How Common Is Clergy Sexual Abuse?

Over the last few decades, thousands of clergy sexual abuse cases have been reported in various religious communities around the world. Religious institutions have only recently begun to take accountability and pledge transparency when it comes to clergy sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this crime continues to plague millions of churches worldwide as religious institutions fail to take the proper steps to prevent and respond to clergy sexual abuse.

Defining Clergy Sexual Abuse

Clergy sexual abuse refers to sex crimes, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, or sexual harassment perpetrated by members of a religious clergy. This includes religious leaders such as priests, pastors, ministers, and rabbis, as well as other individuals involved in a religious institution. In most cases, victims are congregants or parishioners of the religious institution; people the perpetrators feel they have control, power, and authority over.

Global Clergy Sexual Abuse by the Numbers

Although studies and information on clergy sexual abuse are limited, available statistics state that its global prevalence rate is around 18 percent for girls and 7.6 percent for boys. In recent years, commissioned studies have found alarming rates of clergy sexual abuse within various religious communities.

For example, one study conducted in Germany found that 4.4 percent of its overall clergy had been accused of the sexual abuse of minors. The victims were predominantly male (62.8 percent) and children under the age of 14 (66.7 percent). In 80 percent of cases, the sexual abuse involved bodily contact.

Another study of French Catholic priests found systemic sexual abuse that had been carried out by almost 3,000 priests and members of the clergy since 1950. The estimated number of victims identified in the French Catholic Church was an astonishing 216,000 people. Around 80 percent of the victims were boys.

Clergy Sexual Abuse in California

In the United States, more than 5,300 priests and other members of the clergy have been accused of sexually abusing children. California is the top state in terms of the number of reported clergy sexual abuse cases in the country.

According to a ProPublica data compilation, a total of 757 credibly accused perpetrators of clergy sexual assault had been named in California as of 2020. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone produced files that named 244 priests and other members of the clergy who had been credibly accused of abuse by 656 individuals.

Who Are the Most Common Perpetrators of Clergy Sexual Abuse?

Clergy sexual abuse is most often perpetrated by people who hold positions of authority within a church or religious organization. Perpetrators take advantage of the imbalance of power between themselves and their victims to convince, force, coerce or threaten them into complying with nonconsensual or unlawful sexual activity.

The most common perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse are:

  • Religious leaders
  • Priests
  • Bishops
  • Deacons
  • Ministers
  • Reverends
  • Rabbis
  • Imams
  • Nuns or sisters
  • Church staff or administrators
  • Youth group leaders
  • Camp counselors

Clergy sexual abuse is not limited to any particular religious denomination or faith. If you or someone you love is a victim of clergy sexual abuse, you deserve justice. Do not suffer in silence. Consult with the Los Angeles clergy sexual abuse attorneys at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for legal advice about your rights and options. Initial consultations are free, confidential and come at no obligation to hire them.