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How purity culture leads to sexual abuse

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Clergy Abuse

A lot of evangelical churches have developed a set of beliefs, values and practices around sexual abstinence and modesty – stressing the importance of sexual purity until marriage.

By and large, this purity culture – along with all the pledges, rings, modest clothing and idealization of virtue and heteronormative ideals – is heavily targeted toward young girls. They’re openly encouraged to loudly and proudly proclaim that they are reserving their bodies for their future husbands.

What’s the problem? Well, purity culture is supposed to promote moral values and healthy, monogamous relationships – but it can actually make it easier on predators within a church to get away with sexual abuse.

Shame, silence and an emphasis on feminine virtue combine 

Purity culture often relies on the promotion of shame surrounding sexuality, especially outside the confines of traditional marital relationships. Girls are told that they are the gatekeepers of purity and that they need to guard against “defilement.” By extension, that makes them not only responsible for controlling their own sexual urges but the sexual urges of the males around them – including adults.

When a girl is sexually molested or assaulted by a male in the church, the shame of being sexualized – which is emphasized in purity culture – can create an environment where the victim feels compelled to remain silent. She may fear judgment, ostracization and blame – not to mention the fact that she would have to publicly reveal that her own physical value, in the form of her “purity,” is forever tarnished.

If you or your loved one has been sexually victimized by a clergy member, you can fight back. Learn more about your legal options today.