Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

Posts tagged ‘Baylor clergy sexual misconduct study’

Baylor Releases Study on Church Response to CSA/CSM

I am pleased to share a new online resource from Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. In a follow-up to the school’s landmark 2009 study of clergy sexual misconduct, Baylor surveyed and/or interviewed 280 survivors in 2015 to learn more about how churches respond to complaints of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. The research team, led by Dr. David Pooler, found that only 8% of survivors felt supported by their church after the abuse occurred, only 9% found their church process helpful, and only 7% of churches had policies in place to support complainants. Eighty percent of surveyed survivors agree that the abuse harmed their spiritual life. On the bright side, while only 35% of survivors say they have recovered, 78% feel that they are on the path to recovery. You can dig into those statistics here

You can also find:
* A Best Practice Guide for church response, based on interviews with survivors
* A short article explaining why clergy shouldn’t try to counsel their congregants
* A summary of the 2009 Baylor study of clergy sexual misconduct by the late Diana Garland: how prevalent it is, how it happens, and how churches can prevent it.
… and much more, by exploring Baylor’s home page for clergy sexual abuse research.

Please share widely. 

Working With the Law: Making CSA Illegal

A few months ago, I was talking with my dad about my work on this issue. I told him that in many states, pastors can go to prison if they have sexual contact with a congregant. I could see the skeptical look on his face.

“You seem surprised, Dad,” I said. “Why?”

My dad asked, “Why is it the state’s business who a priest has sex with?” In other words: what’s wrong with a little canoodling between consenting adults?

The problem, of course, is “consent.” It’s hard to say “no” to someone more powerful than yourself. And if you can’t say “no,” your “yes” has no meaning, especially when the “yes” is won by emotional manipulation and deceit. My former pastor gained my trust, and eventually my romantic feelings, by feigning interest in my soul. If he had been open about his lust from the beginning, I never would have given him the time of day. But by the time he spoke, I was completely dependent on his pastoral care. It took me nine days to get the clarity of mind to say, “No.” That one word took all my strength, and ultimately I couldn’t make it stick.

I didn’t share all this with my dad; I just said that the power differential made meaningful consent impossible. Aha! I could see the light coming on. My dad said, “So it’s like when psychologists sleep with their patients!” Exactly right. The Hippocratic Oath prohibits sex with patients, and in all fifty states, a therapist can lose his or her license for being sexual with a patient. In many states, that therapist can end up in prison. And in 13 states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia, the fiduciary duty law applies to clergy who offend sexually within a pastoral counseling relationship. The National Organization for Women supports efforts for legal reform in all states.

I’m not a lawyer, so I was glad to find a paper explaining the legal issues on the resources page of the Baylor clergy sexual misconduct study. If you’re curious, you can dive into some of these links. Sexual Misconduct of Clergypersons with Congregants or Parishioners — Civil and Criminal Liabilities and Responsibilities (Helge and Toben) is not easy reading, but it offers a deeper understanding of state laws on clergy sexual misconduct. In 11 of the 13 states, CSM is illegal only when it arises from a formal therapeutic counseling relationship. Only Texas and Arkansas criminalize clergy/congregant sex per se. The Texas law, like an earlier Minnesota law, refers to “the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual advisor.” That clause in the Minnesota law was struck down on the basis of church/state entanglement, and the Texas law still faces challenges. In contrast, the Arkansas law never mentions religious practices; it only requires that the clergyman be “in a position of trust or authority over the victim,” using that trust or authority to engage in sexual activity. The Arkansas law has so far stood up to all challenges.

Even as you read these words, the advocacy team at Predatory Pastor is trying to get clergy added to Virginia’s Fiduciary Code and Criminal Statutes. Jim Wright makes a clear supporting argument on his Crossroads Junction blog. I hope you will join me in signing this petition.

And if you are a lawyer interested in getting something started in California, let’s talk.

 

 

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