Editor’s note: The following list was compiled by Carolyn Waterstradt, who holds a masters degree in theology and will graduate with masters degree in social work in April 2012. Carolyn owns Inner Quest Healing, where she works with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This partial list of grooming techniques was compiled from her research with 18 women who were abused by a member of the clergy. Her book, “Fighting the Good Fight: Healing and Advocacy after Clergy Sexual Assault,” is a compilation of this research and will be available in spring 2012.
This article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.
10 Grooming Techniques Commonly Used in Clergy Sexual Abuse of Adults
By Carolyn Waterstradt, M.A., MSW Candidate
Whenever members of the clergy cross sexual boundaries with someone who attends his congregation, it is considered a boundary violation. In fact, some US states consider such behavior to be a form of criminal sexual assault. The reason the clergyperson is always at fault in such a relationship is because he holds all the power in the relationship rendering it impossible for the other person to truly give consent.
When this type of boundary violation takes place, a period of grooming often precedes it. During the grooming period the clergyperson chooses a vulnerable victim and works closely with her, gradually wearing down her boundaries in anticipation of sexually assaulting her. Grooming often begins with small boundary violations that gradually progress.
- Inviting the victim to do special things alone with him such as attending a seminar.
- Sharing confidential information about other members of the community or about his wife.
- Accidently brushing up against the victim.
- Scheduling counseling sessions when no one is around.
- Touching the victim in a counseling session.
- Expressing love for the victim. Usually this is first said in the context of brotherly, agape, courtly, or spiritual love.
- Saying things like, “No one has ever understood me like you do.” or “God sent you to me.”
- Making an obscene gesture or remark.
- Asking for details regarding a victim’s marriage, especially if the victim is not being seen for marriage counseling.
- Asking for information about the victim’s sex life or giving her material that is sexual in nature. Clergy are not trained to ask such questions.
There are other grooming techniques. What ones can you think of?
© 2012 Inner Quest Healing