Clergy perceptions of sexual assault victimization.




Yuvarajan, Elil.

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Although congregants often turn to clergy for help in dealing with personal difficulties, including marital problems, substance abuse issues, and mental illness, survivors of sexual assault do not commonly turn to clergy for support or guidance. This study utilized a mixed-methods approach, including an online survey and semi-structured interviews, to look at how clergy perceive sexual assault victimization to discover how those attitudes influence relationships with survivors of sexual assault. The results of the study showed that more blame was assigned to the victim as the relationship with the perpetrator became closer, with the exception of marital rape. The study also found that hostile sexism was a predictor of negative attitudes toward rape victims. Also, religious fundamentalism was not a predictor of negative attitudes toward rape victims. The results of the semi-structured interviews were used to inform the interpretation of the survey results. Clergy reported four main themes that drove their perceptions of sexual assault: the taboo nature of sexual assault, benevolent sexism as a part of church culture, differences in the power hierarchy between clergy and congregants, and the lack of and need for training on working with survivors.



Sexual assault., Clergy., Church., Rape., Sexual assault victim.