Victims find policies are only a place to start.

Rachel is a member of a denomination that, she says, “has made a valiant attempt” to address the issues of clergy misconduct at the denominational level. But by the time she reported her own sexual abuse, that policy had not been implemented by her local church. As a result, she says, the church mishandled her complaint, causing her additional emotional distress.

Rachel was a respected leader in her West Coast congregation. Not until after counseling did she realize that her pastor’s physical relationship with her had been abusive. When the church learned of the abuse, “it had no written policy on how to handle clergy misconduct,” she said. The church responded by immediately removing Rachel from her leadership position and confronting her with probing questions.

Rachel later learned that her pastor was known to have abused several women (four of whom were already receiving insurance settlements) from two former pastorates. She also learned that the pastor’s peers knew about the abuse and had failed to take action.

CHRISTIANITY TODAY interviewed Rachel and one other abuse victim. Both were given pseudonyms for this article.

Feeling powerless

Susan is a medical professional and used to teach Sunday school in her East Coast church. Her church’s denomination also has a policy on sexual misconduct. But after reporting on a pastor’s misconduct with her, Susan said, instead of feeling vindicated, she felt powerless, isolated, and that the church did not care.

Susan’s case is now being handled by her church’s local governing body. Rachel, on the other hand, has taken her case to court.

After years of ignoring the issue, several denominations are adopting sweeping guidelines for coping with ...

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