Sunday, January 24, 2010

When Faith Hurts

I stumbled onto this report about the effects of clergy sex abuse on the spirituality of children. It's written by Victor Vieth, who is the director of NDAA’s Child Abuse Programs (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse and National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University). The NDAA is the National District Attorney's Association.

Here is their website: National Child Protection Training Center.

This particular article is called 'When Faith Hurts: Overcoming Spirituality-Based Blocks and Problems Before, During, and After the Forensic Interview'.

A perfect article for police and social workers! Interesting reading, and advice, for the rest of us.

Article: When Faith Hurts.


“You can make sense of sexual abuse and no God, or God and no sexual abuse. But how do you tolerate the two realities together?”—Diane Langberg, PhD

Predators often 'bargain' with God:

When the perpetrator is a member of the clergy, the impact on the victim’s spirituality may be even more pronounced. Clergy abusers often use their religion to justify or excuse their sexual abuse of children. According to one study, clergy in treatment for sexually abusing children believed that God would particularly look after the children they had victimized and otherwise keep them from harm. Through their religious role, these offenders also engaged in “compensatory behavior” and believed that their good works in the community would result in God excusing their moral lapses with children.

This excerpt sounds very familiar:

Although survivors may shy away from involvement with religion, one study found that hard core offenders often maintain a significant involvement with religious institutions. Specifically, adult sexual offenders who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood “had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims.”

Spirituality: help or hindrance? If it happens early, perhaps they might turn from spirituality. If their parents defend them, and help their children come to some type of closure (note: 'get over it!' does not count as 'closure'), the greater the odds they'll retain their spirituality.


Victims of severe abuse may remain “stuck” in their spiritual development such as remaining angry with God. Children abused at younger ages are “less likely to turn to God and others for spiritual support.” Nonetheless, even victims describing a difficult relationship with God “still rely on their spirituality for healing.” Victims who experience “greater resolution” of their childhood abuse are able to “actively turn to their spirituality to cope…rather than attempt to cope on their own.”

Some perpetrators use backwards views about sex to further confuse a child about his sexuality:

A child growing up in a church teaching that homosexual conduct is sinful may be told by the perpetrator “you see how your pee-pee gets big when I touch it? You’re gay." The pastor will condemn you if you ever talk about it.”

Others just know how to get their victims to feel like it's their fault:

A child’s emotional reactions to maltreatment can also be manipulated. In one case, for example, a child recounted how she taught herself to initiate sexual contact with her father as a means of “getting it over with.” Manipulated by her father, the child came to believe that her initiation of sexual conduct was sinful and that, even worse, she was causing her father to sin.

What role have various churches played in helping the victims to heal?

Not much:

Many institutions of faith are more interested in addressing the spiritual needs of perpetrators than they are victims of abuse. If a popular member of a congregation is accused of molesting a child, it is predictable that many members of the congregation will support the alleged perpetrator. Even if a perpetrator confesses to the crime, many faith leaders will urge reconciliation between the perpetrator and the child. Indeed, many perpetrators count on the church’s support.

Here is what one child predator said about churches:

I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people…I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.

Remember where all this is coming from! Not from an Atheist group. Or a group known for criticizing religion. This is coming from the National District Attorney's Association. Prosecutors. Most fundamentalist preachers I have known, and heard, tended to be pro-prosecution. That is, until the tables get turned. Suddenly, we all hear about 'persecution' and how freedom is somehow at stake.

Yeah, I believe it is. If churches can't get some control over this situation, of course there will be legal ramifications that can affect your freedoms.

The main reason we have laws usually begins when people, businesses, or cherished institutions cannot control themselves and become a threat to the public at large. Either by stealing from them. Selling substandard products that can physically hurt the consumer. Or, letting child molesters roam freely in the pulpits and Sunday schools under the name of 'reconciliation and forgiveness'.

I do take issue with the article's claim that church people want to see the good in everybody. My experience is the total opposite. Largely because of the verse, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God".

Most within the independent fundamental Baptist movement tend to see the bad in people, except for their leaders, of course.

Like Jack Hyles said of Lester Roloff, "If I walked in and saw him kissing another woman, I'd swear he was giving her mouth to mouth resuscitation."

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