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Clergy Sexual Abuse – Overview

por Barb Colechin (2019-07-31)


PSM_V78_D326_Ptolemy.pngPriest Sexual Abuse encompasses a range of illegal and improper actions often perpetrated on kids and teens by pedophilic priests or other church employees involving sexual abuse of varying amounts. The abuse might be a single, non-consensual scroll barevent or it can involve several acts inside an ongoing interaction. For instance, an ongoing "trusting" relationship with a child spawned by the predatory intent of a clergy member, blanketed by the trust and reverence provided to a member of the clergy, leading to non-consensual sexual abuse acts of molestation.

In all claimed Priest or Clergy Sexual Abuse scenarios, the short-coming by the Clergy member’s superior to completely, adequately and immediately disclose the crime to police and other authorities, or its further failure to research, cope with and resolve fully with the occurrence increases the effects on the abuse survivor, the community and potentially others. Recent Priest Sexual Abuse cases reported in the media show these short-comings, which includes "pass-the-trash" scenarios when the abuser frequently a clergy in the Catholic Church, is suddenly moved from one church to another merely to continue his predatory, criminal action on an unaware parish community.

Priest and Clergy Sexual Assault and Retribution
Not a week passes without a news headline coverage about sexual assault and molestation of young children by predator priests, or the aftermath of the abuse on the victims and their families. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse from a priest or other church member, these articles are most likely to act as an echo chamber, replaying the horror, embarrassment, guilt and various unwanted feelings hurting your wellness. Encouraged by the social movement and other pathways that encourage victims to disclose the abuse they experienced, survivors of abuse are more frequently turning to the legal system to compensate them for the life-long damage and injury they have suffered.

If you are a survivor of assault perpetrated by a priest, the impact of the abuse on your life and core belief system may be incalculable. Regardless, holding the responsible priest and institutions to blame for their crimes and failures can offer an amount of justice and recompense to abuse victims. Commonly, survivors can leverage their legal rights in confidential mediation thereby avoiding the need for litigation. But, if litigation is required, a case can be filed where the plaintiff can remain anonymous.

Abusive Behavior
All predators, to varying amounts, employ predatory tricks which are generally referred to as grooming, focusing on a potential assault victim. Below is a survey of grooming behaviors exhibited by predators who are in a job of authority in relation to the subordinate child.

Grooming
Grooming is a significant piece of a predator’s strategy. In a church setting, the clergy member is revered as God’s representative. In this environment, the predator often works closely with small numbers of children, understanding each child’s needs, vulnerabilities and circumstances. Once a target is located, these vulnerabilities – like violent family setting, loneliness, low self-esteem, emotional neediness, attention-seeking – might be systematically leveraged in the following ways:

Trust
An assaulter will first work to get the child’s trust. This step is most difficult to notice as church communities are often tight-knit and personal interaction with clergy is commonplace. Here, the assaulter can pretend sincere concern in the child’s wellbeing and development – both emotional and religious.

Reliance
As a predator creates a trusting relationship with the potential target and oftentimes their family members, the child will begin to rely more and more on the predator for any need it is that the priest is exploiting and fulfilling. The child will devote more time with the priest, feeling more and more comfortable with the relationship and counting on its stability and security. In addition to attention and affection, the possible victim might receive presents from the priest, including valuable, intangible gifts such as blessings and special recognition.
Isolation
As the grooming continues, the predator may try to isolate the possible victim. This could result in individual counseling meetings, meals or various methods of one-on-one isolated moments.
Sexualization
The predator might begin to de-sensitize the target from reacting negatively to touching, caressing and various behaviors that lead to sexual interaction. This may start with crossing the physical-touch barrier, or verbally, with suggestive messages to gauge the victim’s reaction to the progression. This will escalate until the relationship advances to one of a physical, sexual nature.
Maintenance
As the sexual relationship is created, the predator will work to maintain control over the child and the continuing interaction. The priest will likely want to manipulate the victim by continuing to make the victim feel special and worthy. The predator will keep exploiting the target by whatever methods needed to maintain the inappropriate physical relationship.

Impact on Clergy Abuse Survivors

The impact of childhood assault on the victim can be overwhelming and life-altering. Many priest abuse survivors suffer from long-term effects of the assault including depression, disturbed sleeping, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and eating patterns, and difficulty establishing and maintaining vibrant relationships. Individualized therapy and support groups can assist survivors overcome these effects.

Legally, a victim of Priest Sexual Assault can gain financial compensation from the abuser and, more frequently, from the church for its failure to protect the child from the assault, as well as failures or deficiencies in its process of reviewing and resolving to reports of assault. If you are a survivor of priest lawsuit or Clergy Sexual Abuse and would like to confidentially discuss your experience and your legal options, we are ready to speak with you.