When clergy are abusers

Editor’s note: The following list was compiled by Carolyn Waterstradt, who holds a masters degree in theology and will graduate with masters degree in social work in April 2012. Carolyn owns Inner Quest Healing, where she works with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This partial list of grooming techniques was compiled from her research with 18 women who were abused by a member of the clergy. Her book, “Fighting the Good Fight: Healing and Advocacy after Clergy Sexual Assault,” is a compilation of this research and will be available in spring 2012. 

This article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.

10 Grooming Techniques Commonly Used in Clergy Sexual Abuse of Adults

By Carolyn Waterstradt, M.A., MSW Candidate

Whenever members of the clergy cross sexual boundaries with someone who attends his congregation, it is considered a boundary violation. In fact, some US states consider such behavior to be a form of criminal sexual assault. The reason the clergyperson is always at fault in such a relationship is because he holds all the power in the relationship rendering it impossible for the other person to truly give consent.

When this type of boundary violation takes place, a period of grooming often precedes it. During the grooming period the clergyperson chooses a vulnerable victim and works closely with her, gradually wearing down her boundaries in anticipation of sexually assaulting her. Grooming often begins with small boundary violations that gradually progress.

Violations include:

  • Inviting the victim to do special things alone with him such as attending a seminar.
  • Sharing confidential information about other members of the community or about his wife.
  • Accidently brushing up against the victim.
  • Scheduling counseling sessions when no one is around.
  • Touching the victim in a counseling session.
  • Expressing love for the victim. Usually this is first said in the context of brotherly, agape, courtly, or spiritual love.
  • Saying things like, “No one has ever understood me like you do.” or “God sent you to me.”
  • Making an obscene gesture or remark.
  • Asking for details regarding a victim’s marriage, especially if the victim is not being seen for marriage counseling.
  • Asking for information about the victim’s sex life or giving her material that is sexual in nature. Clergy are not trained to ask such questions.

There are other grooming techniques. What ones can you think of?

© 2012 Inner Quest Healing

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aussiegirl wrote,

“I read an autobiography by an indigenous Australian woman who was taken from her birth family during a dark period of our national history (not so very long ago) when it was considered “better” for native children to be fostered into white “Christian” families or put into institutions/”children’s homes”. I was riled up enough about the horrendous politics of the time that would wrench little ones from the arms of their wailing families but to learn of this poor lady’s sexual molestation by a “nun” at the “children’s home” she was placed at, boiled my blood”

I think I might have written to the woman, years back. Was she one of the “Forgotten Australians”? The woman I wrote to and received correspondence from, was. If anyone’s interested, look up “Forgotten Australians” on the internet. There were/are HUNDREDS, if not THOUSANDS of them. The part about the “dark period” of Australian History, I understood that, too, from the film, “Rabbit Proof Fence”

A very sad thing, indeed. I am glad that what followed were hearings in the Australian government, where hundreds of those abused, addressed the authorities, en masse or with petitions, via a collective grievance, trying to obtain reparation. It wasn’t just Catholic institutions/orphanages that perped, it was also other religious institutions, like the Salvation Army. Worse, when brothers and sisters and whole families were separated..much damage.



moveingon wrote,

“Downside look after their own, old Gregorians as they are known is like one big boys club ..old boys send their children, they enter the same house as daddy and everyone knows the rules!”

Sounds like a misogynists’ haven, to me, much like that one Greek Island reserved for a monastery, ONLY MEN, where no woman is allowed to set foot on it..can’t remember the name of it, I think I read about it in National Geographic, but it was long ago, so am not sure.

Yes..very cushy..with a pristine view of the (I guess Aagean) Sea for a view, all around..probably plenty of chances for skinny dipping with fellow monks, too. LOL


I once met a dock worker, a red-haired Irish man, well in his 40s, who told me, “The Catholic Church is a petri dish for pedophiles.” I did not inquire as to details, but I had a feeling he knew from personal experience.

Another man, a musician I know, raised in the Catholic faith, told me that a nun once boxed his ears when he was a kid. He told me, “When she dies I’m going to pee on her grave site and sing ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ “.. and I believe him.


To bellaangel’s question, “So where do I start to heal? Abuse from #1. #2,#3, #4 or #5??????”

I agree with skylar..GO NOWHERE NEAR A CHURCH! If you can, go read the web sites/URLS, christianaggression.org, and http://testimonials.exchristian.net/2009/04/finally-free.html .. articles.exchristian.net/ .. suggest you read the articles, if only to get a different perspective. I am not trying to persuade you to become an athiest. I’m certainly not one, but I don’t think of God the way I once did, because of MULTIPLE experiences in my past with..usually FAKE CHRISTIANS, but the last big mistake, with my ex-spath, involved, I think a Jewess who I also think colluded with him (my ex was raised as a Methodist) to do me in..though her Christmas tree was never any prettier than the ones I used to put up each year, when I lived with him, before she did. So, it’s not just ONE phony religion or fake religionists or fake spiritualists, who have impacted my life, in nasty ways, but several, and across more than a 40-year period of my life. I’m done with organized religion. For good.

Know that I believe EACH and EVERY WORD you have written! I know you speak the truth.


Dear Zim, Thank you for your suggestion…and i will definately look into the site your suggested. I have been terribly hurt by many “Christians” but I will always hold dear the relationship I have with the Lord. He is the ONLY one that has been there for me, day or night through all of this.

……as I was driving in this morning to work I was thinking of another situation where a “Christian” used their religion and “wisdom” to judge me. After all had happened,(she saw the work of the Spath…..but then heard through GOSSIP the lies of what the spath brought out from my past to use against me to deflect his mask from being torn-off) I called her…. (NOT KNOWING SHE HAD JOINED IN THE GOSSIP)….and was telling her how a man at one of the properties I manage was stalking me,coming to the office everyday, and how the employees were having to step in and protect me from this person. This man is a diagnosed Schizophrenic and he would see me to pay his rent etc….. I was only relaying the details of the day how 2 co-workers had to get in his face to protect me (….the next week,not anything to do with me or the situation his family had him committed to the hospital to get his meds regulated) HE is the one with a nmental health condition…I only take his rent!
…..Anyways, Do you know the response of this “Christian” and “Friend”? ……..”Well, he was connecting with that broken place in you and you need to see what is broken in YOU that he would come around and his SPIRIT would CONNECT with your SPIRIT and pick out that broken place in YOU”, and I never heard from her again!!!!!!!!!!

…….please understand the man was physically attracted to me, I never had any conversation or anything with him, and he is a diagnosed Schizo were I work….and he is in and out of the hospital CONSTANTLY because of his condition and his inablilty to remain stable on his meds. BUT SOMEHOW ALL OF THAT DID NOT MATTER….. I WAS JUDGED AND FOUND THAT EVEN THOUGH I NEVER EVEN SPOKE WITH THIS PERSON, IT WAS SOMETHING BROKEN IN ME THAT WOULD CAUSE HIM TO STALK ME, SOMEHOW RELATED TO MY PAST……AND I NEVER HEARD FROM HER AGAIN! i tried to call her back, to see if I had really heard her right, and she would not answer my call.

I have never known such judgement since the spath has told his sob stories,lies and deception to friends and family to tun them against me, and to cause the ambient abuse he so loves!! It has been 2 years in April ……and not ONE person from a church I was in for 30 years has driven up my driveway, written a card or called…..not one….to find out the whole truth of what has happened. Ever heard the story of the Good Samaritan? ’cause I have been in the ditch and they all just keep walking past and never even bother to look in my direction…..they just keep walking.

But in all this I still believe in the God of the Bible, because He is Love…and He has not left me.

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