Photo © Hamed Masoumi

Photo © Hamed Masoumi

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.

(Source. You can read the study here.)

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?

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4 thoughts on “Women sexually targeted by the Clergy”

stuffed · September 16, 2009 at 7:41 am

I have commented on this phenomena on the atheis revolution blog however I think it also is worth mentioning again. The fact that religious sheeple are mentally as gullible as can be, naive, and open to emotional torment either directly or indirectly makes them highly vulnerable when it comes to predatory authority figures. I think this is a result of the flocks mental instability however I do find it terrible the ways in which the predatory, so called, leaders call for favours. It is despicable that people can be so callous as to employ such tactics: hellfire, excomunication (from church, friends, family), unforgiveness for sins, made up sins to which the victim must atone. And before anyone says these are adults they can chose – they are adults but in most cases they are manipulated and belittled into positions which they would not under normal circumstances or with full mental capability submit to, that is abuse – no matter their age or life experience. Rape is rape. Coerced sex/favours is coerced sex/favours. Period.

    godlessgirl · September 18, 2009 at 2:39 am

    I have to grant that not all sexual/romantic behavior by the clergy with their members is done with some kind of "evil" intentions. I think some people really do just fall in love with each other. Sadly, I expect a lot of the attraction is encouraged by the vulnerability people show to the leaders they trust with their deepest concerns and secrets.

Pinky · December 30, 2010 at 3:51 am

How does this make me feel as a women?

I am not surprised. We “fairer” of the sex are at all points in history something to be used as fodder by men. I just hope that by the time my daughter is an adult, she will be living in an era where this attitude has been rendered extinct.

The sooner that religion is put where it belongs, the sooner this will happen.

Patience Virtue · November 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm

What really gets to me, as a former Christian, is all of the Christians that I have known who engage in sexually prohibited behavior, and are mean and narrow-minded judgmental bigots, but are still convinced that they are so much better as people than kind-hearted, loving, caring people who do not blindly believe like they do. I find it ironic that the more I’ve walked away from Christianity the easier it’s been to actually live like a good person (like Christian’s are supposed to).

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