Clergy Sexual Misconduct Baylor University
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About the Study

Project Overview

This project was designed to identify the socio-cultural and institutional factors that allow CSM to occur, with the goal of developing strategies for lowering the incidence of CSM, using public (not just religious leader) education. It has four components:

  • a national survey,
  • a literature review,
  • a study of prevention strategies using key informant interviews, and
  • a communication strategy.
We gathered the data in 2008-2009.

As we began this project, we quickly found that few denominations, congregations, religious organizations, and communities have strategies or policies designed to prevent CSM. Some have developed processes for reporting and responding to CSM when it does occur. We found some limited education in seminaries and continuing education for clergy, but many religious leaders have not attended seminary or are not able to participate in continuing education.

We wanted to learn the structural and institutional factors that allow CSM to occur. We hoped that those factors would suggest how congregations and communities can prevent CSM. Therefore, we shifted strategies to interviewing those directly involved with CSM—the offended and their families, the offenders, and professionals who respond to CSM. We wanted to understand the processes of how CSM initially develops, suggesting ways it can be prevented. We believe that understanding the processes of CSM is essential before public understanding of this situation will shift the language and perception from “affair” to “abuse of power.”