Listening to Male Survivors of Church Sexual Abuse
Figueroa Alvear, Rocío; Tombs, David
This project seeks to give voice to male victims of sexual abuse through interviews with eight young men involved with the Sodalicio movement in Peru. The aim of this research is to explore the impact of church-related sexual abuse on each of the interviewees and to identify the short and long-term psychological and spiritual consequences associated with it. We are grateful to all the interviewees for their willingness to participate in this project, and to everyone who helped us in this process in different ways. The limited scale of the project means that the findings cannot be readily generalised, but they support the widely shared conclusion that the damage caused by institutional sexual abuse is often traumatic and profound, and that this is frequently heightened when perpetrators have a religious standing and authority. Despite this, none of the interviewees was given effective pastoral support by the church for years, till the scandal exploded and reached the press. The impact on religious faith varied, and this partly reflected the degree to which the participant identified himself as religious. For participants who did not consider themselves religious, the abuse confirmed their aversion to religion. Participants who previously considered themselves religious, spoke of profound challenges to their faith. One described the impact as ‘catastrophic’ and felt abandoned by God as well as abandoned by the church. Another spoke of his faith being snatched away by a clerical penis. Recognition of different spiritual consequences should be included alongside attention to physical and psychological consequences. Understanding how the physical, psychological and spiritual often occur together, and can magnify each other, needs to be part of a holistic pastoral response to these traumatic experiences.
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Keywords: Sodalicio; Peru; sexual abuse; public theology
Research Type: Project Report
This report is available in English and Spanish