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6% of Roman Catholic seminarians report sexual harassment

The Catholic Church has long been associated with sexual abuse scandals. However, the findings of a recent study of sexual misconduct in Roman Catholic seminaries show a different trend.

According to new research from the McGrath institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, six percent of Roman Catholic seminarians say they have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct at their institution.

A seminarian, for those who do not know, is a person who is studying to become a priest, minister, or something of the like. It is most commonly associated with the Roman Catholic faith.

The researchers describe their study as first-of-its-kind. They obtained the data by sending out a survey via email to 2,275 seminarians across the United States, from which they received 1,544 valid responses.

The study also found that:

  • 88 percent of seminarians say that they have not experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct
  • Four percent said that they may have experienced it but are not certain

Of the 10 percent of respondents who did report being mistreated:

  • 80 percent said that the perpetrator was a fellow student
  • 20 percent said it was an authority in the seminary, like an administrator or member of faculty
  • 16 percent said it was an authority figure in the church not directly affiliated with the seminary

While the results of this survey seem to be an improvement on the rampant reports of abuse in past years, this does not mean it is no longer an issue.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. This means that the majority go unreported. It is possible that there are more instances of sexual misconduct in seminaries that are simply not being reported.

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