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Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions - eBooks.

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions - eBooks.

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Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding

By Anne Stephenson

You are buying a zipped file containing eBook editions of this 86 page book in PDF, ePub and Mobi formats. (2016). ISBNs: PDF 9781927260524; Mobi 9781927260548; 
ePub 9781927260531.

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When sexual abuse of adults by clergy and spiritual leaders comes to light, religious institutions need robust procedures in place to deal with offenders and support victims.

Based on her long experience in ministry working with sexual offenders and their victims, and the training she has undertaken, Anne Stephenson shares the wisdom she has gained, including:

  • Characteristics of sexual offenders to be aware of.
  • Suggested procedures to deal with offenders and support victims when a complaint is made.
  • The victim should only have to tell their story once, so they are not re-victimised by having to retell their story many times.
  • The police should be involved.
  • Mediation between the offender and victim does not work.
  • Sexual offending in a religious institution is a breach of the duty of care that the clergyperson or leader has towards the victim. As such, it should be treated with the same seriousness as a breach of professional ethics in other fields.
  • A victim can have a good future, (it may be hard won), and be a survivor. 

While earthed within the Christian tradition, this book is for all faith communities, traditions and cultures. Anne hopes that everyone in the ‘dance of life’ will find something within this book to assist them in their understanding and then take responsibility for their own situation.


“In this book’s opening pages the author states clearly her intent in writing this resource, which is nothing less than naming what she calls the elephant in the room no one wants to name, and especially no one within religious institutions.

The naming of this ongoing reality is exactly what this author does. She claims quite rightly that no religious institution is devoid of the need to deal justly and compassionately with both ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ when incidences of adult sexual abuse are brought to light and faced up to.

I deliberately choose to juxtapose these two words – ‘justly’ and ‘compassionately’ – as this is the approach the author takes in this valuable resource written out of personal experience.

The subtitle of the book – Faith Seeks Understanding – captures accurately what this book sets out to accomplish and I believe achieves in a most succinct, readable, and informative manner. As such, this book will be a valuable resource for all manner of people both inside and outside of religious institutions.

The author conveys well the complex issues that frame instances of sexual abuse. She helpfully identifies some of the key warning indicators along with some of the key psychological frames of reference that we need to understand to grasp the full extent of adult sexual abuse and particularly how and why it occurs within the context of religious institutions.

It is fair to say that all religious institutions have needed an urgent wake-up call to become aware of the realities of adult sexual abuse by its spiritual leaders. This crisis and the way it has been addressed have proven to be very impetuous.

In many cases there is a need to both address and  establish far more robust procedures that work towards ensuring the pastoral and ethical accountability of those in key positions of trust and influence.

The language used by the author of ‘offender’ and ‘victim’ are rightfully used throughout the book to clearly identify and then address what is at heart an abuse of power which breaches the all-important ethical principle of ‘fiduciary duty’.

As the author establishes, within religious institutions this amounts to breaking the sacred trust between the leader (the one with power) and the congregant who has deemed the leader to be trustworthy.

Because of this sacred trust the consequences are life- changing and the healing required is immense and of a specialised nature both for the victim and offender. The author conveys well the full extent of both the abuse and the healing journey required.

I commend this book as a valuable pastoral resource. It is vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.”

Rev Dr Mary Caygill in Methodist NZ newspaper Touchstone March 2017




1 — Why this book is written

  • How does all this happen?

2 — My growing understanding

3 — Religious Institutions: The art of being in unity

  • Relationship of safety and trust
  • Hierarchical structures and societal reform
  • Poem about hierarchy

4 — The pastoral role within religious institutions

  • A Theological perspective for clerical sexual abuse
  • So what happens when a spiritual leader crosses  the boundary line and sexualises the pastoral relationship?
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

5 — What is the mindset that gets things so wrong?

  • Psychological understandings
  • Psychopathy
  • Narcissism
  • Physiology of sexualisation for the offender

6 — Good outcomes of clergy sexual abuse

  • How to treat a victim
  • The effect on the victim
  • Creating personal and social confusion
  • A victim’s relational tree is severely damaged at all levels
  • Gossiping

7 — What is healthy?

8 — Openness to the wider community

  • Publication of the name of the offender

9 — Awareness for a victim

10 — Spiritual leadership

  • Boundaries and relationships
  • Projection
  • If you get it wrong (as a religious leader)
  • Suggested robust procedures for a complaint of clerical sexual misconduct

11 — How does the person offering pastoral care handle a disclosure?

  • Pastoral care for the sexually abused
  • A person has been wounded deeply. You are offering pastoral care.
  • Pastoral care for the sex offender in the religious community
  • Pastoral care for someone who is disclosed as an offender

12 — Self care for the pastoral worker

  • Respect for the other person’s boundaries
  • Other tips on spotting a sexual predator
  • For the victim within your care

13 — In honour of the truth

Closing Thoughts


Anne’s professional background

Anne’s personal background

About the Author

Anne is a retired Methodist minister who lives on the Kapiti Coast. She worked for many years as a registered nurse in New Zealand and Australia.

Anne has been a hospital chaplain, and spent 10 years as a coordinator and then the director of industrial chaplaincy in the Waikato. 

She has had training and experience in working with sexual offenders, their victims and families.




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