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Reporting Clergy Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse by a priest, deacon or a staff member or volunteer within the Orthodox Church should be reported first to local law enforcement. When you report, a witness may accompany you.

Neutralization or silencing tactics when clergy abuse is reported to the church administration causes further harm and trauma to the victim and the entire parish


For those who report clergy-sexual misconduct to the Church administration, another set of harms often takes place re-traumatizing the victim and compounding what they already endured from the clergy abuse.   

It is important to differentiate the initial harm caused by the individual clergy from the harm caused by reporting to the Church. This latter harm is at the hands of the entire community and faith family within which survivors found their meaning and belonging. The lack of official validation by the victim's leadership and general community expressed as victim-blaming, is spiritually and psychologically crushing because the single perpetrator is the errant priest who misused his position of authority violating his clergy vows, marital vows, and the victim.  

Victims who report clergy abuse to the Church can face any of the following neutralization or silencing tactics against them. The more classic method of "not rocking the boat" to the extreme coercive control and intimidation tactics. These tactics have been well studied (de Weger 2022) as well as experienced by many Orthodox Christians who have reported clergy abuse. 

You may wish to speak with a victim advocate who is trained in sexual abuse and/or clergy abuse before making a police report. Examples include:


(a) RAINN -

(b) Hope of Survivors -

(c) HelpHer -   

Because of the unequal power between a clergyman and a parishioner there can be "no consent". Therefore, any sexualized touch in this circumstance is sexual assault. It is most appropriate to make a police report first. If you choose to report the abuse to church administration be aware that independent, third-party investigations are the gold standard for abuse reporting. This means that the abuse is both reported to a third party and investigated by a third party comprised of trained personnel in clergy abuse. In the absence of this level of training, victims are often further harmed during a church reporting process that makes them relive the trauma by sharing intimate, painful details of abuse with no assurance that it is understood. This can hinder healing and cause additional trauma. 


A useful investigation comparison chart can be found on the GRACE website. We are currently unaware of any Orthodox churches following this gold standard for investigations and cannot recommend making a report to a church as a first step.

You can have someone accompany you to make the report and can request an interview with a detective of the same gender--it does not hurt to ask.  Bring any evidence with you, including text messages, gifts, photos, or even a timeline.  

If you choose to report to church administrative be aware that an internal investigation process is primarily seeking to assess liability.  In this process, victims of clergy abuse have experienced the following:

- interviews at the site of the abuse

- being blamed for the abuse

- hostile questioning/cross examination/incredulity

- being laughed at

- intimidation 

- mass communication to the community where abuse has occurred, which blames the victim or denies the victim's experience

- full disclosure of all victim statements to the offending clergyperson or parishioners, without regard for the victim's safety 

- mislabeling and diminishing the abuse

- no follow-up


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