Research

In 2015 the first national survey of adult survivors of clergy perpetrated sexual abuse was conducted (March-May 2015). 280 survivors participated in the study. We are so grateful to the courageous survivors who agreed to participate. This project was directed by David Pooler, Ph.D., LCSW. Below you will find a summary of some of the salient findings.

Summary of Selected Findings
 

(In order to participate in this study, respondents had to be women who were 16 or older at the time of the abuse and at least 18 at the time of the survey.)

  

The Survivors

• Survivors from 42 States participated
• Average length of abuse was 4 years
• Average age the abuse started was 30
• Married 65%

 

The Perpetrator

• Average age of abuser was 45
• Only 4% of perpetrators were prosecuted
• Married 88%

 

Experiences in the Congregation

• 75% Agree or Strongly Agree that the congregation felt safe before the abuse started
• 62% Agree or Strongly Agree that they were being counseled by the church leader (when the abuse started)
• Only 8% Agree or Strongly Agree that their church supported them after the abuse occurred

 

About the Survivor

• 65% Agree or Strongly Agree that they are currently a part of a congregation
• 65% Agree or Strongly Agree that they had unprocessed/unresolved trauma prior to the abuse
• 78% Agree or Strongly Agree that they are healing or getting better
• 35% Agree or Strongly Agree that they have recovered from the abuse
• 8% Agree or Strongly Agree that the perpetrator apologized to them

 

God and Spiritual Life

• 50% Agree or Strongly Agree that their experience with the church after the abuse negatively affected their relationship with God
• 80% Agree or Strongly Agree that their experience with the church after the abuse negatively affected their spiritual life
• 65% Agree or Strongly Agree that their faith in God helped them get through the abuse

 

Church Policy, Reporting, and Process

• 7% Agree or Strongly Agree that their church had a policy in place to help support them
• 33% Agree or Strongly Agree when they reported the abuse they were believed
• 9% Agree or Strongly Agree the church was helpful when they reported the abuse
• 15% Agree or Strongly Agree that their church/denomination thoroughly investigated the report
• 11% Agree or Strongly Agree that their church openly communicated with them during the investigation