Preventing Abuse and Violence by Members
in Religious Communities
Prevention and Planning
Keeping children and vulnerable persons safe from sexual violence and abuse is a critical part of being a safe religious community. Churches, synagogues and mosques need to have policies and practices that universally prevent sexual abuse. They also need to have plans and procedures when there is a known potential threat, such as when a registered sex offender wants to participate in the life of the religious community. Both universal prevention practices and known threat situations require vigilance, training of leaders and members, and occasional consultation so that these communities can remain safe places where each person is respected and has a meaningful role in the community.
Occasionally, despite our best intentions and plans, there is sexual abuse and violence between members. When that happens, the victims, their families and religious community are traumatized. Perpetrators are removed and often abandoned by the previously caring community. Professional clergy and lay leaders are critical in helping a community to understand, recover and heal from this kind of trauma. Consultation with experienced professionals can help religious communities heal and recover.
Clergy Sexual Abuse and Misconduct
Unfortunately, every religious tradition has had individual clergy who have abused their role and power as a respected leader to inflict sexual violence and abuse on children and adults. Many times these abuses occur in a culture of secrecy and coercion, either at the individual congregation level or at a systemic level of the denomination. Sexual violence by a religious leader causes some of the worst emotional and spiritual harm with long-lasting consequences.
Prevention through Formation and Training
Our religious communities are safer when there is strong formation and training of their leaders in ethics, professional boundaries, sexual identity, sexual development, sexual addictions, and personal and professional vulnerabilities. In addition, denominational structures such as dioceses, districts, stakes, synagogues, and mosques are critical in creating structures and accountability for professional conduct that is free of sexual violence and abuse.
Trauma Recovery after Clergy Abuse
After a traumatic experience, congregations, like any group of people, have a trauma response and a potential recovery process. The recovery process is even more intense and difficult when there has been sexual abuse by clergy. However, healing is possible when a congregation has the resources and support it needs for a thoughtful and planned recovery. Eventually the victims, their families, and congregational members can find a new place of safety and comfort in their religious community. Discrete consultation and therapy can provide the setting, resources and support for recovery.
Services in Safe Church Consultation:
Sexual Abuse and Violence
Substance Abuse and Addictions
Professional Roles and Boundaries
Sexuality and Power
Safe Church Consultation