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.

Trauma Recovery
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. 

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Services in Safe Church Consultation:

  • Consultation on Safe Church policies, practices and implementation
  • Training for leaders and congregations in Safe Church Practices and Sex Abuse Prevention
  • Trauma Response (Psychological First Aid) for congregations after trauma in the congregation
  • Trauma Response (Psychological First Aid) for congregations after Sexual Abuse by Clergy in the congregation
  • Consultation on the inclusion of persons with history of sexual abuse and violence
  • Pastor/Lay Leader Training and Continuing Education on:

                   Sexual Abuse and Violence
                   Suicide
                   Mental Illness
                   Domestic Violence
                   Substance Abuse and Addictions

  •  Training and Education for Leaders in Formation on:

                   Ethics
                   Professional Roles and Boundaries
                   Sexuality and Power
                   Sexual Addiction

Good Havens:

Safer Places

Safe Church Consultation