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The Truth About Clergy Sexual Misconduct

Victims of betrayal and emotional abuse may look to their faith-communities for support. When clergy engage in inappropriate sexual behavior toward congregants, sacred trust is shattered and victims are left feeling confused, devastated, and, often, ashamed.

Dave Gemmel, Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Association, joins Anne on the free BTR podcast to discuss clergy sexual misconduct and how it can be prevented. With many years of pastoral experience, Dave understands the trauma that women experience when they experience secondary trauma at the hand of clergy.

Listen to the free BTR podcast or read the full transcript below for more.

What Is Clergy Sexual Misconduct?

[Clergy sexual misconduct] is a betrayal of sacred trust and can be on a continuum of sexual or gender-directed behaviors, either a lay or clergy person with a ministerial relationship, whether they’re paid or unpaid.Dave Gemmel. Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Association

Congregants seek spiritual guidance, compassion, and leadership from clergy. When pastors, bishops, and other spiritual leaders use their position of authority to destroy a congregant's trust through sexual misconduct, that sacred role is diminished and victims may experience severe trauma which often includes a crisis of faith.

What Does Clergy Sexual Misconduct Look Like?

Dave enumerates some of the ways that clergy can violate trust and commit sexual misconduct:

* abuse* adult sexual abuse* harassment* rape* sexual assault* sexualized verbal comments or visuals* unwanted touches and advances* use of sexualized materials including pornography* stalking* sexual abuse of youth or those without mental capacity to consent* misuse of the pastoral/ministerial position* Can include criminal behaviors that are against the law in some nations, states, and communities.

I Had An Affair With My Pastor, Was It Actually Clergy Sexual Misconduct?

As Dave explains, pastors have spiritual authority that makes it impossible for an "asymmetrical relationship" between himself and a congregant.

Any sexualized relationship between a pastor and a congregant, I believe, is clergy sexual misconduct and cannot be considered mutual consent.Dave Gemmel. Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Association

Because of the lack of "considered mutual consent," a sexual relationship with a pastor or bishop is not an affair but is, in fact, sexual abuse. Women who have experienced this form of abuse may blame themselves, but abuse is never the victim's fault.

Understanding How Clergy Sexual Misconduct Happens

The reality is there are some sexual predators who’ve managed to become clergy. That number, although it’s not large, because they are sexual predators, can make huge impacts. Predators use whatever tools they can, and spiritual power is a very strong power and, if they can use that to gain their way, they’ll do whatever they can to achieve their goal.Dave Gemmel, Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Association

When clergy take advantage of their position of power, congregants may feel disloyal or unworthy if they report the sexual misconduct. Further, congregants, especially abused women,


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