Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

Is clergy sexual misconduct primarily about sex? No — it’s primarily about power. CSM happens when a pastor exploits his or her power over a congregant. But most Christian leaders focus on sex, and assign equal or greater blame to the victim. Take the parachurch ministry Focus on the Family. FOTF recently re-aired an interview between their president, Jim Daly, and “affair recovery and prevention expert” Dave Carder. (You can listen here and here.)

Dave begins with a lurid story of his respected senior pastor “running off” with a woman from his congregation. Shaken to the core by this betrayal, Carder ended up charting a new career. For the past 30 years he has tried to understand what causes marital infidelity.

Unfortunately, he makes no distinction between a genuine affair (marital infidelity involving two people of equal power) and the exploitation of a vulnerable congregant by a pastor. When Carder surveyed 4000 ministers, he found that 21% had been “sexually indiscreet.” What a euphemism! The words make a dangerous abuse of power seem like a parlor game.

Thankfully, FOTF has sharp listeners like Professor Geraldine Stowman of Minnesota State University Moorhead. After hearing these programs, Stowman composed an Open Letter to FOTF President Jim Daly. She has allowed me to share her letter here. She says, “I think he needs to hear from survivors,” and I agree. If you feel moved to contact President Daly, you can reach him at Ofcpres@fotf.org.

Here is Geraldine Stowman’s letter.

 An open letter to Jim Daly, President, Focus on the Family

If Focus on the Family were serious about helping clergy “guard against inappropriate intimacy,” you and your broadcast experts would stop putting pastors who make sexual contact with congregants in the same category as Christians who commit adultery with peers (FOTF broadcasts on April 14 and 15, 2015,  “Friendship or Flirtation? Danger Signs for Couples.”)

While Dr. Dave Carder’s advice about “Friendship or Flirtation” could be helpful in peer friendships, it is harmful and misleading to characterize pastoral sexual contact with congregants as “affairs,” as Dr. Carder did in his lead anecdote about his former senior pastor “who ran off with another woman in my church.” The same characterization occurred when you, Dr. Daly, linked the discussion of “affairs” to the 21 percent of clergy surveyed that admitted being “sexually indiscreet.”

In at least 13 states and the District of Columbia, it is a felony for clergy to have sexual contact with anyone to whom they are offering “comfort, aid or spiritual advice in private.” In some states, this does not have to be a “formal” counseling relationship, and consent is not a defense. Clergy who meet regularly with congregants — perhaps before church or after choir practice — to privately discuss emotional or personal concerns are bound by the same laws as psychotherapists.

Why are states moving to criminalize clergy sexual contact with adult congregants? Because churches (and mega-ministries) are not holding pastors responsible for the damage they inflict on people under their care. Clergy are “helping professionals” similar to doctors and therapists.  When they step out of their helping role to enter a sexual relationship with a congregant, they inflict psychological and spiritual harm, committing what Dr. Mark Laaser, a former clergy-offender, calls “authority rape.”

The harm to congregants can occur regardless of whether the pastor is a serial predator or a first-time offender who was “blindsided” by his attraction to someone under his care. Properly trained clergy know that emotions — positive and negative — often emerge in counseling relationships, and they have procedures in place to help them debrief. If they have not been trained to deal with those emotions, they should not be offering “comfort, aid or spiritual advice in private.” And if they’re one of the 37 percent of clergy surveyed by “Christianity Today” who describe Internet pornography as a “current struggle,” they should not offer private counsel to anyone.

 As Christians, we have a biblical mandate to honor our elders, especially those who are preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). That mandate also heightens the influence preachers have over their congregations. Clergy must recognize that the honor bestowed on their role can push congregants to do things they would not otherwise do. Sadly, pastors who abandon their roles as spiritual leaders to have sexual contact with congregants are not just abusing the congregant. They are abusing Jesus Christ, his church, and every individual who has looked to him or her as a spiritual leader.

Scripture charges us to hold our teachers more accountable (James 3:1) and to publicly reprove them as a warning to others (1 Timothy 5:20). If a pastor sexually abuses a minor, does the church reprove him by saying he had “an affair”? If an elder rapes his daughter, does the church ask him to step down for “adultery”?

If Focus on the Family, Dr. Carder, and you are serious about wanting to save clergy from being “blindsided” by moral failure, you need to stop labeling these betrayals as “affairs.” Clergy have instant, intimate access to people in their congregations, particularly those going through crises, and they have a sacred duty to protect that trust—always!

After Dr. Diana Garland, Dean of Social Work at Baylor University, finished her national survey on clergy sexual misconduct in 2009, an interviewer from National Public Radio asked her, “What would stop this?”

Garland answered, “Education is the way, and I think this begins with (all) of us, to start using language that describes what’s happened. When a religious leader has a sexual relationship with a congregant, it’s not an affair. It’s abuse of power, power that we have all given a leader as a community. So changing our language would be an important way for us to begin to have these conversations, then, about how we can protect both our leaders and our congregants.”

Sincerely,
Geraldine Stowman, Adjunct Faculty
School of Communication and Journalism
Minnesota State University Moorhead
Moorhead, MN

Comments on: "“Affair”? “Adultery”? No! When Pastors Do It, It’s ABUSE." (17)

  1. I’d love to know if Dave Carder or anyone from Focus on the Family has ever sat down and talked with a survivor. Everyone seems so interested in what lures the pastor into an ‘affair’ or ‘adultery’. (He does it because he can!) Do they even consider the victim? Does the ‘blindsided’ or ‘infatuation’ defense cover the victim as well as the pastor? In my experience the victim is blamed and thrown away. What if they looked at the emotional suffering of the women who are violated. Perhaps if they truly understood how horribly damaging this behavior is, they would be more willing to call it what it is.
    As my husband and I were about to finally call it quits at the church, after multiple attempts to work through my abuser’s misconduct, my abuser had the nerve to apologize to me for calling his wife beautiful in his sermon the Sunday before, saying, ‘I didn’t want you to feel I was rubbing it in.’ Does that sound like someone who understood or even cared about what he’d done? There is no excuse for this misconduct, so in my mind, Carder’s time would be better spent understanding and doing something about the pain caused by pastoral misconduct and holding pastor’s accountable, which in turn will hopefully lead to stopping this tragic crap. Sorry for the rant, it’s just so maddening that there is so much more concern for the fallen pastor than for the victims he leaves in his wake.

    • Anonymous said:

      Julie, so sorry for your pain. So-called ‘c’hurches like this also victimize many women with the “boys will be boys” tag. My faith in Christ never wavered but I presently do not have a church family b/c I don’t feel safe. I’m sickened by some of the sexual jokes and there are many ‘wandering eyes’. How can I focus on Christ as I attempt to avoid certain men? Because my husband had his own sexual issues, he refused to protect me or our daughters.:-( What is so sad is many of these wives are willing to put up with their husband’s antics; some are sexually depraved, too, however many believe that they just want to keep the ‘c’hurch doors open, regardless of sin!

      • Oh yes, I know that ‘boys will be boys’ mentality well. While I am still angry, I don’t hurt quite as bad as I did. Please don’t give up on finding a church family. I understand how hard it is to trust anyone, even myself. I went on a mission trip last spring with members of the church we have now joined. My husband didn’t go, and I was really afraid of talking or befriending men on the trip. A really nice couple allowed me to stick closely with them, and as I got to know the men on the trip, I began to feel safer. Not one ever encroached on my boundaries but as I would wander around South Africa amazed at the sights and sounds, there was always one of our male team members watching after my safety from a distance! I began to see how truly righteous men behave. We joined the church since that trip, and are very happy. I don’t feel safe enough to share my experience but I do feel more comfortable as we build new relationships!

  2. I am so sorry that you have experienced this, Julie and Anonymous. I’ve learned a lot about how such men think. I was married to one, yes, a “pastor.” I knew he was very difficult to live with, and abusive to me and to the children in a thousand subtle ways. It just slowly got worse over time…and I was so beaten down I wanted to die. People may judge me for staying as long as I did, but the circumstances were complex, and the only way to keep my children safe was actually to live in that prison until everyone could escape. He threatened to take the children if I left him and I knew he could get away with it. I tried to absorb all the maltreatment, and I thought the only one he was abusing was me. I didn’t realize what a terrible model of marriage I was permitting my children to see, nor did I know what he did to them when I wasn’t there. They were too afraid to tell me the full story.

    When I discovered that he was sexually abusing his congregants,my first thought was not that he was committing adultery; it was that he was unworthy of the ministry. I saw it all so clearly at that moment; nothing was worth living with such a monster. I could see his abuse of me, our daughters, and all the women and girls he mistreated as variations on the same theme. None of us were human beings in our own right; none of us were children of God. We were all just objects to be ranked in terms of our bodies and how much control he had over us. It was about power and his greatest weapon was his role as pastor. The therapists say my children and I are like people who have escaped a cult.

    He never hit us, of course; it was all about words. He targeted whatever areas were most vulnerable in each of us. For me, it was financial control, isolation from friends and family, disgusting sexual demands (to which at first, I agreed, until they became too perverted) and spiritual abuse. He had theological reasons to support his maltreatment of all of us; my tears were met with the pronouncement that God did not care about my “petty little problems.” My older daughter was exposed to inappropriate sexual behavior and mental cruelty, but never when I was at home. She was threatened not to tell me or told there would be hell to pay. The younger daughter was told she was too fat to be his daughter, and would not be allowed to attend college unless she lost weight; she needed to become like someone he would date if they weren’t related. It’s hard to describe, but these were very confusing, mixed messages…She has been hospitalized twice with ideas of committing suicide. All three of us struggled with depression.

    I relate this horrible story to reveal the hidden side of the pastors who abuse their congregants. This is the nature of the pastor who sexually mistreats his congregants. Demeaning his wife and daughters was simply not enough; I know that at least one of his victims was a woman he targeted because she was struggling with a difficult marriage. He seduced her under the guise of helping her see how beautiful she really was.

    Now, though, several years later and away from our pastor-abuser, we are all thriving. I have found a safe church home full of respectful men and women. This church has been a place of almost miraculous healing for me, but it did take me several years to be comfortable with any of the men in this congregation. My children and I have a close and loving family, and we have moved past this, for the most part. My oldest daughter is happily married and loves her work. She can never belong to a church though, and I don’t think God blames her after everything she endured. The younger daughter is in college, spending time with friends and working part time and is okay with church. My son has begun to understand what happened to us all and is coming to terms with this, not confusing his own identity with that of his father. The therapists all think that our abuser has a personality disorder (like a sociopath), a disorder he works very hard to hide. The disguise of pastor was incredibly effective. That disguise has been taken away, though: he is no longer allowed to function as a minister.

    So there is healing, but it takes time. Some of the scars may never go away. I take comfort in a God who understands what it is to be abused, shamed, stripped naked for all to see. Yes, that was part of crucifixion, which we do not portray in our art work. Jesus even understands sexual abuse and humiliation. I also take comfort in knowing that He could live again, even with those scars. It may be that churches are too scary, but Jesus named himself as God’s temple, not a building. God is everywhere. He will be with you and will understand your fears. Your wounded sisters are with you in spirit. We understand. We can all help stop this kind of abuse by calling it what it really is and by embracing those who have been wounded.

    • Anonymous said:

      Amy, What a beautiful tribute to the loving Saviour. I grieve for you and the children; at the years of anguish under the guise of Christianity. I was so naïve when saved in my early 20’s. I just assumed Christians were loving and kind, etc … so, when certain colours showed within the church community I was confused because it just did not line up the Word that I was devouring. I was so hungry to know the truth of God’s Word.
      Amy – thank you for words of comfort and exhortation. I am still within the bonds of an apathetic abuser – the end is in site. But I’m very weary and worn. Truly this is God’s battle as I am weak but He is strong. Praying that my testimony will be used to awaken the few professing Christians who listen to me; warning them of the wolves within the ‘c’hurches.

  3. It fills me with joy to see survivors supporting and encouraging each other. I’m grateful to all of you for sharing your stories with such courage, and for standing by one another with such love and grace.

  4. Amy I want to first apologize to you. I’m so sorry for what you have gone through as an abusive pastor’s wife, but I apologize because even as a survivor at the hands of an abusive pastor, my vision was so narrow that I counted wives as the enemy, not victims. I am so, so sorry for what you and your children suffered and am so thankful that you are all now able to heal.
    My abuser was submissive to his wife and children. He never spoke in anger about it, instead he would related things she said and did to gain sympathy from me. It worked, as I’m a fixer and enjoyed being needed for the support I thought he wasn’t getting at home.
    Our stories are all so different because these men are master manipulators. But I don’t really care why they do it. I don’t want to see a bunch of research being done to explain away their bad behavior. If we focus on the psychology behind it, we’re are just trying to explain away the behavior. No excuses. They do it because they can. Period. Now, let’s focus on putting policies and laws in place to protect and standard punishment when we fail to protect.
    But congregations do fail. They fail the families of these predators and they fail the victims. My mom, who doesn’t know what I went through, told me about a situation at her church where the pastor had been caught visiting a single mom from the church a bit too often. She immediately assumed the problem was the single mom. I don’t really want to tell my 87 year old mom the horror I lived, so I looked at her and said, ‘please don’t ever assume that a person is innocent because they are a pastor.’

    • Anonymous said:

      Julie – Thank you so much for sharing. -The fact that the abuser does it because they can. – In my small community it is the elders who have the control so even if the pastor(s) ‘see’ the sin, nothing is said because they would soon find themselves searching for another pastorate. Even though the Word warns of such evil it is still difficult to cope with.
      Yes, and congregations fail the victims because once again they will do whatever it takes to “keep the church doors open.”

      Catherine – Thank you for your bravery in exposing the truth and being an encourager to many.

  5. Thank you for sharing your stories and your encouragement. Please take a few moments to email Jim Daly, noting how euphemisms like “affair” obscure what clergy sexual misconduct does to survivors. In every criminal case I’m aware of, defense counsel for clergy repeatedly use words like “affair” to describe criminally abusive behaviors – even when the victims are minors!

    Also, have any of you reached out to Focus on the Family for help? If so, what were you told?

    Geraldine Stowman (gerri.stowman@mnstate.edu)

  6. I lost focus on my family during my abuse. My marriage survived but our two youngest children fell away from the church after we revealed what had happened to cause us to leave the church. The youngest I believe just simply due to laziness, but our daughter states she is a non-believer, which weighs on me daily. I developed lupus – stress related – from this abuse. They daily fatigue and joint pain are a constant reminder of that abuse. It took me 2 1/2 years to stop blaming myself and 3 1/2 years to finally join another church. While I am so thankful there are woman out there fighting to bring this issue to light and research being done to find solutions, I can say without hesitation that I will never again rely on the church or a pastor for counsel or turn to Focus on the Family for help.

    • Julie, was it the passing of time that enabled you to eventually stop blaming yourself? I hear and share the pain that you feel. It is vital that women survivors connect and unite to fight this hellish abuse.

  7. Before I would stop blaming myself I had to replay the whole thing over and over again and write it out focusing on each emotion. I soon began to see that my actions were actually reactions to my abusers conduct.
    Now, I learned a lot about myself in the process, and know I am not faultless. We have to do this to understand how to protect ourselves from other abusers we might come in contact with. For whatever psychological reason, I need male approval. I didn’t understand that until I was completely captured up by this pastor who enjoys female attention, He manipulated me into an emotional web so tight it almost killed me. My abuser allowed boundaries to be broken. He was my pastor/counselor who encouraged a friendship between my husband and I and he and his wife. We then began connecting through text, email, Facebook and occasional lunches. There were hugs, long glances and soft whispers in my ear during church or bible study, stupid little hings that could have been said out loud were whispered in close contact to build intimacy. He would say things to me about his wife, looking for a reaction, ‘can you believe she said that?’ kind of thing. I felt a sense of approval from him, I felt needed by him. I became too attached to him. And the story goes on…
    What I guess I want to pass on is this. No we are not to blame for what these abusive manipulators do to us, period! We do need to learn from it. We have to look into that darkness and see where our weaknesses are so we can build defenses that won’t allow us to repeat the cycle. The trick is learning to balance those defenses so we don’t cut ourselves off from others completely. I’m still working on that.
    I find safety here, sharing with other survivors. But I’m not strong enough yet to share with anyone other than my husband and best friend. Don’t know that sharing in a pastor/counselor/church setting will ever happen. But I’m not doubting God’s ability to change that at some point in the future. He has worked miracles inside me over that last 4 years for sure.

    • Julie, I understand the feeling of safety of sharing our stories with other survivors. I think that as much as we read, learn and understand that we were not to blame; we fear rejection and the condemnation of others. There are so many people who are ignorant of this type of abuse. Churches are far more educated and responsive to the abuse of children and ‘adults at risk’. I’d say that any adult/woman, within the sight of a predatory pastor, is a an ‘adult at risk’. There are so many common themes with survivor’s stories. My abuser was/is very needy of female attention. He is not someone who ‘stumbles’ across his boundaries, rather he seeks, targets and marches towards his victims and rips his boundary to pieces. The thing is, these men get access to women because of their position. Most women do not open up to or bare their soul to any man; we think men of God are ‘safe’. How wrong that thinking can be. These men put a plan in place and the abuse is subtle and methodical. They actively encourage our dependence. Their behaviour is sick and exploitative! I cannot excuse their actions and think of them as ‘troubled’. Their behaviour is insidious and evil. Period! The manipulation is powerful and the web is tight. Without doubt, it almost kills us. Without the connection to other survivors, I would have seriously struggled to get past the suffocating self-blame. Thank you for sharing and thank you to Catherine for her blog and to all who have the courage to write and share. We need to keep each other strong.

  8. This is complicated issue but there are many things to consider in this. First of, as someone who truly HAS had an affair (before I became a believer) I have a lot of problems with the idea that a grown woman can almost ‘get off easily’ simply because the man she was with was a pastor. In fact this infuriates me! Unless the man has forced himself on her, I do not believe it is sexual assault. I am a rape survivor, and perhaps this has influenced my opinions on this, but because I have also been in the situation where I was manipulated into first having an emotional affair, I feel I have a bit of experience in this area. This man was older than myself, and without getting into too much detail I felt I had a lot to lose if I didn’t go along with his feelings. He was also controlling, and it was easier to go along with things especially since I was also lying to my husband at the same time. Let me be clear though….I had the power to stop it. At ANY TIME. I had the power to tell someone. And I made the choice to allow it to go from an emotional to a physical affair. That was my choice because I’m a grown woman and I knew perfectly well what I was doing. Would I have had any less control had this man been a pastor of my church today? I don’t believe so. And I’ll tell you why I believe this.

    We’ve just gone through something like this in my church. It was discovered that a staff member had been having an affair with one of the pastors. Notice I use the term ‘affair’ and not clergy sexual abuse. Do you know why? Because I was an incredibly close friend of the staff member and had known for a few months that she was engaging in an affair….she just wouldn’t tell me with whom it was. She loved this man, is what she told me….she was in love with him, and she was planning to leave her husband and children for this man. Having been through my affair a couple of years prior, I did everything I could to try and discourage her from this. They wound up getting caught, and thus began an incredibly tedious and stressful time. She confessed and repented and asked the elders for forgiveness. The pastor lied and covered his tracks as best as he could. She was treated differently by the denomination right from the start, and that was incredibly unfair. Fast forward a couple of months, someone close to her told her about the term clergy sexual misconduct and what it is. No one is denying that he behaved completely inappropriately. They were both suspended. But in the year now since this all came out, my friend has gone from admitting she made a mistake to now telling anyone who will listen that she was a victim, and that she didn’t do anything wrong. This is NOT helping her. This helps her family, certainly, to feel better about what happened. But this is not helping her or her husband or her family. Denying her part in this does not help her to heal. Blaming everything on the pastor, her colleague, is not right. It’s been incredibly difficult to watch her on this journey and see her more healed, and more repentant early on than she is now.

    So no, sometimes it isn’t an affair….but sometimes it IS.

    • Nicole, thank you for this thoughtful reflection. I can only begin to imagine how painful this experience must have been for you. In your shoes I might have felt trapped and terrified. A powerful and controlling older man seems to have targeted you as a sexual conquest. He used his charm and skill to manipulate your feelings. You believe you consented to sex. May I respectfully invite you to be more gentle in judging yourself and your friend. From what you are saying, I don’t believe either of you was in a position to give meaningful consent. In her book Is Nothing Sacred, Marie Fortune writes, “Consent to sexual activity, in order to be authentic, must take place in a context of mutuality, choice, full knowledge, and equal power, and in the absence of coercion and fear. When there is an imbalance of power in a relationship, these necessary factors will not be present.”

      Your older mentor’s power made it hard for you to say “No” to him. Your pastor’s power (both spiritual and professional power) made it hard for your friend to say “No.” When we can’t freely say “No,” neither can we freely say “Yes.”

      I’m grateful that you shared. Both stories are so terribly painful. God bless you and your friend as you heal.

  9. A pastor is someone we trust. We open up to them about things we would not normally tell anyone else because we feel it’s safe. A pastor is often called upon to listen and give spiritual counsel, which most Godly pastors do with great care. But there are some who seek out vulnerabilities and take advantage. For example, let’s say a woman talks with her pastor about the lack of time her family has together because of her husbands busy schedule. The pastor begins to slowly insert himself into her life, giving her the attention he knows she needs, perhaps even revealing his own marital issues. Nobody questions his attention to her because he is the pastor. She feels special to him and enjoys the attention he shows her. Pretty soon she is so attached to the warm feelings he gives her, she will do anything to hold on to him. Their relationship is now an emotional one that may or may not move on to the physical. But as a pastor/counselor, he has the responsibility, just like a doctor or professional counselor, to protect the boundaries of their relationship. Instead, he uses his power to influence an improper one. That is pastoral misconduct at least, perhaps clergy sexual abuse.

    I was raised to and became a very independent woman, and I never would have believed that I would allow myself to be caught up in an abusive trap. My abuse was emotional and spiritual. I realized the attachment that had formed and I confronted the issue with the pastor and my husband. Things got really ugly and I was filled with grief, guilt, shame, anger, hurt…the list goes on. I took responsibility for my mistakes, and learned how to protect my own boundaries, learned to rely only on my husband for emotional support, but I know first hand how easy it is be lulled into this emotional nightmare.

    Your friend did perhaps feel ‘in love’ with this man. Maybe he provided all of what was lacking in her marriage. Maybe he reciprocated the feelings, or maybe he was just giving his ego a boost. The fact that he is denying his part makes me sick. You’re caught, give it up. He is no doubt throwing your friend under the bus to protect his career. HE, as her pastor, mentor or boss had the responsibility of setting and maintaining proper boundaries.

    Let me just add this, no woman, man or child who has suffered abuse of any type at the hands of their pastor, gets off ‘easy’. The scars of guilt, fear, self-doubt, and distrust are deep and take years to heal.

  10. Nicole, you have suffered a lot. It is so painful to watch someone you care about go down a destructive path. I would only say that each of us has a very real understanding of what we, individually, have experienced.

    I write as the ex-wife of a clergyman who abused women and girls in our own church. I was blind to that because I was overwhelmed with the abuse (emotional, verbal, financial, sexual and spiritual-he just never hit me) he dealt to me and toward our children (all but the physical and sexual-although he pushed some boundaries that might have been grooming). Like any abusive relationship, it was about control. It was my discovery of his abuse to the women and girls of our church that gave me the strength to leave him and a year later, the strength to report him to church authorities and the police. I also write as the mother of a victim of attempted date rape.

    We are all affected by this experience. For me, it was a form of PTSD. It took a long time before I could close my eyes in prayer if ANY men were in the room, even in the large, public sanctuary. Anything could trigger a flashback, because my ex-husband used his knowledge and authority as a pastor to justify EVERYTHING he did with Bible verses and theology. Neither of my two daughters will attend church; the idea of God as Father makes their skin crawl. The younger daughter, who also experienced a date rape attempt, is the more traumatized. At the time, I mistakenly told her I was relieved that he did not “complete” the physical act. She looked at me, incredulous. “Why? It was just as terrifying.” She has been suicidal, hospitalized twice. Nowadays, she is desperate to find a man who will love her. Consequently, she sleeps with a man if he is “nice to her.” (Her words).

    It was his position of authority: husband, father, and minister; his self-proclaimed status of god in our lives; and the absolute betrayal of trust that has wrought so much damage.

    All abuse inflicts harm on the spirit or soul of a person; he only way to heal from ANY kind of abuse means healing from the spiritual injury. CSA damages the essential core needed to recover. This is why, of all forms of abuse, CSA is one of the most heinous. The perpetrator knows his victim intimately and uses that knowledge against the victim at her most vulnerable point.

    It is true, that sometimes pastors and parishioners have an affair. A one time mistake requires a certain kind of response. What is more concerning is the predatory pastor for whom this is a pattern. This requires a different kind of response for the victim (counseling) and perpetrator (counseling AND consequences for his abuse).

    In terms of rape, as horrible as it is for even one person, there is the terrible one time event, which requires a certain kind of response for victim (counseling) and perpetrator (counseling AND consequences for his crime). I don’t want to get off point here, but we know how frequently the victim is shamed, blamed, or will not report because she fears she will be held responsible for going to a party and having one too many drinks. Further along the continuum, there is the serial rapist. It is about power, not sex. Farthest along the continuum would be marital rape, or demanding that a spouse become a sex-worker, all the while using manipulation of her vulnerabilities (threatening to rape her children?) to force her into degrading sexual activities.

    The pastor who repeatedly uses his religious and spiritual authority and power to seek out the vulnerable, lure them into what appears to be an appropriate friendship, and then traps them in one small misstep is more akin to the last described marital rapist. He uses the victim’s guilt to isolate her from any help. That is what all abusers do.

    The final thing I would add is that the effect of any abuse depends on the vulnerability of the victim. If my ex-husband had grabbed my arms and shaken me in anger, I might have had a few bruises on my arms. If anyone grabs an infant and shakes him that way, the result is “shaken baby syndrome.” The same action causes bleeding in the brain, brain swelling, bleeding in the retinas, severe brain damage, and often death. I see one of these children at least twice a month, in my work as a pediatric intensive care nurse.

    There is a whole range here: from a one-time mistake to a destructive pattern, and in the victim, from almost equal (NEVER truly equal) decision-making with a small imbalance of power, to a complete vulnerability. I think we have to be careful about taking our individual experiences and applying them to all situations. Even if we think we know “the whole story,” only God knows the whole. We see only in part, even about ourselves, “as through a mirror dimly.”

    The problem is, that the more devout a person is, the more open and vulnerable she seeks to be to God, and the more she trusts the pastor who is supposed to bring her closer to God. This is the true evil of CSA.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: