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What to Do If You've Been Sexually Harassed by a Religious Figure

Author
Amanda Turner
June 19, 2022

Note: If you are currently in crisis after being sexually harassed or assaulted by a religious figure, please reach out to Rape and Incest National Network Sexual Assault Hotline for confidential support at 1-800-656-4673, or chat online at online.rainn.org.

Many people turn to religion, clergy members, pastors, and priests in their time of need, searching for a sense of connection with God and looking for guidance in navigating life situations that seem impossible. Many people are at their most vulnerable when they reach out to a church leader for help. Others simply become close with religious leaders as they grow in their own faith.

Sadly, some people in these positions of power take advantage of the people who need their help the most. It can be hard to know what to do or where to turn if you’ve been sexually harassed by a religious figure in your faith community.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

If you’ve experienced sexual advances from a religious figure, you may struggle to decide whether what you’ve experienced qualifies as sexual harassment. It’s common for victims of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment to discount the fact that they’ve been hurt by a person that they trust. While it’s normal to question whether you’ve been abused, understanding that what you went through was unfair and not your fault can be an important step toward long-term healing. 

Sexual harassment can take many forms, including: 

  • Unwanted sexual comments (can be written or spoken), gestures, physical contact, or slurs
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Sexual comments about physical characteristics
  • Promises of advancement within an organization following an agreement to participate in a sexual act

Even if you did not argue or rebuff your abuser’s advances, this does not mean that what they did was ok. It’s likely that your abuser groomed you over a period of time, helping you to feel comfortable with them and making it impossible for you to say no to their advances. In many cases, abusers make their victims promise not to tell anyone else about their abuse, convincing them that what happened was ok, or that others would not understand. This is an attempt to silence victims, causing them to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and making them scared to tell others about the abuse. 

Your abuser was in a position of power over you, which means that you likely felt you could not say no to their advances. If a person of power touched you, made comments to you, or promised that you would move forward within your religion if you agreed to their advances, you were sexually harassed or abused. It’s not your fault, and you may find that holding your abuser or harasser accountable can help you find peace. It’s important that you get the support that you need so you can move forward with your life.

When Religious Leaders Use Their Power To Harm

When you’ve been hurt by someone you trusted, it can be easy to blame yourself, wondering if you gave the wrong signals or if you somehow deserved what happened to you. Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are never your fault. Your abuser was in a position of power and took advantage of you. You deserve the right to stand up for yourself. 

In a religious community, sexual abuse can be especially difficult to understand. The relationship between a clergy member and their spiritual leader is meant to be sacred and is thought to be built on trust and understanding. When a spiritual leader uses their power to make advances on members of their congregation, they are preying on the fact that they are looked to as a way to get closer to a higher power. Religious leaders who abuse their powers in this way are taking advantage of the unique and special connection that many people who attend church have with their higher power.

Sexual Abuse in the Baptist Church: The Role of the Southern Baptist Convention

Recently, it’s come to light that many Baptist church leaders were found guilty of sexually abusing children by the Southern Baptist Convention, also known as the SBC. The SBC is a group of Southern churches with nearly 15 million members. The SBC is known for holding deeply conservative views and for its participation in the advancement of right-wing politics.

Recently, the SBC released a document that showed that 700 leaders and church members have been found guilty of the sexual abuse of children. A third-party investigation by Guidepost Solutions showed that the SBC did not properly handle the cases, and mistreated survivors who stepped forward to tell the truth about their treatment in the church.

Free Case Evaluation

If you or a loved one were a victim of improper sexual behavior by a Baptist Church Minister, you may be entitled to compensation.

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Growing Suspicion

Sadly, the SBC did not decide to release the reports of sexual abuse in an effort to change the church’s ways. The report was released following an investigation that showed nearly 400 public accusations of sexual abuse against leaders and members of the SBC. The report accused that the SBC hid the information they had from the public, putting children and church members at risk.

Today, it’s clear that the SBC silenced victims of sexual abuse and allowed dangerous predators to continue to serve congregations in a leadership capacity. If you or a loved one were victimized by a leader or member of a Baptist church, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.

Sexual Harassment in the Mormon Church

Sadly, members of several religious groups have experienced sexual harassment and abuse due to their leaders’ misuse of power. Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as Mormons, are coming forward to speak out about sexual harassment and abuse they experienced in the Church. Both members of the traditional and fundamentalists branches of the Church state that they reported abuse and harassment to church officials, only for the crime to be swept under the rug. Some victims were members of Boy Scout troops affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These victims received the same treatment as others who came forward to speak up about abuse.

Free Case Evaluation

If you or a loved one were a victim of improper sexual behavior by a Mormon Church member, you may be entitled to compensation.

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If You’ve Been Abused, You’re Not Alone

It can be hard to figure out whether you’ve been sexually abused, especially when you feel the abuse may have happened at the hands of someone you trusted. As you can see from the information above, if you think you’ve been sexually harassed or abused by a religious figure, you’re not alone. Sadly, many people who initially came forward to share their allegations of abuse in the Baptist church were silenced, making it difficult for other victims to come forward as well. 

Speaking up about your abuse doesn’t just help you heal. It also helps to keep those in power accountable for their actions and can help other victims gain the courage necessary to come forward and tell the truth about their experiences. 

We’re Here To Give You The Support You Need. 

We know that it can feel impossible to stand up to your abuser, and we’re here to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. What happened to you was wrong, unfair, and a grave misuse of power by your abuser. At Select Justice, we’re here to fight for your right to compensation. We know that this subject is especially sensitive, and our trained SBC lawyers can help you get the money that you deserve for your pain and suffering. If you’re unsure whether you have a case, don’t worry–we’re here to handle the details. Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation and to learn more about how we can help.

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