Monday, April 28, 2008
Revisiting the Issue of Clergy Sexual Misconduct
Everytime I think that perhaps things are getting better I hear from victim/survivors whose experiences remind me that any change that occurs is not fast enough nor extensive enough and that they are too often revictimized.
Below are some comments in response to a victim/survivor who advocated not reporting because of the current flaws in the Unitarian Univeralist Associations protocols and process in general:
15 June 2007 at 10:24 pm
I just feel totally confused by this. I don’t doubt her perspective at all, I just don’t know what CAN work at all if people don’t report. I guess she’s saying not to put yourself through the hell of all of this if nothing’s going to be done about it. Which makes me wonder if there could be a grassroots, uninstitutionalized way for people who’ve been sexually abused by UU clergy to be in touch with each other. That would take incredible courage but it might be really good for them and very difficult to ignore.
Scott Wells responds:
16 June 2007 at 3:18 am
@PeaceBang. I think her point is if the system’s broken, it’s not the responsibility of victims of clergy sexual abuse to fix it. In addition to systems of alternative, netroots mutual care, I think there’s an opportunity — the shape of which I can’t yet see — for those in leadership to provide alternative means of redress.
I’m going to keep bringing this up, and ask other bloggers — especially those in ministerial and elected leadership — to keep the message live.
A thought before General Assembly.
16 June 2007 at 3:13 pm
Thanks, all. I think you’ve got the gist of it. There may be cases where the system works, but I’m not aware of any — and I “won.” If it had improved even a little from the early years of reporting, I wouldn’t say this. In fact, it’s gotten worse. About all it seems to do is further damage the victim and waste a lot of the UUA’s time and money, not to mention the victim’s time and money. (I’m not talking about false accusations, by the way, which I realize are a very real problem.) As for grassroots, that’s happening a little. It helps with healing, but we can’t fix the system. We’ve tried, and are treated badly, despite sincere efforts to do so in good faith. My minister thinks the reason the leadership treats us badly (won’t give us the findings in our cases, violates our confidences, won’t invite us to the table, etc.) is that they are afraid of us. This makes sense, but is a tragedy.
16 June 2007 at 8:58 pm
I have to agree with uugrrl — don’t report clergy sexual misconduct officially. I’ve worked in three churches that experienced clergy sexual misconduct, and in all three churches the perpetrators were manipulative individuals who used their power and influence to make life miserable for anyone who dared accuse them publicly. Retribution included spurious legal threats (and who’s going to pay the victim’s lawyer?), attacks on character, slander and innuendo, etc.
That being said, vistims of clergy sexual misconduct (or of other forms of misconduct such as abuse of power) should find someone with whom they can talk. There is a network of people who are willing to talk openly about the reality of clergy sexual misconduct — get in touch with other survivors, find out whom they trust — track down the people who are willing to talk openly and name congregations where misconduct has happened.
@Peacebang — A lot of the burden for cleaning up sexual misconduct should be on us ministers. We need to change our UU Ministers Assoc. rules to allow better reporting — as our rules now stand, you could be brought up on a grievance for daring to talk openly about clergy sexual misconduct (it has happened recently, and the UUMA Exec basically approved the grievance), but we rarely even attempt to police ourselves around issues of clergy sexual misconduct, or other forms of clergy misconduct. Hey, when the UUA started recommending more intensive background checks for Search Committees, a few loud voices within the UUMA insisted that the UUMA hire legal counsel to protest — yet we should ahve been saying Hallelujah! at last the UUA has seen the light! Until we ministers clean up our act — well, there’s that parable about motes in others’ eyes.
@Scott — Yes, keep this issue live.