When a congregation learns about allegations of ministerial sexual exploitation, some of the members will often experience the same kind of effects as do individual victims. Congregants typically feel lost and confused about God.
Their ability to trust their religious leader is diminished. If it involves a member of the clergy, the congregation divides into two camps; one that supports the clergy and blames the victim and another that supports the victim. Both groups suffer. Relationships among congregants that may have lasted for many years become strained as people try to sort out their reactions.
Remember the rabbi story? The victims wanted to have a place to voice their pain, tell their side of story and to make a plan to move forward together. They asked me to come to the synagogue to give creedance to the their stories. They were afraid that they wouldn’t be believed.
I agreed to come and support them and speak about what happened to me. As I sat on the steps outside the synagogue before the meeting was to take place and during 15 minute time frame I overheard the following comments:
One woman said to another, “Frankly, I find the rabbi very attractive and would be flattered if he made a pass at me.”
A man said to his wife, “Well, he’s only human. It’s not that big of a mistake,”
Another woman said, “I just don’t understand why these women would want to discredit such an honorable man.”
It is a common reaction for congregants to diminish the seriousness of such allegations. Those comments illustrate the way people blame the victim.
You can read more about it by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page or continue with the course and click on Effects of Exploitation on the Wider Church.
Article about exploitation in the synagogue.