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Church Sexual Abuse includes a range of illegal and improper acts frequently perpetrated against young children and tweens by pedophilic priests or other church employees involving sexual abuse of varying amounts. The sexual assault might be a single, non-consensual scroll barevent or it may involve several acts within an ongoing interaction. For example, a continuing “trusting” relationship with a young child created by the predatory intent of a church member, cloaked by the trust and respect provided to a member of the clergy, leading to non-consensual sexual assault acts of molestation.
Within all alleged Priest or Clergy Sexual Abuse situations, the failure by the Clergy member’s employer to fully, adequately and immediately disclose the crime to law enforcement and other authorities, or its further failure to research, address and deal entirely with the occurrence amplifies the harm on the assault survivor, the community and potentially others. Recent Clergy Sexual Abuse cases covered in the media show these short-comings, that includes “pass-the-trash” situations where the abuser oftentimes a clergy in the Catholic Church, is suddenly re-assigned from one parish to another only to continue his predatory, criminal behavior on an unsuspecting parish community.
Priest and Clergy Sexual Abuse and Justice
Not a week passes without a media announcement coverage regarding sexual abuse and molestation of children by predator clergy, or the aftermath of the assault on the survivors and their families. If you are a survivor of sexual assault from a priest or other church member, these reports are most likely to act as an echo chamber, reverberating the horror, embarrassment, guilt and various unwanted feelings hurting your wellness. Encouraged by the societal movement and other channels that encourage victims to disclose the abuse they suffered, survivors of abuse are increasingly employing the legal system to compensate them for the life-long harm and injury they have suffered.
If you are a victim of abuse commited by a priest, the result of the abuse on your life and core belief system might be incalculable. Nonetheless, holding the responsible person and institutions accountable for their crimes and indifference may provide a measure of justice and recompense to abuse survivors. Frequently, victims can leverage their legal rights in confidential mediation therein avoiding the need for litigation. However, if litigation is required, a case can be filed where the survivor can remain anonymous.
All abusers, to varying amounts, employ predatory methods which are commonly known as grooming, focusing on a potential abuse victim. Following is a survey of grooming behaviors exhibited by predators who are in a position of authority in relation to the subordinate child.
Grooming is a major piece of a predator’s ploy. In a church environment, the priest is viewed as God’s representative. Within this setting, the predator often works closely with small amounts of children, understanding each child’s needs, vulnerabilities and situations. Once a victim is identified, these vulnerabilities – like tumultuous family setting, isolation, low self-esteem, emotional neediness, attention-seeking – might be systematically leveraged in the following ways:
A predator will initially work to gain the child’s trust. This step is most difficult to discern as church communities are often tight-knit and personal relation with clergy is commonplace. Here, the priest can feign sincere interest in the child’s wellbeing and development – both emotional and religious.
As a predator establishes a trusting relationship with the potential target and oftentimes their family, the child will start to rely more and more on the predator for any need it is that the priest is exploiting and fulfilling. The child may spend more time with the priest, feeling more and more comfortable with the relationship and relying on its stability and security. In addition to attention and affection, the potential victim might receive presents from the predator, including valuable, intangible gifts like blessings and special recognition.
As the grooming escalates, the predator may try to isolate the possible victim. This may result in individual counseling sessions, meals or other forms of one-on-one isolated encounters.
The predator might start to de-sensitize the target from reacting negatively to contact, caressing and various behaviors that lead to sexual interaction. This could start with crossing the physical-touch barrier, or verbally, with inappropriate messages to gauge the victim’s response to the progression. This will escalate until the relationship gets to one of a physical, sexual nature.
Once the sexual relationship is created, the predator will work to maintain control over the child and the continued interaction. The priest may likely want to manipulate the victim by continuing to make the target feel special and worthy. The predator will keep exploiting the victim by whatever ways needed to maintain the immoral physical relationship.
Impact on Clergy Abuse Survivors
The impact of childhood assault on the survivor can be overwhelming and life-changing. Several priest assault survivors suffer from long-term effects of the abuse including depression, disturbed sleeping, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and eating patterns, and difficulty creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Individualized treatment and support groups can assist victims overcome these effects.
Legally, a victim of Clergy Sexual Assault can recover financial compensation from the predator and, more commonly, from the church for its failure to shield the victim from the abuse, as well as failures or deficiencies in its method of reviewing and resolving to reports of abuse. If you are a survivor of Priest or Clergy Sexual Assault and would like to confidentially discuss your situation and your legal options, we are prepared to talk with you.