The dynamic between powerful leaders and their loyal followers seems to promote the very best and worst in people. We could talk about the rampant child abuse all over the world by clergy of all religions (and feel free to bring that up in the comments below), but tonight I want to talk about predatory sex against women.
A recent Baylor University study shows that:
One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says.
The study found that the problem is so pervasive that it almost certainly involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions and leaders.
…Women older than 18 who attended worship services at least once a month were asked in the survey whether they had received “sexual advances or propositions” from a religious leader.
The study found that close to one in 10 respondents — male and female — reported having known about clergy sexual misconduct occurring in a congregation they had attended.
That last bit is true about me.
When I was in high school, my church’s head pastor had marital affairs with two of our congregation’s married females. Both were mothers, and both marriages were ruined. The pastor confessed to his wrongdoing (not thoroughly enough, we thought) and was removed and barred from pastoring. Interestingly enough, his own marriage survived the infidelity. Our congregation was scarred. We all felt used, cheated on, and deceived.
What’s at fault for this damaging predatory behavior? I think a whole host of things:
- Blind trust in authority figures
- Believing someone else can know better than you about what’s right and what God wants
- The hierarchal structures that protect those in power from the consequences of their actions
- Bloated egos of those in positions of influence
- Abusers given “spiritual counseling” and “God’s forgiveness” for their wrongs instead of practical therapy (or prison)
Not all religious people are prone to abusing others, and not all abusers are religious. But the structure of power that encourages the strong mental and emotional hold of a faith leader over their flock is nothing to underestimate, and religious institutions are a resource for predators who seek gullible sheeple–both adults and children–to devour.
Do you know anyone who has had to go through this sort of spiritual and sexual abuse and confusion? Ladies, how do you feel about this as a woman?