Many people look to their churches for comfort and guidance when times are tough. As a result, communities hold trusted members of the church in high regard. Unfortunately, the last few decades have demonstrated that churches are not always safe spaces, even for children.
According to reports, approximately 10,000 children have fallen victim to clergy sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002, with Illinois accounting for 20%. Sadly, it is believed that these numbers are inaccurate and that the actual number of victims is much higher.
Statistics also show that many child abusers are someone the family or child knows. Parents need to be extra vigilant because any person could be a potential abuser.
Signs of sexual abuse
Children may not know how to report sexual abuse or might be too afraid to. When parents and guardians know the signs, they have a better chance of intervening when clergy sexual abuse or any abuse happens.
- Using inappropriate language or exhibiting sexual behavior too advanced for their age
- Avoiding certain places or individuals
- Having unexplainable health problems such as headaches and stomach pain
- Having issues with bowel movements or urination
- Showing a change in behavior or personality
- Having problems with sleeping or eating
- Having a lack of interest in known interests such as games, school, sports or friends
- Wetting the bed after already outgrowing it
These signals are not absolute, but they are a good starting point. It also helps if parents keep tabs on adults interacting with their children.
Sexual abuse often starts with grooming. Abusers may befriend and gain parents’ trust to get close to their children; holding a position of power may only make it easier.
When the victim is a child, and the abuser has power, confronting clergy sexual abuse can be challenging. A child who has the courage to report abuse should be taken seriously, and the perpetrators of such atrocities must be brought to justice. The victim and their loved ones may benefit from pursuing legal action to hold the abuser accountable for their actions.