Clergy Sexual Abuse Research By Baylor Social Work Dean Awarded $200,000 by Ford Foundation

This story courtesy of Baylor University.


Baylor University has received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct the first national research on clergy sexual abuse of adults. The unprecedented initiative – announced by Dr. Diana Garland, dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work and director of the study – will help communities and congregations develop new practices and policies to prevent clergy sexual abuse and ensure that survivors receive appropriate care.

The immediate goals of the project are:

• to determine the prevalence of clergy sexual abuse of adults;
• to teach religious leaders, congregants and the general public that sexual activity between a religious leader and a congregant cannot be considered consensual;
• to communicate to survivors and their families that they are not alone and that they deserve support and professional care;
• to provide promising policy and prevention strategies; and
• to communicate that the church can respond to ethical violations with compassionate care for the vulnerable as its major focus instead of institutional self protection.

“Our faith communities have been dismayed to learn that trusted spiritual leaders have used their roles to abuse children and that others covered up the abuse and thus allowed it to continue,” said Garland, noted social scientist and author of the award-winning Family Ministry (InterVarsity Press, 1999) and Sacred Stories of Ordinary Families (Jossey-Bass, 2003) and co-author of Flawed Families of the Bible (Brazos Press, 2007).

“This project intends to shed light on the problem of spiritual leaders who abuse their power with adults and how that abuse can be prevented. The goal is to strengthen congregations with protective policies and structures that take human vulnerabilities seriously,” she said.

“Because of the spiritual power of the clergy role, this form of abuse has the potential for even greater devastation of victims and communities than abuse of power in employment or educational settings,” said Marie Fortune, founder and senior analyst at FaithTrust Institute and an expert in the study of clergy sexual abuse. Clinical reports indicate high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression, physical illness and suicide.

Questions for Garland’s study are included in the General Social Survey 2008, one of the most rigorous and respected surveys in existence. The GSS is conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago every two years. It is the only full-probability, personal-interview survey designed to monitor social characteristics and attitudes in the United States.

The total sample size of the GSS will be approximately 3,500 with a representative sample of English- and Spanish-speaking adults in the nation. Complete anonymity of respondents is guaranteed. Data from the survey will be delivered in January 2009. Research consultants for the project include Mark Chaves of Duke University and an advisory committee.

Garland will further interview members of at least 30 Christian and Jewish congregations directly affected by clergy sexual abuse.

“We anticipate, based on case studies and anecdotal reports, that the opportunity to contribute to a study on this topic will be healing and empowering for survivors and their families and congregations,” Garland said.

“Every attempt will be made to give them opportunity to tell their story in ways in which they feel comfortable and that their courage in participating in this project is respected,” she said.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.

Garland previously had received $31,000 combined funding for this project from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the JES Edwards Foundation of Fort Worth, Texas.


6 Responses

  1. does anyone know any info on rev. jack humbert? he was the pastor at hilltop baptist temple in cedar park,tx.

  2. So glad you’re bringing attention to adult clergy abuse. Several years ago, I tried to help educate my Roman Catholic diocese about this, even going to the effort of bringing an adult female survivor representative to the bishop’s representatives, & having several meetings.

    We offered to speak to congregations. But ALL the diocese focused on was the abuse of CHILDREN.

    While 99.999% of bishops handled them poorly, only 3% of priests molested children. The lion’s share of abuse is by heterosexual priests against women.

    It’s refreshing to see attention finally drawn to adult clergy abuse. If it’s not love, then priests having a sexual relationship with women is about power.

    It’s a sense of entitlement, for having ‘given his life’ for the church. The priest does not have to grow up, and take responsibility for his actions, as he’s protected, and even applauded for choosing his bishop over love.

    If it’s love, the priest should leave the priesthood immediately and marry the woman.

    If only my fellow Catholics would read Acts of the Apostles, 1Corinthians, Timothy & Titus, & SEE that the “ideal” priest is a married man, with children.

    “Celibacy” for the diocesan priesthood is only a practice that can be changed tomorrow, if Pope Benedict saw it fit to do so.

    • Because Dr. Garland made reference, on her website, to a letter to the editor I wrote to the National Catholic Reporter, I wrote to her and was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal phone call from her, in response to my email.

      She is the perfect person to take on this subject, as she’s already impressed me by being extremely sensitive to adult clergy abuse victims’ feelings. We’re pretty well trashed emotionally, by the time the priests and the priests supporters are done with us.

      The priest is rarely blamed for breaking his vows of celibacy and chastity, whereas the woman or women the priest has sexually used and abused is dubbed a harlot and worse. Nevermind that some of these men resort to outright lies to seduce women or profane their own priesthood by saying that God intended them to have these relationships “on the side.”

      Saddest to me are the children of priests, who remain priests! I do not understand how the Catholic Church can rationalize its way around depriving children of their father in the name of remaining a priest. How can this possibly be Christian, when even Christ himself asked that children be brought before him, first, and also said that whatever a man does to the “least of those” he does also unto Christ.

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