Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions – eBook

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding

By Anne Stephenson

Adult_Sexual_Abuse_in_Religious_Institutions_Front_cover_19_July_ 2016_250weBook edition details

Published: 20 July 2016
Language: English
ISBN PDF: 9781927260524
ISBN ePub: 9781927260531
ISBN Kindle: 9781927260548



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When sexual abuse of adults by clergy and spiritual leaders comes to light, religious institutions need robust procedures in place to deal with offenders and support victims.

Based on her long experience in ministry working with sexual offenders and their victims, and the training she has undertaken, Anne Stephenson shares the wisdom she has gained, including:

  • Characteristics of sexual offenders to be aware of.
  • Suggested procedures to deal with offenders and support victims when a complaint is made.
  • The victim should only have to tell their story once, so they are not re-victimised by having to retell their story many times.
  • The police should be involved.
  • Mediation between the offender and victim does not work.
  • Sexual offending in a religious institution is a breach of the duty of care that the clergyperson or leader has towards the victim. As such, it should be treated with the same seriousness as a breach of professional ethics in other fields.
  • A victim can have a good future, (it may be hard won), and be a survivor. 

While earthed within the Christian tradition, this book is for all faith communities, traditions and cultures. Anne hopes that everyone in the ‘dance of life’ will find something within this book to assist them in their understanding and then take responsibility for their own situation.

Reviews and articles

Click the links to see the reviews and articles about this book:

“…vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.” Review by Mary Caygill in Touchstone March 2017

Review by Tui Motu Interislands 29 Aug 2019

Kapiti News article 17 August 2016





1 — Why this book is written

  • How does all this happen?

2 — My growing understanding

3 — Religious Institutions: The art of being in unity

  • Relationship of safety and trust
  • Hierarchical structures and societal reform
  • Poem about hierarchy

4 — The pastoral role within religious institutions

  • A Theological perspective for clerical sexual abuse
  • So what happens when a spiritual leader crosses  the boundary line and sexualises the pastoral relationship?
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

5 — What is the mindset that gets things so wrong?

  • Psychological understandings
  • Psychopathy
  • Narcissism
  • Physiology of sexualisation for the offender

6 — Good outcomes of clergy sexual abuse

  • How to treat a victim
  • The effect on the victim
  • Creating personal and social confusion
  • A victim’s relational tree is severely damaged at all levels
  • Gossiping

7 — What is healthy?

8 — Openness to the wider community

  • Publication of the name of the offender

9 — Awareness for a victim

10 — Spiritual leadership

  • Boundaries and relationships
  • Projection
  • If you get it wrong (as a religious leader)
  • Suggested robust procedures for a complaint of clerical sexual misconduct

11 — How does the person offering pastoral care handle a disclosure?

  • Pastoral care for the sexually abused
  • A person has been wounded deeply. You are offering pastoral care.
  • Pastoral care for the sex offender in the religious community
  • Pastoral care for someone who is disclosed as an offender

12 — Self care for the pastoral worker

  • Respect for the other person’s boundaries
  • Other tips on spotting a sexual predator
  • For the victim within your care

13 — In honour of the truth

Closing Thoughts


Anne’s professional background

Anne’s personal background

About the Author


Anne is a retired Methodist minister who lives on the Kapiti Coast. She worked for many years as a registered nurse in New Zealand and Australia.

Anne has been a hospital chaplain, and spent 10 years as a coordinator and then the director of industrial chaplaincy in the Waikato. 

She has had training and experience in working with sexual offenders, their victims and families.



adult sexual abuse by clergy, sexual abuse & harassment, New Zealand, pastoral resources, Christian leaders and leadership, spiritual leaders, church leadership, social issues, pastoral resources, Christian ministry and pastoral activity, abnormal psychology, Christian life and practice


HRCV     Christian life and practice…
HRCX1   Christian leaders and leadership
HRCX4   Christian ministry and pastoral activity
JFFE2     Sexual abuse and harassment
JMU       Sexual behaviour
JMP       Abnormal psychology
HRCV3  Christian counselling
HRCV4  Christian aspects of sexuality, gender and relationships



SOC060000 SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sexual Abuse & Harassment
REL012000 RELIGION / Christian Life / General
REL012110 RELIGION / Christian Life / Social Issues
REL109010 RELIGION / Christian Ministry / Adult
REL050000 RELIGION / Christian Ministry / Counseling & Recovery
REL074000 RELIGION / Christian Ministry / Pastoral Resources