Sexual Abuse In Religious Institutions
Child predators often use positions in religious institutions to psychologically and spiritually manipulate victims. Such positions of power allow predators unquestioned access to vulnerable children. Clergy sexual abuse cases are some of the most emotionally charged and sensitive, especially when the church turns its back on the victim, fails to accept accountability or shelters a serial child abuser, and leads to widespread sexual abuse.
Catholic Clergy Member Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse within faith-based communities has been happening for decades and as a society, we are finally shedding much-needed light onto this horrific epidemic. Arbitrary statute of limitations laws all over the country have kept many of these incidents out of the spotlight for years until recently. Brave survivors all over the country have come forward and participated in grand jury investigations and media reports that have led to the understanding of the massive scope of this abuse.
Because of this, there is finally broad exposure of how many faith-based institutions have gotten away with protecting predators and the knowledge that our laws have failed to protect children in negligent ways. One of the primary institutions that have failed to protect children and been exposed from the Diocese level all that way up to the Pope, is the Roman Catholic Church.
It is now widely known across the world that the Catholic Church has covered up thousands upon thousands of cases of child sexual abuse by priests and laymen. They put the church above the child in every instance and as a result put tens of thousands of children in the direct path of predators who then offended more children. They did so knowingly, recklessly, and consistently.
Other Religious Institutions Sexual Abuse
The Catholic Church is not the only one, it has been discovered in multiple sectors of religious institutions that this type of abuse and concealment has been the norm including in Southern Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, Amish, and Mormon communities and FDLS to name a few.
Violations that occur within faith-based communities add a complex layer of trauma to the survivors and their loved ones. In most instances, the clergy sexual abuse happened behind closed doors and often in various places of worship making attending service or any other activities very triggering for clergy abuse survivors.
A common tactic used by faith-based predators is a manipulation of the survivor’s faith to attempt to convince the child that what is happening isn’t wrong, or that it is God’s will, or showing God’s love. This manipulative tactic creates an additional layer of shame, confusion, and guilt in the child as it strikes at the core of their belief system and they never seek justice.
The long-term impact of Catholic clergy sexual abuse and Faith-Based sexual abuse on victims can be devastating, often causing lifelong trauma, psychological distress, and a range of physical and emotional health problems. The betrayal of trust and authority by those in positions of power within the Church can also have a profound impact on victims’ faith and spiritual beliefs.
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Sexual assault is often unreported or may be unreported for many years. Survivors may choose not to come forward for several reasons including fear of not being believed, fear of retaliation, or fear of being blamed. A clergy abuse survivor of a faith-based assault may not have recognized the behavior as abuse at the time due to their young age and often lack of sexual education and also may have been confused by their reverence for their faith-based perpetrator or God. The passage of time should not discredit victims. It is the norm.
Often when abuse is reported or brought to the attention of the leaders within that given faith-based entity, cover-ups have unfortunately been the normal response. Families will be shamed into silence and made to question their faith in leadership if they do not go along with whatever their leadership wants. In the past, the use of nondisclosure agreements was widespread to keep survivors and their families legally silent after clergy sexual abuse claims.
The threat of being ostracized within religious groups is an incredibly powerful weapon to wield against survivors and families as it shakes the very foundation of their lives in many instances. Faith-based leaders have become skilled at knowing how to respond to abuse by managing the survivors while protecting the offender and the institution.