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Guest Blog: Hope in the Research #8

In this blog post, Rev. James Evinger highlights some recent research trends, including research in communities and contexts that are underrepresented or ignored in Western media, evidence-based methodologies, conceptual frameworks and analysis that explore theological and ethical responses to abuse, secular and institutional responses, and relevant historical material. Since 1995, Rev. Evinger has reviewed materials and updated the Annotated Bibliography of Clergy Sexual Abuse and Sexual Boundary Violations in Religious Communities. This huge undertaking has provided an extraordinary resource for scholars and researchers, as well as those seeking to address the needs of survivors.

Guest Blog: Hope in the Research #8

Rev. James S. Evinger

By Rev. James S. Evinger
Apr 02, 2022


Since 2008, FaithTrust generously has posted a continuing document I compile, Annotated Bibliography of Clergy Sexual Abuse and Sexual Boundary Violations in Religious Communities.  Intended as extensive and broad, the Bibliography, as of the April, 2022 update, includes 50+ additions. It is now 1,900+ pages, excluding the Introduction.

Since inception in 1995, the numerical growth documents the global attention to sexual boundary breaches (rule violations) and betrayals of trust (relational violations) in faith communities. The growth also reflects the improved quality of knowledge, thanks to contributions from multi-disciplinary perspectives. We also benefit from the ongoing substantiation of best practices regarding prevention and intervention, how to hold offenders and institutions accountable, and ways to support the recovery and healing of survivors and affected communities.  These results reflect the direct and constructive impact of survivors’ participation and advocacy.  From the newest entries, here are 10 titles which illustrate the range of the updates.

1) Communities and contexts underrepresented in Western media.

Anders, Anne Iris Miriam. (2019). Silencing and oblivion of psychological trauma, its unconscious aspects, and their impact on the inflation of Vajrayāna. An analysis of cross-group dynamics and recent developments in Buddhist groups based on qualitative data. Religions, 10(1l, November):1-22.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 623.  A link to the article is available.]

Eisen, Ethan, & Berman, Yehoshua. (2018). Situational factors related to childhood sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community among adult and juvenile offenders. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 27(5, July):537-553.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 523.]

2) Evidence-based methodologies.

Harsey, Sarah, & Freyd, Jennifer J. (2020). Deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender (DARVO): What is the influence on perceived perpetrator and victim credibility? Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 29(8):897-916.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 652.  A link to the article is available.]  While they do not address the context of faith communities, the dynamics they describe are very relevant to the topics of this Bibliography.

O’Brien, Patrick M. (2020). Transparency as a means to rebuilt trust within the Church: A case study in how Catholic dioceses and eparchies in the United States have responded to the clergy sex abuse crisis. Church, Communication and Culture, 5(3):456-483.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 667.  A link to the article is available.]

Kewley, Stephanie, Beech, Anthony R., & Harkins, Leigh. (2015). Examining the role of faith community groups with sexual offenders: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 25, Part A(November-December):142-149.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 256.]  A careful literature review.  The results challenge facile assumptions about the efficacy of faith communities which work with people who are released to the community after incarceration for committing sexual crimes.

3) Conceptual frameworks and analyses.

Kidd, Erin. (2020). Theology in the wake of survivor testimony: Epistemic injustice and clergy sex abuse. Journal of Religion & Society, Supplement 21:161-177.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 257.  A link to the article is available.]  Draws upon philosophy to explore the theological consequences of barriers to survivors’ testimony being recognized and accepted as credible and truthful.

Stephens, Darryl W. (2021). Bearing witness as social action: Religious ethics and trauma-informed response. Trauma Care, 1(1):49-63.  [In the Bibliography, Part 2, p. 434.  A link to the article is available.]  Presents a conceptual framework which integrates religious ethics, process theology, and a trauma-informed clinical response as a form of social action with survivors and those who respond to survivors which attends to spiritual concerns.

4) Secular disciplines.

McAlinden, Anne-Marie. (2021). [Research Article] Apologies as ‘shame management’: The politics of remorse in the aftermath of historical institutional abuse. Legal Studies.  Published on-line 07/01/21.  [In the Bibliography, Part 3, p. 143.  A link to the article is available.]  Based on qualitative research and a literature review, presents a model of institutional apologies for cases of historical abuse of women and minors in the context of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Schwartzman, Micah, Tebbe, Nelson, & Schragger, Richard. (2017/2018). [Article] The costs of conscience. Kentucky Law Journal, 106(4):781-812.  [In the Bibliography, Part 3, p. 39.]  Presents an analysis and critique which challenges the use of the U.S.A. legal doctrine of “third-party harm” to justify government accommodations, based on the Constitution’s First Amendment religion clauses, which result in exempting clergy from State statutes which would  require mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse.

5) Discovery of older material.

Van de Warker, Ely. (1884). A Gynecological Study of the Oneida Community. New York, NY: William Wood & Company, 28 pp. [Reprinted from: Van de Warker, Ely. (1884). A gynecological study of the Oneida Community. American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, 17(8, August(:785-810.]  [In the Bibliography, Part 1, p. 674.  A link to the document is available.]  A rare and remarkable report with details of the sexual practices of a 19th century, religious-based, residential community.  Includes accounts of the structure and culture which left women vulnerable to exploitation and justified adults using minors for sexual purposes.


About the Author

Rev. James S. Evinger is a minister, retired, in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who worked 10 years in urban congregations and 30 years in health centers with people with psychiatric illness and developmental disabilities in state institutions in Pennsylvania and New York.  He held teaching and research appointments in the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.  He has 27 years’ experience with cases of sexual boundary violations in churches, including ecclesiastical, civil, and criminal jurisdictions.



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