Clergy Sexual Abuse and the Impact on Victims

Recent news releases have identified another clergy member as having been abusive to one or more members of their congregation. Although it would be ill-advised to condemn someone in the court of public opinion when the facts or a jury of one’s peers has not found the person guilty, no matter how horrific their behavior, if the accused were to be found guilty there are serious consequences for those who were victimized.

If the accused did prey on others I respect those who have practiced their the right to come forward. It takes courage to be public about such a private and traumatic event. When predators take advantage of vulnerable children or adults, their acts can cause both emotional and financial damage.

Predators count on their victims being docile and quiet. When victims keep silent other innocent persons can easily become prey. Individuals who have been harmed and who come forward empower themselves and help protect others from the same fate. Victims who identify predators are courageous. When victims come forward they thwart predators. Victims who tell their secret keep predators from targeting others. Public disclosure is never easy. Keeping silent, however, allows the predator to get away with preying on others. Disclosure allows victims to go beyond the act of violation and allows them to begin the healing process.

No one can say that becoming public will ease the pain. Keeping silent may help to avoid embarrassment. However, those who have been victimized and have come forward will tell you that the experience was empowering. Victims will also tell you not to think of yourself as being bad or wrong. Don’t ever believe that because of someone else’s wrongdoing that you should feel guilty about what they did to you. Blaming yourself gives power to the predator, which may even allow them to get away with their criminal behavior. If you have been victimized don’t think poorly of yourself. Don’t allow the predator to cause you to feel marked or stigmatized by their wrongful, criminal and immoral act. Even if you decide not to come forward, support those who do. Those who publicly bear witness, help stop the preying on others. Mental health providers in concert with attorneys can help those who have been victimized to resolve the adverse emotional and financial consequences of their ordeal.

Dr. Kenneth Manges is a Forensic Psychologist and vocational expert who offers consultation and comprehensive evaluations. His analyses have been recognized for their clarity and scientific rigor. He offers reasonably certain opinions about the psychological impact of physical injury or emotional trauma as they affect earning capacity and the impact of loss on future work and quality of life. Well regarded in the litigation arena, he is a trusted and respected authority and offers evaluations that have been consistently upheld in both state and federal courts.