Feature

How common is clergy sex abuse?

A Baylor University study says the problem is more common—across various denominations—than many people think

Sexual abuse by members of the clergy is more common than you might think, said Manya Brachear in the Chicago Tribune. An analysis by Baylor University's School of Social Work found that 3 percent of adult women who worship at least once a month "have been the target of a clergy come-on since turning 18."

The numbers are surprising, said Matthew Hay Brown in the Baltimore Sun. Put another way, in a church with 400 adult members, seven women, on average, "have been victimized at some point in their adult lives." The Baylor team is working on a proposal for a law that would attack the problem by making clergy sexual abuse a crime, much like relationships between mental health professionals and their patients.

And the problem is not isolated to any single denomination, said Jacuqeline L. Salmon in The Washington Post. The Baylor study found that improper sexual conduct is so pervasive, in fact, that it "involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions, and leaders." The researchers couldn't say whether abuse is growing more common—but increasing awareness following the Catholic clergy abuse scandals has prompted at least 36 denominations to adopt rules for punishing clergy members for sexual contact with people in their congregations.

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