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Baylor study looks at nature of clergy sexual misconduct

Sept. 28, 2009

That's Dr. Diana Garland, dean of the School of Social Work at Baylor, answering a question from NPR's Michel Martin on "Tell Me More." The conversation also featured a woman who experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of a trusted religious leader, the focus of Dr. Garland and the School of Social Work's study.

News of a prominent pastor caught in an affair can galvanize a news cycle for a time, but can also lead to a sense that this is something that only happens to pastors of large-congregations or those dealing with fame or attention in addition to the pressures of church leadership. Dr. Garland said that their study found that to be a very inaccurate picture.

3.1 percent of women who attend services at least once a month have found themselves to be the recipient of either sexual advances or sexual misconduct from a person in a position of religious leadership.

Technology also plays a part--email and text messages make communication more private. But there's also a pattern where multiple roles of guidance can lead to misconduct. Dr. Garland says there needs to be a line drawn.

The study is receiving acclaim and attention in church circles and in the media. Dr. Garland, hoping to bring attention to the issue and cut down on instances, says that all churchgoers can play a role in stopping this. One way is by changing their language.

You can hear the entire "Tell Me More" interview by visiting KWBU.org. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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