Monday, September 21, 2009

Is 3% of sexual misconduct a lot or a little?

A recent study found that about 3% of women who attend a religious service have had sexual advances made by by a religious leader. From an article in the Washington Post:

"One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says.

The study, by Baylor University researchers, found that the problem is so pervasive that it almost certainly involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions and leaders.

"It certainly is prevalent, and clearly the problem is more than simply a few charismatic leaders preying on vulnerable followers," said Diana Garland, dean of Baylor's School of Social Work, who co-authored the study.

It found that more than two-thirds of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance."

This raises an interesting question--is 3% a little or a lot? Obviously from a Christian perspective any is too much, but this question raises the issue of how we make comparisons about Christian's morality.

My guiding principle is something that I heard Charles Colson say--that Christianity makes people better, not necessarily good. Applied here, it suggests that Christian faith will make its leaders less likely to cross boundaries of ministry and marriage, but some still will (though, presumably, not as often as they would were they not Christians).

This suggests that we need a contrast group, somebody in a situation similar to church leaders. Maybe we should compare rates of church-leader-propositioning with those of bosses or teachers or other people in authority. That's the kind of information that we'd need to really answer, is this a lot or a little.

Thanks Jay!


Daniel Clark said...

I also think that another interesting issue is how widespread is the abuse, that is, is it something that aprrox 3% of clergy do, or is it something that a very small proportion do, but do repeatedly.

Mark said...

I just read an article about a man who lied about the medals he earned in the military. I assume he lied to feel more important in front of others. Would a woman lie about sexual advances in order to feel more desirable?

If a survey is taken and the people give false answers is the survey valid for anything?

How reliable are surveys where you are depending on the honesty of the person answering the questions versus scientific data collected by calibrated measuring instruments?

Brad Wright said...

Good point, Daniel. So this statistic really tells us that up to 3% of clergy might do it (within confidence intervals).