abuse, our children are still at risk.

The attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm can help victims of sexual abuse by church and clergy members demand financial compensation!

The legal team is adept in the complexities of proving sexual abuse cases. We are here 24/7 to accept your call.

During your consultation, we will discuss the merits of your case with you and apprise you on the chances of your case so you are able to make an informed decision about proceeding.

We will also inform you of your rights and answer any questions that you may have. After your consultation, we will let you know how we can be of help with your sexual abuse case and secure the justice that you deserve.