What to Do If Your Minister is Accused of Clergy Abuse
Clergy abuse accusations continue to emerge following a Pennsylvania grand jury report that exposed widespread clergy sexual abuse in the state. Survivors from all over the country, including California, New Jersey, and Louisiana are now coming forward with accounts of clergy sex abuse, often dating back several decades.
Some have left the Catholic Church because of its inadequate response to the sexual abuse accusations, and according to a 2018 Gallup poll, faith in the Catholic clergy has been substantially eroded in recent years. Those who remain members of the church may wonder what to do if their minister is accused of clergy abuse. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) provides some guidance.
What Should I Do If My Priest is Accused of Clergy Abuse?
SNAP is a non-profit support group for clergy sexual abuse survivors. Its mission is to help and protect those wounded by religious and institutional authorities. The SNAP website provides recommendations for church community members who discover that their minister is accused of clergy abuse, including:
- Asking your family members and friends if they were subject to any abuse
- Being aware that abuse survivors may not disclose the abuse until years later, often after the abuser has moved, passed away, or been accused by someone else
- Being compassionate toward survivors and encourage others to do the same
- Contacting law enforcement authorities with any information that may help an investigation into clergy abuse
- Expressing your support for the accused minister privately and not in a way that may hurt the alleged victim
- If you know the clergy abuse survivor, protect their confidentiality
- Refraining from speculating about who the accuser is; often, survivors prefer to remain anonymous
- Taking the time to discuss what constitutes inappropriate sexual behavior with child family members
Other SNAP Recommendations
SNAP also encourages church employees and members to be aware of the ways in which religious leaders foster an environment for abuse. Some of the ways in which they may do so include:
- Isolating the victim: Abusers will often attempt to take victims away from their families and group events.
- Creating doubt: This may include complimenting the victim and asking them to share personal or sexual information.
- Praising submission: Abusers may emphasize the necessity of submission, especially to religious leaders and figures of authority.
- Fostering fear: Sexual abuse victims are often told they will be punished or otherwise suffer consequences for disclosing the abuse.
- Manipulating the victim into silence: Victims are often manipulated into thinking that they must keep the abuse secret.
- Targeting vulnerable adults: Adults with vulnerabilities, such as those who are going through a loss or major life change, may be targeted by abusers.
Highland Park Clergy Abuse Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Fight for Clergy Abuse Survivors
If you were abused by a minister or other member of the clergy, contact a Highland Park clergy abuse lawyer at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr. We proudly represent clergy sexual abuse survivors and will fight to obtain the justice you deserve. For a free consultation, please submit an online inquiry or call us at 732-249-4600 today. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, and Colonia.