Based on our review of the literature, we chose to use the following terminology:
Clergy Sexual Misconduct (CSM): refers to a religious leader's sexual overture, proposition, or relationship with a congregant who was not his/her spouse or significant other.
Abuse of Power: Religious leaders are by definition community leaders who carry spiritual as well as organization and community leadership roles. They are expected to be compassionate, ethical, and moral leaders who hold the well-being of those they lead as a sacred trust. The differential of power between a religious leader and a congregant is like that of a physician and patient or counselor and client, although with the added dimension of sacred trust. Because of the power the leader holds and the attachment of congregants to their leaders, the congregant has much less power to say "no" to sexual overtures, rendering the concept of "consent" virtually meaningless. Any sexual relationship between a religious leader and a congregant is thus more accurately described as "abuse of power" rather than "affair," which implies mutual consent.
Offender: The religious leader has committed an offense. The term "perpetrator" implies crime punishable by law. It is not a crime in 48 states, so at this point, the term "offender" is a more accurate term.
Survivor: Those who are on the receiving end of the offending behavior will be referred to as the "survivor" or "offended." the "primary survivors," those who directly experience the sexual behavior of the offender, and the "secondary survivors," those who indirectly experience the leader's sexual misconduct, such as primary survivor's spouses, children, and fellow congregants.
- Clergy Sexual Misconduct
- About the Study
- Articles about CSM
- Legislation Materials
- CSM In the News