the Hope of Survivors

Baylor University Clergy Sexual Abuse Research Update—June 15, 2009

(From the July 2009 edition of HopeSpeak)

*The following is a letter from Diana Garland, Ph.D.—Dean of the Baylor School of Social Work who is conducting this research study. We include it in our newsletter because The Hope of Survivors has been a key partner in this study.

Baylor UniversityDear Friends,

I am writing to update you on the project you served, either as a consultant or an interviewee, on the topic of clergy sexual misconduct with adults. I am grateful to you for your participation, and I am long overdue in giving you a status report.

Our work has involved two companion projects: (1) a national random survey to determine the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) with adults; and (2) a qualitative study of women and men who self-identified as survivors who had been the objects of CSM, family or friends of survivors, and offenders who had themselves committed CSM. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the social characteristics of CSM. The goal of both projects was to define the scope and nature of CSM as a foundation for developing prevention strategies. Clergy sexual misconduct was defined in this study as:

Ministers, priests, rabbis, or other clergypersons or religious leaders who make sexual advances or propositions to persons in the congregations they serve who are not their spouses or significant others.

The study is reported in two articles submitted in April 2009 to Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion: Chaves and Garland, “The Prevalence of Clergy Sexual Advances towards Adults in their Congregations”; and Garland and Argueta, “How Clergy Sexual Misconduct Happens: A Qualitative Study of First-Hand Accounts.” The findings of these studies must remain confidential until the journal review process is complete, indicating that professional peers have reviewed the research methodology, findings, and conclusions and judged them to be sound. If the articles are accepted for publication, we anticipate release of the findings in early September 2009.

We are preparing for major media coverage when the results are released, since this is the first broad-scale research project on the topic of CSM with adults. Therefore, we are attempting to prepare so that we can use the media coverage to educate the public on the nature of CSM as abuse of power rather than a consensual “affair,” and to provide approaches for prevention. Thanks to the generous funding of the Ford Foundation, we have been able to engage the services of a wonderful publicity organization, Levick Strategic Communications, LLC, in Washington, DC; our colleagues there are Melissa Arnoff and Megan Fox.

Melissa and Megan have held two media training sessions for us, one in Waco and one in DC. We have had six volunteers from the interviews agree to be the public “face” of this project, to tell their stories to the media if/when the opportunities present themselves. Melissa and Megan have also helped me learn how to talk about the results of this study in ways that are clear and compelling rather than academic jargon. Don’t hold them responsible, however, if I botch it!

Vicki Kabat, the Director of Communications and Marketing in the Baylor School of Social Work, has developed a web page dedicated to this project, which is now functional:

http://www.baylor.edu/clergysexualmisconduct

The website is designed to be a resource to which we can direct the media, congregational leaders, and survivors if/when they contact us when the findings of the project become public. We welcome your checking it out and giving us feedback!

In particular, I would direct your attention to the three case studies on the website; each of them also has a video clip of one of the survivors, telling a short version of her personal experience as the target of a religious leader’s misconduct. I am eternally grateful to these very courageous women. I wish we could have posted all six, but we had to limit to three, so we tried to pick the three that would really show the diversity of experiences that are involved in clergy sexual misconduct. All six of them stand at the ready to speak. If you want to send a message to them, e-mail me and I’ll forward it on!

We have written a short piece on “dual relationships” (under resources, and then documents), since we found that most cases of CSM took place in a relationship that included counseling. Also, there is a sample code of ethics we are proposing for religious leaders. And, of course, there is an annotated bibliography of resources and websites.

There is a link for “legislation.” We hope soon to have sample legislation to put there to make CSM not only unethical and immoral but also illegal. The faculty of the Baylor School of Law is working on the sample legislation for us.

We are working now on a curriculum on “power and the Christian life,” to address the power we have as bosses, community leaders, teachers, and religious leaders. We are hoping that a broad curriculum that addresses the broad issue of power and its abuse will get more attention than the narrower focus on religious leaders. We hope! We don’t want to develop a resource that speaks truth but that no one will use because the topic scares them so much. Because we are Christians, the prevention sources we are developing for congregations will have a bent toward Protestant Christians, but we certainly will encourage others to adapt any resources we develop for their own faith traditions, and we would love to provide links.

We are hoping to launch the study into the public media immediately after Labor Day. I will let you know, most certainly!

That’s the update. We welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Diana

[End of letter from Diana Garland.]

Sidebar:

As a key partner, case study and resource, The Hope of Survivors is anticipating a tremendous increase in the number of victims reaching out for assistance after the results of the survey are released and the media coverage begins. As such, we are praying and taking steps to expand our operations in order to provide these much-needed services for victims. If you can help in some way, whether through financial support or volunteering, please contact us!

Read the Baylor recommendation letter for The Hope of Survivors.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18