Some of those entrusted with the care of the soul are more interested in the pleasures of the body than the things of the spirit. That conclusion could be reached from a new Baylor University report on the prevalence of Clergy Sexual Misconduct (CSM). Although much attention recently has been focused on clergymen, especially priests, who have had sexual encounters with boys, the Baylor study, conducted by the university’s School of Social Work, examines sexual activity between ministers and adults.
The survey, released earlier this month, indicates that one out of every 33 women who regularly attend a house of worship has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader. Conducted nationally in 2008-09, the survey involved 3,559 respondents and included additional interviews with people whose lives were affected by CSM, such as husbands, friends, other parishioners and church staff members. Data indicated that 67 percent of offenders were married to another person at the time. Victims were members of 17 varied religious affiliations – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.
Diana I. Garland, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Work at Baylor and co-investigator of the study, said, “CSM does not occur evenly across congregations, but these statistics indicate the widespread nature and refutes the commonly held belief that it is the case of a few charismatic and powerful leaders preying on vulnerable followers.”