The Sacred Secret: Child Sexual Abuse in the Faith Community


Shana was sexually abused by her father over a two year period starting at age 12.  Her family was very actively involved in church and her father served in a leadership position.  Once the abuse was diclosed, Child Protective Services and their church encouraged reconciliation, but her parents eventually divorced.  Shana and her mother were labeled as rebellious for not being able to forgive and forget, so they relocated to another state.  Her father was never prosecuted and attends the same church where he works with youth.  Looking back, Shana feels the church failed her when she needed them most. 

Tim, pastor and counselor, acknowledges that churches often deny that sexual abuse occurs or diminish its impact.  He points out that forgiveness is often wrongly interpreted as no consequences for the offender.  He encourages church leaders to always support the victim and hold the offender accountable in a loving, firm way. 

David was raped by a priest as a teenager.  Thirty-five years later he disclosed for the first time to his wife after watching a TV program about adult male survivors of child sexual abuse.  He eventually met with the Bishop and diocesan attorneys with the hope they would make a public apology and look for other victims, but was told that his was an isolated case.  David now counsels with other victims.

Ed was a priest until 1989 when was told he could no longer serve in that capacity after accusations of abuse.  He took a job with juvenile court.  He was eventually arrested for abusing a boy who was living with him while in state’s custody and is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence.  He justified his behavior by thinking he was “helping” children who already like being sexual. 

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