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J Child Sex Abus. 2008;17(3-4):329-58. doi: 10.1080/10538710802329940.

The impact of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse: the role of gender, development, and posttraumatic stress.

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The Brookline Community Mental Center, Brookline, MA 02445, USA.


The literature on clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse suggests that there are two modal populations of survivors: boys and adult women. We review what is known about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder following sexual abuse and explore the different treatment needs for these two survivor groups. For children, clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse can catastrophically alter the trajectory of psychosocial, sexual, and spiritual development. Depending on the age at which abuse occurred, adult clients may present with clinical issues that are more appropriate for a younger developmental stage. Additionally, the symptoms of traumatic stress may be misunderstood when clients conceptualize their abuse as an "affair" or "consensual" relationship. We discuss empirically supported treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and potential adaptations for the needs of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse survivors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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