Child Sexual Abusers Often Use Religion, Or God, To Control Victims

“Child sexual abuse takes an often-unrecognized spiritual toll because many predators use religion to hush their victims, says Victor Vieth.

Churches and children’s advocates need to acknowledge that influence to thwart abuse and help victims heal, said Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, Minn.

Vieth will advance that position as keynote speaker during a conference titled “Faith, Healing, and Future Work: Creating Partnerships to Promote Child Protection” from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in the Viterbo University Fine Arts Center.

“A child abuser will touch a child and say, ‘See, you enjoyed that as much as I did.’ You’re just as sinful as I am,” Vieth said.

In effect, that shames the victim into guilty silence, he said.

“A large body of research shows that most, but not all, abusers use religion because it helps them” control the victims, he said.

Vieth has headed the training center, located at Winona State University, since its inception in 2003. He said he adopted his advocacy position while dealing with child abuse cases as a prosecutor for 10 years in Watonwan and Cottonwood counties in Minnesota.

“Early on in my career, I saw how often abusers use religion to keep children quiet,” he said.

He cited a case in which a 12-year-old had alleged that her father had sexually abused her.

“When we went into the courtroom, she saw her minister and church elders, and she knew they were there to support her dad,” Vieth said. “She tugged on my suit and whispered in my ear, ‘Does this mean God is against me, too?’”

The damage is worse when the abuser is a clergy member, Vieth said.

“It has a negative effect on a child’s spirituality,” he said. “They view God differently, and they view a higher power differently.”

Emily Dykman, an assistant professor of religious studies at Viterbo who also will speak at the conference, said the gathering will address abuse issues beyond sexual matters.

“There is intense spiritual injury in all forms of maltreatment, especially when one’s faith tradition is being used within the context of the abuse,” she said.

Many victims pull away from religion, although they often still rely on spirituality to help them heal, and they need help filling the gap, Vieth said.

Churches must confront the issue, including speaking against abuse from the pulpit, and parents must talk to their children about it, he said.

Faith communities must become more knowledgeable “so they can tag team with health professionals when a child has a spiritual question like, ‘Where was God when Daddy abused me’ or ‘Is it true I’m sinful?’” Vieth said.

Abuse violates victims’ dignity, Dykman said, adding, “Churches much commit themselves to rebuilding the dignity of these persons and empower them to work toward wholeness.”

Everyone must be involved in combating abuse, Dykman said.

“Churches have their formal leadership — that cannot be denied, but each and every person of faith can make a committed effort,” she said.

“In many cases, the shame of one’s abuse causes a sense of isolation which can only be overcome by communities that are accepting, loving and compassionate,” she said.

Healing requires patience, Dykman said.

“We need to give the victim of abuse the time needed to work through their pain and anguish, rather than rushing to an act or expression of forgiveness,” she said.

“People are not issues that need to be fixed, but mysteries that need to be unfolded with care and love,” Dykman said.”…

Another way to help rectify this problem, is for non-offending clergy, church leaders, and religious lay people to stop projecting the idea that God is a man in a white robe, floating around the cosmos with a staff, inflicting punishment on everyone.

One of the reasons that victims often grow up to be atheists, or confused and afraid about God, is because of the myth that has been passed down through the ages –the myth that God is an angry, (but sometimes loving) male figure who strikes us with terrible tragedies, punishment, and the fear of “the good being taken away.”

Those who have been abused by religious hypocrites, or who have been abused by perpetrators who use religion or the word “God” to control and silence the child, have a double-whammy to deal with. The victim not only experienced an authority figure being a hypocrite, but the hypocrite also made them believe that God is a wrathful, gross figure, that scares people with threats of punishment.




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39 Responses to Child Sexual Abusers Often Use Religion, Or God, To Control Victims

  1. Kevin F says:

    Excellent article, Alethea. What I think many people may not realise is that for Catholics and Catholic priests especially, there is very little sin in sexually assaulting children, especially boys. The main BIG, MORTAL SIN for Catholic men and priests is having sex with a woman you haven’t married in a Catholic Church and producing a child from said sex.
    So sexually assaulting young girls isn’t particularly sinful as they aren’t yet able to have children while sexually assaulting boys carries little or no sin at all. Also, if people or police happen to object to any of that, the Church hierarchy will hide you, move you overseas or just block and hold up any prosecution. And, in the eyes of many priests and devout Catholics, their religious (Canon) law overrides any civil law. God trumps the State.
    It’s likely this kind of view or similar holds in other religions as well but I don’t have any personal experience so I can’t say.

    • Alethea says:

      “..What I think many people may not realise is that for Catholics and Catholic priests especially, there is very little sin in sexually assaulting children, especially boys. The main BIG, MORTAL SIN for Catholic men and priests is having sex with a woman you haven’t married in a Catholic Church and producing a child from said sex.”

      Kevin, I don’t know what you are talking about here.

      “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh. And if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee having one eye to enter into life, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

      The Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church –the church that existed for 2,000 years -not the Novus Ordo church- has always known/taught the seriousness of harming children, because JESUS THE CHRIST Himself taught the seriousness of it.

      • Alethea says:

        Do not be confused between the false Novus Ordo church that began with Vatican Two, and the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. The HRCAC is not perfect, but the Novus Ordo church is an imposter.

        • Kevin F says:

          Thanks, Alethea. Because of my life experience, I have to differ with you. I was sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest around 1960, well before Vatican Two ever started. It’s a fact that thousands of children in Ireland were also sexually and physically assaulted by priests, nuns and other religious long before Vatican Two. And these thousands are only the survivors, probably the tip of a big iceberg. Many others killed themselves or were unable to deal with the trauma, suffering addictions and all kinds of mental and.physical illnesses.
          The HRHAC, as you call it, has a history of murder, rape, violence, control and domination back to before the Middle Ages. The Holy Roman Inquisition alone tortured and killed millions of people in Europe over hundreds of years. The majority of these people were women. And church leaders and their supporters grew immensely rich from the land and property they confiscated from those they murdered.
          And the only reason the HRHAC ever quoted any teachings or scripture was to keep people in fear and under control. The leaders never abided by any of these. Laws and rules were only for the masses, to keep them in their place in society and to maintain the privilege and wealth the Church and the rulers enjoyed. Church leaders always blocked any criticism of criminality or corruption in their ranks.
          I’m not anti-Catholic, however. I see that all religion is about the few dominating and controlling the many. All religions have always been very important parts of society’s control systems.
          And I confess I don’t know anything about what you call the Novus Ordo Church. If it is corrupt, manipulative and violent, then I’d say it’s just a continuation of what the HRHAC has always been.

          • Little Nel says:

            I read about a study that was conducted about the percentage of child molesters in the Catholic Church and how it compares to the percentage of child molesters in the general population.

            The study concluded that the same percentage of child molesters in the general population is equal to the same percentage that exists in the Catholic Church.

            I can’t remember what the exact percentage was, (like about 1-10 percent) , but when it is mathematically calculated to the total world population and coupled with repeat offending, a lot of children are injured.

            Many child molesters join churches and benevolent children’s organizations, as way to find child victims and hide their crimes under the cover of “righteousness” or “goodness.”

            • Alethea says:

              I read that it is two percent of Catholic priests –no more than any relatives of children in homes of incest, protestant ministers, rabbis, coaches etc etc. The United States media is run and controlled by those who would dance joyfully if the catholic church collapsed. Those who run the media despise Jesus and Catholicism. This is why it *appears* that more priests have abused children than any other group of people.

          • Alethea says:

            Kevin, the infiltration of the Catholic Church began well before Vatican Two. It was planned in the 1800’s (at least) and implemented slowly in the early 1930’s-40’s. Vatican Two was merely the legality of it all.

            Yes, the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church has a history of murder, rape, violence, control and domination…just like Judaism does, and many other religions.

            Just like now, the men who occupy the positions of authority and who occupy the buildings DO NOT MAKE THE CHURCH, nor have they EVER made The Church. The HRCAC is THE MASS and the Faith in the heart of those who assist, serve, attend, and give THE MASS.

            This is why the new church (Novus Ordo mass) is an imposter. Vatican Two changed the Mass and the Sacraments, and formed a new church -an imposter. They might occupy the Vatican and the buildings, but The Tridentine Mass and the faithful who keep it alive are the HRCAC.

            Father Dominic Radecki, and his twin brother priest, Father Fransisco Radecki, have written two books which document everything I speak of. These books are interesting, informative, and well-written. You might be able to get them at a library, or cheap used.



            • Kevin F. says:

              Thanks, Alethea. I know you and I have differing views on the Catholic Church and it’s unlikely we’ll agree. If I had experienced your life, I’m sure my views would be similar to yours. And if you had experienced a childhood in 1960s Ireland of oppressive religion and sexual and physical assault in Catholic boarding schools, I’m sure your views would be different too.

              • Kevin F. says:

                And I notice this particular post has generally stirred up a wasp’s nest of emotion. I’m obviously not the only person reading who has experiences around religion and sexual assault.

              • Alethea says:

                Kevin, my mother was a Catholic. I watched her in church every Sunday, holding her rosary in the pew, only to come home and sexually abuse me, and allow my father to do the same. Her hypocrisy caused me to disbelieve in God and hate religion for 25 years.

                When I found my therapist, who is Catholic, and began to understand that humans have NOTHING to do with the Catholic FAITH, and certainly nothing to do with Who and What Jesus Is, I came to know and understand the Power of The Holy Eucharist and the Sacraments.

                Human beings have the potential to become angels or demons. It has nothing to do with religion.

      • Lula Bell says:

        “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

        I love the scripture you quoted. It makes my inner child so happy, that the bible speaks about how God feels about a person harming me as a child. Yeah! 🙂 God sounds very angry!

        • Little Nel says:

          “But he that shall scandalize one of these little one that believe in me, it were better for him (or her) that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

          Those words are healing to my soul as it describes justice for all of God’s children who were injured unjustly.

        • Alethea says:

          Lula Bell,

          That’s the beauty of Love/God….God does not get angry. Jesus was merely stating the law of cause and effect/, action/reaction. He was saying that this is what happens when a person harms a child. He did not say “I will do this to them.” Jesus was saying, “The law will take effect if anyone harms a child.”

          God does not get angry or punish. God is love. God’s law goes into motion automatically; all we have to do is choose good or bad behavior, and the law reacts with a good or bad result.

          • Lula Bell says:

            Kevin, my mother was a Catholic. I watched her in church every Sunday, holding her rosary in the pew, only to come home and sexually abuse me, and allow my father to do the same. Her hypocrisy caused me to disbelieve in God and hate religion for 25 years.

            >Your words are stunning and shocking. You have an amazing story of triumph over that which is evil (child sexual abuse)! Hip Hip Hooray 🙂

            >My Favorite Triumph Quote: The human spirit needs to accomplish, to achieve, to triumph (rejoice over a success or victory) to be happy. Ben Stein
            *Congratulations Alethea!*

  2. Rachel Myers says:

    All I can say, is thank you for writing this. My dad sexually abused me my entire childhood, and he went to church every Sunday, and he had “devotions” every night, where he read us kids the Bible. And he got up and either read his Bible, or sexually abused me, or both, early every morning, before he went to work. That’s why I and everyone else thought he was innocent of his crimes, for so long–that and the fact that I blacked out while it was happening, and blocked out whatever abuse I was conscious for, and I don’t even remember whatever he said to shut me up. But I’m sure it was some twisted religious nonsense.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Rachel.

      It is like living in two conflicting worlds. It is what helps generate repressed memories of child sexual abuse. Repression happens more often in families that appear relatively “normal” and well-functioning.

      The child experiences two separate realities, and chooses to remember the one that makes sense, the one that meshes with society, the one that goes along with what neighbors see, and the one that allows the child to function.

      I watched my mother go to church every Sunday, and she helped clean the church during the week. I watched her hold a rosary in church, but when we came home, it was back to the incest. As an adult, rosaries made me literally sick. I used to have physical reactions to the sight of them.

      I sometimes wonder if she did the whole church thing just to put on a facade’….to get away with the crimes taking place at home.

      • Rachel Myers says:

        It is interesting, how religion is often involved. I think that the reasons are really varied and complicated. I think that my dad was sincere, and that he got the religious fervor from his equally sick mother. I’m thinking that the reason he likes Christianity so much, is that the Bible can be used as a great tool and excuse for judgement, anger, and hate. He loved to tell us kids how awful and deserving of punishment we were. I remember him sitting down with my youngest sister, telling her in a lecture, what an awful, selfish person she was (so not true). I remember him telling me, “We all deserve to die on the cross, but Jesus took our place, so that when we die, we can go to heaven and be with God.” And my four-year-old mind understood him as saying, “When we die, we will go to heaven and God will have us all nailed to crosses.”

    • Little Nel says:

      Hi Rachel,
      I’m sorry to hear that your father masqueraded as a “devout” man while he sexually abused you in childhood.

      That you kept silent is a normal response from a child victim who couldn’t understand her father’s behavior and his abuse of you.

      Abusers have a way of twisting or spinning the truth in their minds to accommodate their own lusts and degenerate actions.

      Deception and silence are valuable tools that keep child abusers safe from exposure of their crimes and the consequences.

      • Rachel Myers says:

        Thank you for the kindness and understanding, Little Nel. My silence was not a choice. I think when I was little, there was no way for me to understand or describe what was happening, and also, my mother already knew about the sexual abuse, and chose to allow it. I find myself repeating my parents’ relationship. My fiance is passive-aggressively showing more attention, and affection (and saying subtly sexual things about her) to his dog, than to me. So I am observing, first-hand how my dad played my mom against me, and why she hated me so much. I am thinking about leaving my fiance, and have already told him that there is no way that I am having children with him–but my self-esteem and financial resources are so low right now, that physically leaving him is impossible. I called the local domestic violence shelter, and they can’t take me, because I haven’t lived in here for 90 days, and also, there’s just no way that I would ever abandon my cat, or take her to live on the streets.
        Then, when I got older, I know that I was blacking out, while the sexual abuse happened. So, my silence was never a choice, as far as I know.

        • Rachel Myers says:

          Also, why I have trouble liking his dog: My dad used a dog to sexually abuse me. I’ve only recovered bits and pieces of the memories–no actual timeline memory. So it’s very easy for this dog to get on my nerves, and very easy for me to resent her, when she invades my space, or makes certain noises. But I try to like her and be nice to her. But he makes it more difficult for me. And now, I understand the dynamics of what was going on between my mom, dad, and me.

          • Rachel Myers says:

            And yes, my fiance knows that a dog was used to sexually abuse me.

            • Little Nel says:

              Rachel, I’m so sorry that your father did such awful things to you and animals. He was a cruel, unloving, monster, who twisted the words in the Bible to suit his needs to hurt children and animals. His behavior goes beyond human cruelty, it’s cultic and demonic behavior. There is a special place in hell for people like him.

  3. Little Nel says:

    When an abuser says, “Its OK to do something wrong as log as “you” ask God for forgiveness, and I do that.” (after sexually abusing a child). The abuser is INTENTIONALLY placing guilt and blame on the victim.

    The message is clear. The abuser knows what “I” am doing is wrong (as minimizing evil) in the sight of God, but “you” need to accept the all the guilt and shame because God has already forgiven me. Not only is this sexual abuse and mental abuse, but it is also spiritual abuse as well.
    It takes one sick twisted individual to do this to a child

    • Kevin F says:

      Good point, Little Nel. Religions and churches are great sources of sexual, mental and spiritual abuse. I’d keep clear of them as they’re generally designed to warp, pervert and derail any kind of real spiritual expression. Also they’re designed to keep us under control and dependant on higher authorities in life.
      In your other comment below, I feel you may be missing the point that most Churches deny responsibility for and ignore sexual assault of children because their own canon law doesn’t regard it as particularly sinful or bad. That’s part of the reason why they won’t recognise ‘victims’ or survivors.

      • Little Nel says:

        Hi Kevin,
        I don’t have a problem with religions and churches, but I do have a problem with people in churches who protect child abusers in the name of God or religion.

        Child abusers will invent any alibi, story, or fabrication, to avoid being caught, prosecuted, or stopped. They are sick and twisted people who prey on children without any remorse or concern for the well being of their little victims.

        One little victim of incest told me that she decided to sleep with her Bible under her pillow, so God would be close by to help her. When her father came into her bed to abuse her, she put her Bible on her heart and said to her father, “How can you do this to a child of God?”

        Her father abruptly stopped his assault and left the bedroom. The incest ended.

        She says that her Sunday school teacher told her that God’s Word would protect her.

    • D.L. says:

      Not only is this sexual abuse and mental abuse, but it is also spiritual abuse as well.
      It takes one sick twisted individual to do this to a child.

      Your words sick and twisted are perfect for this abuser or perpetrator! A jail cell is too good for him!
      (anger release)))))))))))

  4. Little Nel says:

    This post brought up something that has baffled me for a long time. The idea that churches rush into getting the victim to forgive the abuser without considering that the victim needs a time to heal.

    Just like a wound soldier, there is a healing process that needs to be considered and examined like a routine checkup or follow up treatment depending on the severity of the wounds.

    When the church leaders defend child abusers it sends a message to the victim. It reinforces the idea that the victim is not loved by God.

    I remember as a child that I thought that God did not love or care about me because He let this happen to me. He didn’t care about my emotional pain because He allowed cruel adults to hurt me when I was powerless to stop it.

    I became more angry when I had to pay for my own therapy because my abusers never acknowledged responsibility for my ills and got away with their evil deeds. I felt more anger because my family refused to believe me and strongly denied my abuse.

    A mountain of anger threatened to destroy me from within, thus eroding my desire to live. The things within me that were sucking the life out of me had to go. It was a spiritual battle to get to the core of the problems. My desire for freedom, growth, and happiness became my focus once I understood my dilemma. The healing process became a great adventure once I understood my part in it.

    I think that churches rush into “forgiveness” to help the victim acknowledge that they are not at fault and that God knows that the victim is not at fault. We only have to forgive those who have wronged us or violated us against our will so that God can see us as wholly deserving of his Divine help and healing. When I denied my pain, I could not ask for Divine help.

    • L.Day says:

      The healing process became a great adventure once I understood my part in it.

      Little Nel I really like your comment above. This is how I am looking at my healing process. I view it as a great adventure and just like I will have a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, if I press on. I get so excited for each and every little gain. I am a little less angry now and this has helped me to have clearer vision and understand my part in the healing process. I do have days when I am exceedingly angry, but I am learning to handle my anger in appropriate ways. Thanks for your great comment. IT is very encouraging.

      • Alethea says:

        This is a great comment L. Day. You’re awesome.

        • L.Day says:

          Thanks. So are you! I go on other blogs, but I am always drawn back to yours. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

      • Little Nel says:

        “I do have days when I am exceedingly angry, BUT (love that word inserted here) I am learning to handle my anger in appropriate ways.”

        Go, L. Day! I agree with Alethea that you are awesome! (applauding vigorously)

  5. Tornad0sRul says:

    I saw a pedophile, who claims to be a strict Catholic, say in front of and to his victim: “it’s ok to do something wrong as long as you ask God for forgiveness, and I do that.” The child victim was not from a religious background so it was easy for the pedophile to use God as a tool to manipulate the child. Because the child victim knew that the pedophile regularly attended church, that phrase showed the child that anything that the pedophile did to the child was ok because the pedophile went to church and asked for forgiveness afterwards. That leverage gave the pedophile a ticket to do whatever he wanted to the child.

    • Star says:

      This would be a so-called Christian
      who is a hypocrite and using God as a smoke screen (a cloud of smoke created to disguise his real intentions or activities which are to molest children) to manipulate and deceive innocent children? This is super cruel since the mind of a child believes as he or she is told and trusts easily. (I DID!) This pedophile will receive due justice for his crimes.

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