Townhall: When Churches Become Scenes of Sexual Abuse

Haley Halverson, Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach, at NCOSE wrote an op-ed for about sexual abuse in churches. Below are excerpts of the op-ed, along with curated resources.

This week a grand jury reported on documents from six Catholic Church dioceses in Pennsylvania that revealed 300 “predator priests” have been accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children.

The grand jury report states: “We believe that the real number – of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward – is in the thousands. Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were prepubescent… But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.”

This report has sent shock waves through the world, akin to the 2002 Boston Globe report on a priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys who was shielded by the Catholic Church.

The grand jury rightly stated: “There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale.”

The Catholic Church is not alone. Many churches and religious institutions have been accused of perpetuating sexual abuse, to various degrees.

In Evangelical Christian church circles, amidst the #MeToo movement, high-profile leaders have been accused of sexual assault. Leaders like Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was forced to retire after it was reported that he told a rape victim to forgive her attacker instead of calling the police….

In the Mormon church, there have also been scandals, such as the recent case of Joseph L. Bishop, a retired president of the Provo Missionary Training Center, who admitted to molesting at least one female missionary. News reports state that the victim reported the incident to her local bishop, but that the local bishop ignored it because he “wasn’t going to risk sullying the reputation of someone based on that kind of a report.” …

There have been accusations of sexual abuse amongst Orthodox Jewish Rabbisinternational Buddhist leadersMuslim pilgrimages, and more….


Tragically, sexual abuse is in every sector: including religion. The #CatholicChurch is not alone. Wherever there are people (especially with factors of authority and institutional self-preservation) sexual abuse is a problem.… Click To Tweet

No matter where abuse occurs, it is always wrong, and should be reported. There are several specific resources listed below. You can also visit our Resource Center for more.

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE

National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE

National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-2873, 1-800-25ABUSE

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

  • Empowering and training Christian communities to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse

Keeping Children Safe

  • Keeping Children Safe sets rigorous International Child Safeguarding Standards to help organizations protect children from exploitation and abuse.

Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids –

  • TAALK has many resources and a private forum with one section that is specifically for parents of children who have been sexually abused


Visit our Resource Center for more.

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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