When the Child Abuser Carries a Bible: Investigating Abuse in Faith Communities

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Course Description

In many cases of child sexual and physical abuse, perpetrators use religious or spiritual themes to justify their abuse of a child. Although no known religion in modern culture suggests that sexual abuse is condoned or taught as part of its tenets, some church leaders engage in conduct suggesting the child is equally, if not more to blame than the perpetrator, while also urging immediate reconciliation between the perpetrator and victim. This workshop, presented by a former prosecutor, provides best practices and practical tips to effectively serve victims of abuse perpetrated in the context of a faith community. Topics include the general dynamics of secrecy in particular religious settings; distortion of faith issues to manipulate victims; spiritual blocks to disclosure or compliance with investigations (and their implications for forensic interviews); exploitation of authority; and investigative considerations.

Learning Objectives

  1. Articulate perpetrator distortion of faith issues to manipulate victims and communities.
  2. Describe spiritual blocks and their implications for conducting forensic interviews and building rapport with child sexual abuse survivors.
  3. List potential sources of corroborative evidence in faith-related child abuse investigations.

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