"If this was any other man, I would have known it was not right,...
But church is supposed to be a sanctuary. I couldn't make sense of what was happening.
He broke my connection to all that is holy. What hurts me the most is that this wasn't just physical rape, it was spiritual rape."
~Carolyn, survivor of Clergy Sexual Misconduct
Clergy Sexual Misconduct
According to a 2009 study spearheaded by Baylor University more than 3 % of adult women who attend religious services at least once a month have been the victims of clergy sexual misconduct since turning age 18. Placing the numbers in perspective, it is reported that the average U.S. congregation size is about 400 adult members. This averages out that within the average congregation that there are about 7 women who have been victimized at some point in their adult lives. 92% of the solicitations or advances for sex were done in secret and 67% of the offenders (church leaders) were married.
The Abuse Of Position & Power
"When a religious leader has a sexual relationship with a congregant, it's not an affair,...It's abuse of power-the power that we give to our religious leader as a community. It must be addressed in that context."
This unprecedented study was done under the direction of Dr. Diana Garland, dean of Baylor University's School of Social Work, and continues to rock the religious community.
"Because many people are familiar with some of the high-profile cases of sexual misconduct, most people assume that it is just a matter of a few charismatic leaders preying on vulnerable followers...What the research tells us, however, is that clergy sexual misconduct with adults is a widespread problem in congregations of all sizes and occurs across denominations. Now that we have a better understanding of the problem, we can start looking at prevention strategies...We examined this problem to help the church take leadership in responding; the church needs to be the church,...Clergy sexual misconduct tears a church apart, and we must address it."
In effort to bring attention and solid solutions to this problem within the church Baylor University has also launched a Clergy Sexual Misconduct Awareness & Prevention Web Site. They have also introduced a sample code of ethics for congregational leaders as follows:
1. Provide spiritual guidance and teaching for congregants, congregational staff members, and members of the larger community.
2. Treat staff and congregants with dignity and respect.
3. Uphold integrity through honest communication.
4. Nurture their personal religious life through prayer, meditation, and study.
5. Maintain healthy boundaries with congregants by nurturing family relationships and/or friendships with others whom they do not also serve as religious leader.
6. Refrain from making sexual overtures and engaging in sexual relationships (other than with one's spouse), or sexually harassing congregants, whether or not the leader and/or congregant is married.
7. Be accountable to an identified supervisor or group of peers that conducts regular performance reviews, seeking input from members of the congregation.
8. Avoid disclosing private information about congregants.
9. Recognize the power dynamic in their role with congregants, using that power to seek the well being of those they serve and never for their own personal ends.
10. Limit their professional role to pastor, teacher, or priest to avoid dual relationships and arbitrary boundaries with congregants.
11. Provide time-limited pastoral care during times of crisis but avoid entering counseling relationships with congregants.
12. Provide referrals to community agencies and professionals for congregants who need mental health or social services.
Silence Is Fool's Gold
One thread that is common in CSM cases is silence. The victim is encouraged and seemingly rewarded by the congregation to be silent, encouraged to not tell anyone what happened or what they are currently experiencing. This is a two edged sword however, the same congregation that often rewards with a fake inclusion for silence, often condemns and ostracises the victim for their participation and presence in the situation and for any public hint of impropriety.
On the other side there's spin management which large ministries able to afford media and public relations firms have become expert at doing. When this is "spun" the right way, situations such as these are almost always never the Pastor or spiritual leaders fault and he is normally a "good man" often being lied on. The congregation is often told to not mention what is happening or that has happened, in order to "keep the favor of God" upon the lives of the individual members. In other words, "dumb down, don't rock the boat and pray!" the demand for accountability is deemed as being "in the flesh" by many of the die-hard faithful.
Even though, there are some things that a healthy congregation should and can do along with a rightly intended leader to make sure that things are conducted in a godly and biblically centered manner if something like this should happen. Baylor released a sample code of actions that a healthy congregation can take to avoid these sort of situations:
1. Educate members on the role of sexuality and power in relationships, studying religious texts and principles that relate to our sexuality and handling the power we have (whether as parents, teachers, employers, supervisors, and leaders) and how a community is responsible for its members who are vulnerable to the misuse of power.All Shapes & Genders
2. Educate members about the "normalcy bias" and the "norm of niceness," and the kinds of situations in which we have experienced these disincentives to act, and appropriate responses.
3. Adopt written codes of ethics and clear role expectations for leaders. Those expectations should include proscribing congregational leaders from serving in the dual role of professional counselor or therapist.
4. Conduct thorough reference checks on potential leaders, including persons in previous congregations not selected as references by the leader.
5. Provide accountability structures with regular reporting expectations.
Although this is a new area of study and one that has had very little by way of empirical verification, it should be known that there is enough data to suggest that sin and impropriety doesn't discriminate by gender lines. Before one gets too comfortable it should be known that too many women who have been hurt by sexually aggressive male pastors, sometimes seek out solace in congregations lead by women. In general it is thought that women clergy will be more sexually pure and or faithful than most men. This can be and often is a deceitful stereotype. There are a growing number of women clergy who are not only covert lesbians, but who are also sexual predators and "alpha motherly" figures that target the women of their congregations. There is no benefits to leadership gender identity when money, popularity, fame and attention are the spoils of labor.
According to the book, 'Wolves Within The Fold, Religious leadership and abuses of power' by Anson D. Shupe, it is common that the victims of this type of abuse and misconduct faces serious health and mental challenges and most times a sexual identity crisis that sometimes lasts a lifetime and together creates a lifetime of pain. This is regardless of whether the actions were perpetrated by male or female clergy.
Clergy Sexual Abuse vs. Clergy Sexual Misconduct
Is there a difference between CSA and CSM?
Technically, yes there is, however the results are dramatically similar if not the same. As described above as "spiritual rape" an individual the victim of sexual abuse, often finds themselves powerless to do anything to respond to, stop, or free themselves of the abuse. A victim of CSM often feels the same and ends up in the same condition or situation with an equally great level of shame and guilt because of actions that are initially perceived as having been within the individuals control to prevent and or stop. In my opinion, this is the distinguishing factor.
The misconception of those on the outside is that the victim of CSM invites or wants a sexual relationship when in all actuality quite the contrary is true. Sometimes all that is really desired is attention. What is also most times not true is that the victim of CSM was in control of the situation at any point. None of this is to hold the responsible person harmless, however it is to point out that often times there is a total relinquishment of the individual self within these sort of situations. In many cases there is a seduction of the mind away from family friends, children, and spouses that occurs making the victim extend themselves out upon fantasy and unrealistic promises.
In many cases it can begin as innocently as driving someone's car, picking up someone's clothes, or doing some other personal or special task for the "man-d of God". As stated the results of shame, guilt, depression, feelings of being used, suicide and suicidal feelings are all too often the same in victims of both CSM and CSA. These feelings and real life situations cannot be minimized by caring and concerned individuals.
Be it known that there is a small number of cases where the victim is the aggressor. There are women (and some men) who prey on the "preacha" in an effort to destroy his character and integrity, this article DOES NOT reference those situations or focus on those situations other than by encouraging those women (and men) to, repent, get saved and seek the Lord while he may be found of you.
There are devastating effects of CSM. The financial fallout is only one aspect of the pain that this brings. Dollars can be lost and earned again, but the psychological effects that the victim experiences may never be overcome. Not to mention the spiritual fallout that occurs as a result of this type of behavior. Some individuals are yet further solidified in their disassociation from God and the church because of this. In all, there are more reasons than a few for the defiled aggressors of this sort of ungodliness to cleanse their hearts, hands, and deeds and for the undefiled to remain undefiled in the way.
To those who have been victims, caught in an illicit relationship, blinded by promises, position and all the deceit that was thrown at your abilities to rightly reason, there is yet healing at the cross of Christ and HE will never abuse you and in the midst of this has never walked away or forsaken HIS commitment. The church must be use the healing salve of Christ and be there for the victims of this sort of abuse and misuse, and leadership must insure sound systems of accountability so that these things don't occur and so that the chances of this happening is severely reduced if not eliminated. God's house should be a place of healing and not a place of abuse and or misconduct!
1 Thess. 4:10-7 ~ "1-Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more. 2-For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3-For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4-That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5-Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6-That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7-For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."